American Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century

Imperialism is the plan of expanding nationals’ authority by acquisition of territories, or setting up economic control over other nations. American Imperialism is attributed to economic, cultural, and political factors that influence the United States. Therefore, the following paragraphs focus on how Americans adopted imperialism in the 19th century, using all means such as surrogates to take over other countries, and how many unpopular or underdeveloped countries survived through their support.

In the 19th century, Americans came up with the idea of expansion – the west part began to purchase Louisiana, and the practice continued throughout the mid century. This raised constitutional issues about legality of land purchase. By the end of civil war, all the lower 48 states on the continent of North America were owned by the United States.

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From the early years of 19th century up to the civil war, Northern American boarders were to be expanded according to the plan and debates. Events about the expansion created conflict between those that advocated for it and the ones in the opposition.

Todd (2004) asserts that United States imperialized other countries to the aim of economic benefits. Affordable labor and raw materials came from foreign countries which were meant to stimulate the America’s economy. Overseas territories were lined up with cheap labor force which allowed American’s goods to be made at a lower cost. Furthermore, America was seeking adventures in foreign countries claiming that it was a big nation and needed to do outdoor tasks of the world.

Similarly, newspaper editors increased their profits while raising public support for the imperialism in America, and nationalism contributed to the occurrence of imperialism. The nationalists called themselves jingoists, and maintained that their country was like European nations. Consequently, Americans protected its new existing territories especially the overseas territories and acquired Alaska, Midway Island, Hawaii, the Alleutian Islands, Guam, and Samoa, which extended its perimeter.

Religion was also a driving force to imperialism because missionaries wanted to convert people from their target foreign land by convincing them that they had a better religion. Missionaries Christianized the Hawaii Island, and they discovered it was an excellent sugar growing land. Their search for, and exploitation of raw materials was extended to South Africa which was rich with goldmines and diamonds, and India which had silk (Immerman, 2010).

Later, American imperialism extended to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Philippine Islands in 1899; Puerto Rico and Philippines turned out to be American colonies. The Filipinos rebelled against American rule in February 1899, and were restrained in 1902 after guerilla war. They formed Ant imperialist League since they viewed imperialism as hostile to liberty (Halsall, 1997).

Consequently, in early 20th century, writers like Charles Beard conferred that American Policy was being driven by self concern – the US did not change its foreign policy after the cold war, and was mainly focused to enlarge its control across the world.

In conclusion, even if the present world is controlled by the United States, the action depicted by the dominance is no longer imperial; its power is based on soft power which is cultural, rather than monetary force. This is observed by the widespread desire to migrate to the US and the high intake of foreign students at America’s learning institutions. The other factor is the spread of U.S music, styles, and movies. The US is viewed by some countries as the most dangerous world imperialist, but in the real sense no matter how powerful, it is no longer considered as an empire.

References

Halsall, P. (1997, August). American Anti-Imperialist League, 1899. Modern History Sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1899antiimp.html

Immerman, R. H. (2010). Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Todd, E. (2004). After the Empire: The Breakdown of American Order. New York: Columbia University Press.

American imperialism in the nineteenth century

By the year 1850, nations that were in a position to satisfy their every need, could not see the possibility of independent futures. Around this time the imperial states of the world had control over all elements of international commerce to the extent that every country had to depend on another for a particular product.

This was around the time when global expansion was entirely based on the availability of raw materials, time and space for foreign trade and the presence of stations on the course of oceanic routes (Chimes, 1980; Davidson et al, 2008).

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The third element (stations on the oceanic route) mainly helped nations develop strong military bases as well as serve as filling stations for long trips. Because every nation wanted all these opportunities at their disposal, territorial conflicts were the norm of the day.

The United States was going through a growth spurt in the 19th century and by the late 1800s imperialist movements were beginning to rise up. It took less than a century for this nation to occupy a whole continent. With civilization spreading to reach the great oceans, Americans started traveling southwards to expand their businesses (Davidson et al, 2008).

When they got to the Caribbean islands, Spain felt threatened and this ended up in war. The introduction of steam ships into the American navy in the 1880s prepared the country for global domination. By the beginning of the twentieth century America owned almost all the island between California and the West Indies (Davidson et al, 2008).

