Expansionism in America
By the 1880’s, many American leaders had become convinced that the United States should join the imperialist powers and establish colonies overseas. Through the belief of manifest destiny, the U.S. border had already been pushed to the Pacific Ocean. Many citizens also believed that overseas expansion was vital to maintaining the American spirit. Economics caused American expansionism during the period of 1898-1919 through their thirst for new markets, foreign trade and desire for military strength.
Advances in technology allowed American farms and factories to produce more than American citizens were able to consume, otherwise known as over-production. In the late 1800’s, new farm machinery greatly impacted grain production. Plows, harrows, threshing machines, and reapers improved corn and wheat production dramatically. Powerful business and political figures like James G. Blaine believed that foreign markets were essential to further economic growth, which then promoted a more aggressive foreign policy. Raw materials for their factories and new markets for its agricultural and manufactured goods were a necessity to the United States during this time. The U.S. aimed to advance its interests through investments and business transactions amongst other nations. This resulted in imperialists, especially, viewing foreign trade as the solution to American over-production and related problems of unemployment and economic depression.
A lot of the changes during the late 1800’s for the U.S. revolved around the idea that “everyone else is doing it, so we should as well.” When the U.S. saw that everyone else was establishing a strong military presence, American leaders advised that we build up and strengthen our military forces, too. Alfred T. Mahan was an admiral that built up the U.S. military at this time. He urged government officials to build up naval power in order to compete with other nations. In his novel, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, he advocated three factors that were crucial to the United States being a world power: the construction of a canal in South America (the Panama Canal), expansion of the U.S. naval power, and the establishment of a trade/military post in the Pacific, sued to stimulate trade with China. This book had a strong influence on the idea that a strong navy stimulated trade and influenced policy makers. As a result, the U.S. built nine steel-hulled cruisers between 1883-1890; this is one example of the many that led the United States to being the world’s third largest naval power, and also initiated trade amongst other nations.
These few factors impacted income, trade and production in the United States. Economics caused American expansionism during the period of 1898-1919 through their thirst for new markets, foreign trade and desire for military strength. This introduced us to more foreign markets, a more aggressive foreign policy and a stronger naval force.
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