by IOE London
Question by Arthur Q: During the 1890s, what international developments led some American opinion leaders to believe that…?
the US must become more active in world affairs? What domestic problems in the 1890s made foreign expansion seem like a safety valve? Describe in a few sentences each 3 religious, historical, economic, or scientific arguments voiced in favor of expansion.
Answer by Joseph
The 1890s in America were desperate times. Economic depression caused bank and business failures and forced millions of men and women from their jobs.
In the years leading up to the Spanish American War, the United States experienced a growth in ethnocentrism, a belief in manifest destiny and Anglo-Saxonism. It was this combination of views that provided the moral impetus allowing for the U.S. public to support the efforts to make the country into an imperial power. The ongoing debate over these views shaped American policy for years.
Throughout the 19th century, Americans discussed and debated issues connected to expansion. Westward acquisitions began with the Louisiana Purchase and continued through the mid-century period with the land gained through the war with Mexico. By the Civil War, the territory that today composes the “lower 48” was owned by the United States, and our northern and southern borders were stabilized through treaty negotiations with Canada and Mexico.
From the early years of the century until the Civil War, policy debates centered on extending our North American borders. Each episode of expansion created an intellectual friction between those that supported territorial growth and those in opposition. Debate varied in their particulars, however. The purchase of the Louisiana Territory, for instance, raised important constitutional issues concerning the legality of land purchase. In the ensuing years, geographic growth would be examined in the context of moral, economic and political issues. Regardless of the historical event, an underlying belief in manifest destiny, our nation’s fate and duty to settle our North American lands coast to coast, underscored each territorial acquisition. It seems certain most Americans believed in a special manifest destiny for the nation, and this philosophical foundation enabled the United States to spread westward with confidence and moral assuredness.
Background for US expansion during the “Age of Imperialism”
Post Spanish-American War U.S. political cartoon from 1898: “Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip” meaning the extension of U.S. domination (symbolized by a bald eagle) from ‘Puerto Rico’ to the Philippines. The cartoon contrasts this with a map of the smaller United States in 1798.A variety of factors coincided during this period to bring about an accelerated pace of U.S. expansion:
Wars such as the Spanish-American War that led to liberation and acquisition of former colonies of foreign states
The industry and agriculture of the United States had grown beyond its need for consumption. Powerful business and political figures such as James G. Blaine believed that foreign markets were essential to further economic growth, promoting a more aggressive foreign policy.
The prevalence of racism, notably Ernst Haeckel’s “biogenic law,” John Fiske’s conception of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, and Josiah Strong’s call to “civilize and Christianize” – all manifestations of a growing Social Darwinism and racism in some schools of American political thought.
The development of Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis,” which stated that the American frontier was the wellspring of its creativity and virility as a civilization. As the Western United States was gradually becoming less of a frontier and more of a part of America, many believed that overseas expansion was vital to maintaining the American spirit.
The publication of Alfred T. Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History in 1890, which advocated three factors crucial to The United States’ ascension to the position of “world power”: the construction of a canal in South America (later influencing the decision for the construction of the Panama Canal), expansion of the U.S. naval power, and the establishment of a trade/military post in the Pacific, so as to stimulate trade with China. This publication had a strong influence on the idea that a strong navy stimulated trade, and influenced policy makers such as Theodore Roosevelt and other proponents of a large navy…..Vikpedia
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