Imperialism Class Notes

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Imperialism Class Notes

U.S Imperialism 1898 – 1918
U.S.. Foreign Policy showed it was a world power by going to war with Spain in 1898. After the war, Americans acquired a colonial empire in the Caribbean, Asia, and the Pacific. In 1917, they entered World War I, helping to win that conflict.

What is Foreign Policy?

Foreign Policy is the conduct of one nation towards other nations. The main objective of American foreign policy has always been to promote our national interests. Many factors determine what those interests are.

  1. National Security- One major goal is to protect our country from attack. Americans achieve this through military preparedness, responding to aggression, allying with friendly nations and participating in international organizations.

  2. Protection of U.S. Citizens, Investments, and Trade – Our govt. acts to protect American citizens and investments overseas. It also adopts policies that promote our economy.

The Goals of U.S. Foreign Policy

  1. Promoting Democracy – The U.S. actively seeks to spread its political system—democracy—to others.

  2. Promotion of Human Rights & International Peace – The U.S. supports morality in both national & international affairs.

Who Makes Foreign Policy?

Our Constitution gives control of foreign policy to the federal govt. To prevent any one branch from becoming too strong, the Constitution divided control of foreign policy between the President and Congress. The Constitution forces them to work together in making foreign policy.

Newspapers, television, & radio are very influential in shaping foreign policy, since they decide what foreign news to report. The President & Congress are very sensitive to public opinion, since they know it was the public who elected them.

Milestones of U.S. Foreign Policy

Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)

President Washington advised Americans to avoid entangling alliances with European
nations. This policy helped the U.S. keep out of war w/ France & England until 1812.

War of 1812

In 1812, Congress declared war against the British to stop the impressments of American sailors. Sometimes called the “Second War of Independence”. Americans preserved their freedom. The war ended in December 1814.

Monroe Doctrine (1898)

Pres. Monroe announced America would oppose attempts by European powers to
reconquer former colonies that had become independent. Later, the doctrine was used by
the U.S. to justify its interference in the Caribbean.

Manifest Destiny
(early 1800’s)

Many Americans believed the U.S. should expand to the Pacific coast. The desire for
expansion led to the Mexican-American War in which Mexico lost a large part of its

Spanish American War (1898)

After sinking of the Maine, Americans went to war w/ Spain to help Cuba win its
independence. After winning the war, the U.S. gained the Philippines and other colonial
possessions, such s Puerto Rico and Guam.

American Imperialism 1898-Early

After the Spanish-American War, America became an imperialist power by annexing the
Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Samoa. Americans also developed trade w/ China & Japan.

Panama Canal & the “BigStick Policy” (1902-1914)

Theodore Roosevelt reached an agreement w/ a newly ind. Panama to build the Panama
Canal. Later, Pres. Roosevelt used his “Bog Stick Policy” to bring the Caribbean region
under U.S. control.

World War I (1917-1918)

Events in Europe led to war in 1914. At first America remained neutral. America entered
the war in 1917 after Germans submarines attacked American ships in the Atlantic.
American entry led to Allied victory by 1918.

Fourteen Points & Treaty of Versailles (1918-1919)

President Wilson announced U.S. war aims in the Fourteen Points, creating a basis for
ending the war. He also proposed an international peace organization. Many of Wilson’s
ideas, including the League of Nations, were accepted in the Treaty of Versailles, but the
Senate rejected the treaty.

Isolationism (1919-1941)

After World War I, Americans retreated into “isolationism” & attempted to avoid
involvement in foreign alliances & wars. They also raised tariff rates & restricted immigration.

World War II (1939-1945)

World War II broke out when Germany invaded Poland. At first, Americans were neutral.
In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the U.S. into the war. The war ended in
1945, after Americans dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities.

The Cold War (1946-1989)

After WWII, America & the Soviet union emerged as superpowers. When the Soviets est.
Communists govt.’s in Eastern Europe, the “Cold War” began. Although both powers
never went to war w/ each other, the stockpiled nuclear weapons & became involved in
regional crisis.

Korean War (1950-1953)

In 1950, Communist North Korea invaded South Korea. U.S. troops were sent to
So. Korea to repel the No. Korean attack. When U.S. forces entered No. Korea,
Communist China also entered the war. After three years of fighting, a truce was
Signed leaving Korea exactly as before the war.

Vietnam War (1964-1973)

After achieving independence, North Vietnam began a war against the non-Communist
South to reunite the country under Communist rule. Half a million U.S. troops were sent
To aid South Vietnam, but they were unable to defeat the No. Vietnamese & Vietcong.
America finally withdrew.

Persian Gulf (1991)

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Pres. George Bush (the elder), w/ U.N.
War support, launched an invasion of Kuwait & Iraq, forcing an Iraqi withdrawal. The allies
were able to liberate Kuwait, but ended the war without toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Q. What was the extent of American trade before the Civil War (1865)? And how did trade influence U.S. Presidents in creating foreign policy?

  1. Foreign policy has always been concerned w/ protecting and promoting U.S trade. (Pre Civil War foreign policy mainly focused on “Manifest Destiny”, however trade did occur w/ Europe, Asia, and Latin America).

    1. Louisiana Purchase (1801) President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French (napoleon took control of it from the Spanish). This territory included a vital trading port, New Orleans. The U.S. could now control the major trade route to the West Indies (Caribbean)/ Latin America.

