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  • Open new markets for our (industrial) goods
  • Acquire raw materials/resources to supply our industry
  • Activities of 1 nation controlling the affairs of another

GW’s Farewell Address:

  • Neutrality
  • Unilateralism

War of 1812:

  • Free trade
  • Respect neutrality

Monroe Doctrine:

  • Non-colonization
  • Non-intervention (of Western hemisphere by Europe)

Territorial Expansion:

  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Florida
  • Alaska

Mexican-American War:

  • Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico


  • European nations competing with each other by creating empires.
  • Economic: when supply exceeds demand, capitalist nations must find new markets in noncapitalist areas (Rosa Luxenburg - German Marxist)
  • 1890 census: reported all of the areas within the continental United States had been settled. Only one direction left to expand: overseas.

U.S. Goals using Imperialism

  • Late-19th century the U.S. was experiencing a period of economic stagnation and social and political instability
  • So, adopted a “dual plan”:
    • Domestically, U.S. attempted to reform capitalism by addressing the problems that led to discontent (Progressive Era was a period of intense interest in reform.)
    • Imperialism, based on policymakers’ perceptions, would bring (1) the U.S. out of immediate financial crisis, (2) set up future investments, (3) reduce domestic conflict, and (4) spark national pride.

Justification for U.S. Imperialist Policy

  • Alfred T. Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890)
    • U.S. needs a first-class navy to become a world power. U.S. needs coaling stations and naval bases, i.e. colonies
  • Religious: Imperialism allowed “civilized” Christian cultures an opportunity to spread their way of life to “lesser” cultures.
  • Frederick Jackson Turner’s essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”
    • Turner’s belief that territorial expansion promotes social, economic, and political stability.

Opponents of U.S. Imperialism

  • William Jennings Bryan
    • Imperialism was the key issue in the 1900 presidential election between Bryan and William McKinley.
  • Anti-Imperialist League
    • Members included Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie
    • Distress over costs, the immorality of denying others “self-determination”, and/or the racial notion of the “pure” Americans saving “lesser” cultures

Spanish-American War

  • Spanish colony, Cuba
  • Cuban revolt b/c of brutal treatment of Cubans by Spain.
    • Seen as inhumane by Americans
    • The conflict was hurting American financial interests in Cuba

“Causes” of the Spanish-American War

  • Cuban revolt & American sympathy for their fight for independence
  • U.S. business interests
  • The Press (“yellow journalism”)
  • USS Maine
  • DeLome letter
  • U.S. expansion interests

Cuban Independence?

  • Teller Amendment (1896): U.S. declared Cuba free from Spain and disclaimed any American intention to annex Cuba
  • Platt Amendment (1901):
    • U.S. could intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs
    • Cuba could not make a treaty that might impair its independence
    • Leads to Cuban resentment towards the U.S.

U.S. Military in Spanish-American War:

  • “Smoked Yankees” - African American troops played a crucial role in the American invasion and takeover of Cuba
  • Rough Riders: Volunteer soldiers consisting of western cowboys and athletes hand-picked and led by Theodore Roosevelt

Philippines & the Spanish-American War

  • First battles are in the Spanish colonies, the Philippines.
  • Emilio Aguinaldo: Filipino rebel who started insurrection against Spain, fought together with the U.S. against Spain, and then started a rebellion against U.S. imperialism wanting independence.

Treaty of Paris (1898)

  • Ended Spanish American War. Terms included (1) Cuba would be independent; (2) U.S. gained Philippines for $20 million; and (3) U.S. also gained Guam and Puerto Rico.

Insular Cases (1901-1903)

  • A series of court cases concerning civil liberties for inhabitants of the territories acquired by the U.S. as a result of the Spanish American War. It implied that these people did not necessarily have all the same rights as other Americans. “The Constitution does not follow the flag.”

