The idea of imperialism during the 19th century was mostly associated with European powers. The United States was not viewed, especially by itself, as an imperialist power. In fact, the US attacked imperialist views by way of the press. However, the US had criticized Europe and expressed their anti-imperialism views in the media. The US government had declared that if European nations tried to extend their rule over the western hemisphere (the Americas), the US would regard this as a threat to peace. This doctrine, which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, became more and more pivotal throughout the 1800 s. The US could not have sent a more anti-imperialist message to Europe. The Monroe doctrine did curtail European expansion in the western hemisphere but it did not actually curtail the concept of imperialism itself. The US itself moved in to fill the gap that was created in the western hemisphere when European imperialism was halted. In 1898, the US had a short war with Spain to liberate colonies from Spanish rule, or so the US claimed. Another reason for waging war was to avenge the assassinations of 260 sailors who were killed in the Spanish attack on the United States Navy battleship, Maine.
America s victory in this war led to a domino effect allowing the US, not only to change its policy towards imperialism but to become imperialist themselves. They were in the position to take over and control all of Spain s former territories. This movement did not stop at the independence of Cuba. The US had now set out for the Philippines, only this time, they had no intention of making this country independent. Instead, the US sent troops to go shed blood for the conquest of somebody else s land, i.e. the Philippines. After a much longer war than that of the US and Spain and much more bloodshed (mostly Filipino), America prevailed and managed to capture the Philippines. What was the motive of the US in their conquering escapade? Was it the desire to dominate the western hemisphere? Was it the desire to encourage profitable commerce between the US and other nations? Or was it the moral obligation to help people who were fighting for self-rule? In this essay, I will attempt to answer these questions as best I can.
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The US was the superpower in the western hemisphere. It had economic, political, and military superiority over any country in the hemisphere. It had acted as a father figure in the implementation of the Monroe Doctrine and proved to the world that the threats it made were never empty by defeating Spain in the war. America had made sure that no other country could pose any threat to its interests, be it military or economic. In this way, the US had already achieved domination over the region and kept all the other countries in the hemisphere in line.
Indeed, by the late 1800s, the US had achieved great developments in the fields of industry and agriculture. Industrial and agricultural outputs began to exceed domestic consumption. Finding new markets for American products became an issue of domestic concern for the government as well as the economic circles. The US found no other way but to do it the European way that is good old imperialism, even if, officially, the US never called it such.
In its early confrontation of European colonialism, the US may have been motivated by some moral convictions. After all, the US itself had its first-hand experience with European imperialism. Americans, at large, viewed their struggle to break away from England as a just and noble endeavor. The Americans relative military might encourage the US to try to do something good for its immediate neighbours. So, America became more confident of what it was capable of achieving through military power. This newly gained self-esteem made the US consider applying its military strength in the furtherment of its external interests and sphere of influence in foreign lands.
In conclusion, no imperialist power considered its imperialist designs and ambitions to be immoral. They sought to justify their conquest of foreign lands in a host of ways. Some even claimed that they were going to other areas of the world to spread civilization, others mentioned serving the cause of Christianity. It was even reported that when the US president McKinley was asked by Congress why he sent American troops to as far away land as the Philippines, he replied by saying that we are there to Christianize our little brown brothers. President McKinley followed the path of earlier imperialists in not admitting imperialism was nothing but vainly sugar-coated greed.
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