The Beginning of American Imperialism
In the 1880’s, the United States began to take a stronger interest in foreign affairs. Up until this time, the United States had stayed pretty much out of foreign affairs, because they had recently gotten out of the Civil War, and they had to deal with their own problems within the country.
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And the United States was also thinking of the Declaration of Independence, and how they didn’t want to force any other countries to become a part of their country.
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And they thought about the Monroe Doctrine, which said they shouldn’t invade any countries around them. And pretty much, they were trying to stay to themselves. The United States as a country was trying to stay to itself, figure out its own problems internally, and just keep out of foreign affairs. However, in the 1880’s, the United States began to take a stronger interest in foreign affairs. This was in part due to humanitarian concern.
The United States felt that it could improve the standard of living around the world. So, the United States did have good motives in some part whenever it branched out into foreign affairs. The United States felt like things were going pretty well within the country, and they could reach out to struggling countries and help to improve their standards of living. So, the United States wanted to help people, and have this humanitarian goal at heart whenever they started branching out.
There was also, of course, an economic motive. Manufacturers wanted to find a new source of raw materials, as well as a new market for their products. So, there were economic goals for some of the people branching out into foreign affairs. Manufacturers wanted to find new raw materials. They had exhausted a lot of the gold that was easily accessible. If gold were to be found in other countries, the United States would want to take advantage of that. Any other crops that were grown easily in other areas of the world, the United States would want to take advantage of those raw materials. And then, of course, taking goods, taking raw materials from a foreign country would also give you a market to sell some of your own products that weren’t so readily available in that foreign country. So, economically, you would have a new source of raw materials by expanding into foreign countries, and you would have a new market in which to sell your own goods.
Missionaries began to travel abroad during this period as well. And the missionaries were trying to convert foreigners to Christianity. So, the Christian people wanted everybody to be saved. They wanted everyone to have the opportunity to know Jesus as our Savior, and be able to be saved and go to heaven. And so, the Christians also felt that it was their duty to spread the Good News of Jesus to people who had never heard of him. So, missionaries were sent abroad to foreign countries that hadn’t heard about Jesus and Christianity before now, and so, the missionaries also had a humanitarian interest at heart. They wanted to go to other countries, spread the news and the knowledge of Jesus to foreigners who had never heard about him before, and convert the foreigners to Christianity.
There were also military reasons for the increased activity abroad. The United States decided it would be a good idea to acquire naval bases in the Pacific. And a group known as the Jingoists openly looked for military conflict. Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge were both Jingoists. So, militarily, the United States thought that it would be a good idea to have naval bases in the Pacific. So, they started looking for places for that. And eventually, the United States would even spend a lot of the 1890s trying to acquire Hawaii, and eventually having Hawaii annex as a state, and that gave them a good area to have naval bases in the Pacific. So, militarily, the United States is branching out, looking for places they could post bases out in the Pacific, because they had areas in the gulf along the Atlantic, they wanted something along the Pacific.
And then, a group known as the Jingoists were openly looking for military conflict. Now, what this meant, and what the Jingoists were, were people who weren’t just going, looking for a fight really, but they were very, very patriotic. And they weren’t afraid to be active about that patriotism. If the Jingoists felt that the United States was being taken advantage of, or the United States was being treated unfairly, not given what it deserved, then they were not afraid to threaten a military maneuver. They weren’t afraid to say that, you know, the United States might take military action if such and such wasn’t completed. If something wasn’t done to rectify the problem. So, if with trade relations, let’s say one country, a foreign country, had stolen a boat full of merchandise from the United States. The Jingoists could see that as an opportunity to threaten military action to that country, unless the boat was returned, or money was given that would compensate for the lost goods that belonged to the United States.
So, the Jingoists would make that threat, and then, assumingly, the United States would back up the Jingoists. And with Theodore Roosevelt being a Jingoist, and being in the position of President, he would’ve been able to back up any kind of military threat like that, and actually go in and try to take back the boat, or do something in that country that would make the country give up that money. So, that’s just an example, but basically, the Jingoists were very actively patriotic, and if anything was done against the United States, then they were going to be seeking military intervention to rectify whatever slight was assumed to be put on to the United States.
So, these were all reasons that the United States first started getting involved in foreign affairs. After the Civil War, the United States had mainly stayed out of foreign affairs and kept to itself. But in the 1880s, the United States started to have a stronger interest in foreign affairs. They had the humanitarian concerns of wanting to improve the standard of living in other countries, and to travel abroad to convert foreigners to Christianity. They had economic motives in mind. Manufacturers wanted a new source of raw materials and a new market in which to sell their goods. And they had military reasons. They wanted new naval bases, and if there was any kind of possible problem between the United States and another foreign country, the Jingoists were ready to threaten and possibly back that up with military intervention. So, this is the beginning of American imperialism, as this period came to be called when the United States was very involved in foreign affairs. So, you went from the United States being very withdrawn right after the Civil War, in the 1880s, the United States started to get more involved in foreign affairs, and this was the beginning of what became known as American imperialism.
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