American imperialism was mainly guaranteed by two sets of legislation. First, the Monroe doctrine illegalized the European involvement in the American states. This legislation was passed into law in 1823. Secondly, the open-door notes emphasized the necessity of equal commercial penetration to the Asian markets (Davidson et al, 2008). The open-door notes were drafted between 1899 and 1900. The two pieces of legislation helped America show other world heavy weights that she was in a position to defend her interests.

Due to the inexperience of America in the concept of global domination, there were great challenges occasioned by the nation’s inability to decide whether or not to use the military to secure the interest of the country.

Most of these interests were aimed at protecting the Declaration of Independence and the constitution (Halsall, 1997). The anti-imperialists were mainly concerned that the expansion of America’s territory to include the island inhabitants (who were considered inferior) could end up tarnishing the country’s racial supremacy.

These anti-imperialists regarded the process of territorial expansion as diverting attention from the issues within the nation because by the end of the nineteenth century the nation’s economy was greatly unstable and there was extreme tension between the various cultural groups. The political system at this time was almost non-functional.

When those individuals who were against imperialism raised their concerns, those were for it defended the state’s actions by what was known as the “four-pronged attack” (Chimes, 1980). These four prongs were racial supremacy, Christian philanthropy, prophesied destiny and social Darwinism (Chimes, 1980).

Social Darwinism meant that survival was only for the strong countries hence justifying the reasons for America trying to conquer the weaker nations. Because of the support of white superiority, Americans believed they were the stronger race (Davidson et al, 2008). This meant that with them pursuing their world domination mission, they were also at the risk of diluting their culture.

The concept of prophesied destiny was founded in 1845. This was the time when Texas was annexed. The notion was based on the belief that God had chosen America to be the focal point of all world activities (Davidson et al, 2008). The destiny of America, according to this principle, was to expand gradually by traversing towards the coastal region and spreading to cover the borders of the world.

This belief made Americans think that “the fate of the nation was directly linked to global communities” (Chimes, 1980). They intended to use the oceans to expand their territories across the world as opposed to using them as barriers to set them apart from other countries (Chimes, 1980).

The aspect of Christian philanthropy was the most powerful of all the counter-arguments towards anti-imperialist ideas. The missionaries were not directly in support of use of the military to expand America’s territory but they were interested in supporting these ‘poor’ countries aside from ensuring the growth of civilization globally (Janssens, 2004).

The missionaries also saw it as their duty to spread Christianity to other regions of the world. Global expansion helped the missionaries expand their influence irrespective of whether such opportunities were created by imperialistic ways.

In conclusion it is worth noting that the worldwide expansion of America was unavoidable, much as the methods used by the American military to expand this domination were disputable (Scriabine, 2005). Collaborative efforts between nations ended up in strong alliances that saw America grow into a world empire.

By the twentieth century, America controlled nations between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (Lens, & Zinn, 2003). The nation also had an unchallenged control of activities along the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico. The economy of the nation was on an upward trend as soon as the 1900s were ushered due to the introduction of international trade.

Reference List

Chimes, M. (1980).American Foreign Policy in the Late 19th Century: Philosophical

Underpinnings, The Spanish American War Centennial Website. Retrieved May 30, 2010 from http://www.spanamwar.com/imperialism.htm.

Davidson, J. W., DeLay, B., Heyrman, C. L., Lytle, M. H., Stoff, M. B. (2008). Nation of Nations, 6th edition: A Narrative History of the American Republic. McGraw-Hill, New York

Halsall, P. (1997). Platform of the American Anti-imperialist League. Modern History
Sourcebook: American Anti-Imperialist League, 1899. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1899antiimp.html.

Janssens, R. (2004). Of mice and men: American imperialism and American studies. Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.

Lens, S., & Zinn, H. (2003). The forging of the American empire: from the revolution to Vietnam, a history of U.S. imperialism. London: Pluto Press.

Scriabine, C.B. (2005). American Imperialism. New York: Jackdaw Publications.

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