The Far East and Pacific

  • Sino-Japanese War: Japanese defeat China in 1895
  • Russo-Japanese War: Japanese humiliate Russia with a victory in 1905
  • President Teddy Roosevelt organized Treaty of Portsmouth ending the Russo-Japanese War
    • Japanese not happy with modest gains received
    • Start of antagonistic relationship between Japan and U.S.

The Far East and Pacific continued…

  • China = Huge market for the world
  • China’s weakness and instability in the 1890s allowed many European powers, along with Japan, to carve out Spheres of Influence to control trading rights in parts of China.
  • The U.S. wanted to prevent the fall or division of China in order to maintain its access to Chinese markets (and keep balance of power).
  • Proposed the Open Door Policy to allow free trade for all foreign nations in China.
    • equal commercial opportunity


  • Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901)
    • The Boxers (an anti-foreign, anti-imperialist peasant-based movement) led an insurrection to rid China of foreign control, but the rebellion was crushed by U.S., Japanese, and European forces
    • Xenophobia
  • To keep the Open Door Policy, the U.S. insisted that foreign nations not only allow free trade, but also respect Chinese sovereignty / independence.

Taft-Katsura Agreement (1905)

  • Agreement between U.S. and Japan to maintain Open Door Policy in China. In return for a pledge by Japan to leave the Philippines alone, the U.S. recognized Japan as a protectorate over Korea.

Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet

  • Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet
    • TR & U.S. concerned with growing power of Japan after Russo-Japanese war
    • TR sent U.S. fleet to Asian ports including Japanese to show American strength and impress the Japanese
    • 43,000 miles, 14 month journey circumnavigating the globe


  • White American planters controlled most of Hawaii’s agricultural industry.
  • Queen Liliuokalani, the constitutional monarch of Hawaii, resented the dominance of the wealthy white minority and tried to give more power to native Hawaiians.
  • American planters, with the help of U.S. military forces, overthrew the queen in 1893 and applied to congress for annexation.
  • After debating the issue for several years, the U.S. finally annexed the Hawaiian Islands (1898), and many years later a U.S. state (1959).

Panama Canal

  • The U.S. wanted to build a canal to speed travel between the Atlantic and Pacific.
  • The U.S. tried to lease land in Panama, then part of Columbia. When Colombia refused, the U.S. encouraged a Panamanian revolt.

Panama Canal continued…

  • Panama became an independent nation and signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty (1903) giving the U.S. the Canal Zone and the right to build the canal.
  • The canal helped to improve trade, but damaged U.S. – Latin America relations.
  • The canal was completed in 1914.


  • By the early 1900s, American business had invested billions of dollars in Mexico.
  • Several revolutions left Mexico unstable, and many U.S. business leaders wanted Wilson to intervene.
  • Wilson sent troops to Mexico to try to promote stability and support a leader he believed would promote democracy, but public opinion was highly critical of his actions and the troops were unsuccessful.
  • With the start of WWI, Wilson eventually withdrew U.S. troops from Mexico.

3 Presidents’ Foreign Policies

Big Stick Policy

  • TR believed the U.S. should be a great power and exert influence over the world; we should use force, if necessary, to achieve this.
  • TR issued the Roosevelt Corollary (to the Monroe Doctrine), which said the U.S. must act as an “international police power” to preserve peace and order and protect American interests in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The U.S. intervened repeatedly in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote stability in the region.

Dollar Diplomacy

  • Taft developed a policy based on economic goals.
  • Encouraged American trade and investment in Latin America and Asia.
  • Claimed this would limit the use of forces overseas, but when problems arose the U.S. used force to protect its interests.

Moral Diplomacy

  • Wilson based his foreign policy on democratic ideals rather than economic investment or the use of force.
  • Believed American interests were best served by supporting democracy and introduced the value of self-determination.
  • Despite promises that America would be more concerned with human rights than its own economic or political interests, Wilson intervened in Latin America and the Caribbean more than either Roosevelt or Taft.

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