Essay Question: Why did the U. S. turn to Imperialism at the end of the 19th century? Imperialism is “the creation and maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an??empire, based on domination and subordination. ” (Johnston 375) By the 1890s, many Americans leaders started to have new attitude towards imperialistic adventures abroad. There were numerous reasons for the U. S. to turn to Imperialism at the end of the 19th century, mainly the economic, political, strategic, and humanitarian motives.
Various industrialists as well as investors including bankers and the new wealthy class feared that the United States would soon produce more than it could ever consume and wanted to find new source of raw materials and markets for their products in new dependent states. Moreover, with Europe gaining control of undeveloped countries, U. S. businessmen were afraid of competition in those countries, and therefore favored dependent states that would become market for goods mostly from U. S. As a result, industrialist, investors, and businessmen eagerly pushed for an aggressive American policy abroad.
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For instance, American economic interest highly increased the U. S. ‘s involvement in China. The potential of investment in China was an important reason for Secretary of States John Hay asking European leaders for an Open Door Policy in China i, which would allow all foreign nations to establish trading relations with China. However, spreading nationalistic movement in China evidenced that the U. S. intervention was not only unnecessary but also unwelcomed by most of the Chinese population.
Moreover, the political reasons for America to expand included the acquisition of strategic locations for military bases and “coaling stations”, in the Pacific. A major supporter of imperialistic adventures and naval expansion was Captain Alfred T. Mahan, who in 1890 wrote The Influence of Sea upon History, in which he maintained that to be economically successful America must gain new markets abroad, and the would have to be expanded to accomplish this. An initial indication for American attitudes toward the use of force abroad was demonstrated in Hawaii.
In 1893, encouraged by the Harrison administration and assisted by the U. S. Marines from the cruiser Boston, pro-American sugar planter overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and requested the annexation of Hawaii by the U. S. After that, President Grover Cleveland sent a commission to Hawaii to determine the wishes of the Hawaiian citizens concerning their future, Last but not least, the idea of racial superiority from Social Darwinism and, ironically, the moral responsibility to civilize and “uplift” the “inferior races” of Africa and Asia accounted for the increased American interest in foreign frontiers in the 1890s.
In his book Our Country, Josiah Strong stated that God had appointed Anglo-Saxons to be their “brother’s keeper. ” Furthermore, Kipling bolstered the idea of the “White Man’s Burden”, the duty of white people to help and educate people who lived in “undeveloped civilization”. Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana also suggested that the opening of the frontier would free the American spirit. Right before the Spanish American War or the Cuban War for Independence 1898, American public opinion was heavily influence by the “Yellow Press”.
Sensationalized stories about “butcher” Weyler and the horrendous human conditions in concentration camps were published and spread throughout the U. S. For example, the New York World (published by Joseph Pulitzer) and the New York Morning Journal (owned by William R. Hearst) printed a stolen letter written by the Spanish ambassador Dupuy de Lome, in which he refered to President McKinley as “a would-be politician who [tried] to leave a door open behind himself while keeping on good term with the jingoes of his party” (Boorstin 512) as well as stories about the brutal torture and execution of innocent Cuban citizens and some U.
S citizens. As a result, jingoism developed and evoked an intense American nationalism with a desire for adventure abroad. The sinking of USS Maine on February 15, 1898 was caused by an explosion on board, but the Yellow Press fiercely called for a war against Spain and headlined “Remember the Maine! ” (Boorstin 512). On February 25, without the approval of his boss, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt cabled Commodore George Dewey to be ready for immediate combat against the Spanish fleet in the Philippines.
The enormous pressure on President McKinley from American expansionists and American humanitarian motives made him no longer able to resist the calls for intervention in Cuba; finally, he asked Congress to declare war even though the Spanish had agreed to almost his entire ultimatum ??? a list of demands to avoid war. In addition, in April 18, 1898, the Teller Amendment assured supporter of Cuban independence that America would not annex Cuba in under any circumstances.
The Spanish American War, regarded by John Hay as a “splendid little war”, ended with Treaty of Paris, in which Spain recognized the independence of Cuba and, for a payment of 20 million dollars, gave the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam over to the United States. Despite the previous the Teller Amendment, the U. S. imposed an American military government on Cuba.
Although this military government authorized the Cubans to draft their own constitution in 1900, it insisted that the Cubans incorporate the provisions of Platt Amendment, maintaining that Cuba could not enter into agreements with other countries without the approval if the U. S. , that the U. S. has the right to intervene in Cuban affairs “when necessary,” and that America would be given two naval bases on the Cuban mainland. On the other side of the coin, when the debate over the U. S. ontrol of Philippines was taking place in 1898, Anti-Imperialist League was formed with Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryan as charter member, pointing out that the U. S. conquering and gaining of Philippines would contradict the U. S. principle of freedom and self-government. The league also indicated the huge cost of imperialism and the fear that natives from newly acquired territories might take the jobs of American workers, as well as the proliferation of racism including racial stereotypes and severe discrimination towards natives of the new territories.
Unfortunately, the political, strategic and economic advantages from the U. S. ‘s control of Philippines were more appealing to the national majority, and the acquisition of the Philippines would give the church the opportunity to convert Philippinos to Christianity. From 1898 to 1902, the U. S. Army conquered and gained control of the Philippines. Claiming that the Philippinos were “unfit for self-government”, the U. S. imposed the 1902 Philippine Government Act on this country.
To sum up, the political, strategic and economic advantages, humanitarian causes, and the Yellow Press’s significant contribution in fuelling patriotism and nationalism successfully convinced the majority of Americans and pushed forward with the U. S. ‘s imperialistic actions in China, Hawaii, Cuba, and Philippines even without the consent of the population in these countries. On the other hand, the Anti-Imperialist League had effectively pointed out many important but neglected points of the argument against imperialism, most notably the fact that the U. S. bviously contradicted its original principle of assisting other countries and giving them the right of self-government, as well as the implication that imperialism coupled with ignorance of the consent of the population in these acquired countries would only result in negative consequences for the U. S in the long run. Works Cited Boorstin, Daniel J. , Brooks Mather Kelley, and Ruth Frankel Boorstin. A History of the United States. Needham, MA: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print Johnston, Ronald John. The Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2000. Print.