In May and July 1898 Conrad wrote to Cunninghame Graham echoing his friends

In may and july 1898 conrad wrote to cunninghame

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Conrad took a particular interest in the Spanish-American War. In May and July 1898, Conrad wrote to Cunninghame Graham echoing his friends’ public opposition to the United States’ role in the war and his criticism of US expansionist ambitions. Under the December 1898 treaty that concluded the war, the United States acquired, among other things, Cuba and the Philippines: this clearly marked the end-point in the imperial decline of Spain and the arrival of the United States as an international player. Another event during this period reinforced this message and is more directly relevant to Nostromo . Until November 1903, Panama was part of the Republic of Colombia. In June 1902, the United States Congress approved the Panama route for a new canal to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Unfortunately, the Colombian government rejected the terms of the Hay-Herran Treaty to develop the new canal. Representatives of the New Panama Canal Company then promoted a secessionist movement in Panama. US warships prevented Colombian troops from landing to suppress the revolt, and, when Panama seceded from Colombia on 3 November 1903, the new country received prompt recognition from the United States. Within a month, Panama had negotiated in its own name the canal treaty that Colombia had rejected. On 26 December 1903, Conrad wrote to Cunninghame Graham, reflecting on what he termed ‘the Yankee Conquistadores in Panama’. 37 Cunninghame Graham’s strategy of drawing parallels between the conquistadores and the new imperialism also plays its part in Nostromo , the novel Conrad had begun in December 1902. The novel begins by evoking the ‘time of Spanish rule’, and the ‘time of Spanish rule’ remains as the text over which the present time of the novel is palimpsestically written. Thus, for example, when Gould re-opens the San Tome mine, its blood-stained history is recalled: ‘Worked in the early days mostly by the means of lashes on the backs of
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slaves, its yield had been paid for in its own weight of human bones. Whole tribes of Indians had perished in the exploitation’. 38 On the surface, Nostromo could be said to be the story of the drawing of a boundary and the creation of a new nation. After the failure of the Ribierist government of Costaguana, which has been funded by European capitalists and represented their interests, the founding of the new republic of Sulacco preserves the Blancos, the creole aristocracy, as the ruling class and continues to protect the investments of the US and European capitalists at the expense of the indigenous peoples. The Ribiera Government had been backed by the mine-owner Gould, and Gould had been backed by the American financier Holroyd. As the novel discreetly puts it, ‘with a credit opened by the Third Southern Bank (located next door but one to the Holroyd Building), the Ribierist party in Costaguana took a practical shape under the eye of the administrator of the San Tome mine’ (143). Holroyd had early on expressed his vision of US influence: ‘We shall be giving the word for everything: industry, trade, law, journalism,
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