      1. The South depended greatly on its trade of cotton & tobacco to Great Britain.

      2. The Northeast traded w/ Latin America & looked to increase trade to the east (Asia). Manufacturers put pressure on the open trade routes to the east.

        1. China enjoyed a favorable balance of trade (export >imports). Their ethnocentric view of Americans discouraged importation of American goods in the country. America traders looked to Japan.

        2. Japan followed a policy of isolationism but 1853 Commodore Perry opened the door to Japan with a show of force.

    2. Industrial Revolution (post 1840) caused the Europeans to seek natural resources & new markets. Their aim was to acquire colonies throughout the world Britain was the most successful, as said, “the sun never sets on the British empire”.

      1. Manifest Destiny complete by 1848 ,Americas goal was realized through the Mexican American War, gaining land to the Pacific. America now turns it expansionism into the Pacific Ocean.

      2. Acquisition of;

        Alaska (1867)



        U.S. Secretary of State William Seward purchases From Russia (7.2M)known as“ Seward’s Folly” until gold & oil discovered.1959 49th State

        U.S. Marines help Amer.growers overthrow Monarch Queen Liliuokalani.1959 50th State.

        Germany & U.S. divide Samoan
        Islands for use as a Naval base.

      3. The arguments of U.S. Expansionism

Argument for

Argument against

1. U.S business people saw great economic opportunities thru expansionism
2. Military people saw a need to create Naval bases to protect merchants & American interests
3.Missionaries, doctors, & educators saw a need
to civilize the less developed.

1. U.S. democracy would suffer if the U.S. took over foreign territories & denied others independence
2. Foreign involvement would lead to foreigners wars

How does industrialism influence American foreign policy toward Tariffs?

Tariffs have been used early in our history to protect new “infant” industry from cheaper foreign competitors by applying a tariff to imported goods. This is know as Protectionism. By 1890 American industries were well developed but continued to enjoy high profits resulting from tariffs that kept the price of goods artificially high. Some called for an end to the tariffs.

Should the Tariffs be eliminated?

For Tariffs

Against tariffs

1. Allows American industries to hold Americanmarkets over European traders.
2. Loss of business meant lay offs—lost jobs.

1. Free trade places artificially high priced goods to be at the mercy of the market.
2. Consumers win if prices go down.

What were the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War?
“ Splendid Little War”----1898 lasted 4 months.

  1. Yellow Journalism”- (sensationalizing events to increase readership)
    William Randolph Hearst & Joseph Pulitzer’ newspapers depicted the terrible suffering of the Cuban people & the brutal acts of a Spanish general nicknamed “the butcher”.

  2. The De Lome Letter (1898) Heart’s NY Journal printed a stolen letter authored by the Spanish minister to the U.S., Dupuy De Lome, which seemed to insult President McKinley. Calling the President weak angered American readers.

  3. Sinking of the Maine a U.S. battleship in Havana harbor mysteriously exploded. Newspaper accounts made it seem that the Spanish deliberately did it.

  4. U.S chance to obtain a Naval bases.

  5. protecting American interests (business owners in Cuba) sugar &
    tobacco plantations.

War Fronts: Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Philippines.

  1. Cuba

    1. San Juan Hill – Theodore Roosevelt & his Rough Riders

    2. El Caney – victory by African Amer. troops


  1. US gains Puerto Rico & Guam

  2. Cuba gains independence

  3. U.S purchase Philippines

Should the U.S. take possession of the Philippines or give its independence?

Imperialists argument

Anti-Imperialists argument

1. Duty of the U.S. to get involved
2. Build U.S. reputation as a world power

1. U.S would abandon its own commitment to democracy & ideals of the Declaration of Independence if it ruled territories
2. Would involve U.S. in Asian politics and war.
3. Philippines would have fallen to one
western power or another like Germany.


  1. U.S. suppresses Filipino revolution by 1902,( McKinley sent 70,000 troops).

  2. Cuba wins independence but with conditions.

    1. Platt Amendment (U.S. lease land for Naval base, no foreign power allowed to acquire Cuban territory, & U.S. allowed to intervene in Cuban affairs when protecting U.S. citizens in Cuba).
      Platt Amendment = U.S. Protectorate (a nation whose foreign policy is partly controlled by a foreign power).

  3. Puerto Rico (PR’s saw advantage to be part of U.S.) but...Foraker Act of 1900 PR’s can elect representative to their legislature but the Governor was appointed by the U.S. President.

United States Foreign Policy
1823 Monroe Doctrine is re-imposed by the Platt Amendment.

  1. Theodore Roosevelt “Big Stick” Diplomacy

    1. Panama Canal – a need for incr. trade & eliminate the dangerous voyage around So. America.
      Issue: Colombia owned Panama and refused to sell it to the U.S.
      Action: U.S. Marines aid uprising in Panama
      Results: New independent govt. of Panama leases Canal Zone to the U.S.
      *(Later W.Wilson give Colombia 25mil to close the Panamanian issue).

    2. Roosevelt Corollary – (“logical extension” to the Monroe Doctrine).
      Cause: L.A. nations default on debt payments to Europeans ($ for imports)
      U.S. fears Europeans will use force to collect , so Roosevelt warns Europeans to stay out.
      (ex. 1904 U.S. troops to Dominican rep. To secure nation until debt is paid off).

    3. Open Door Policy – Equal trading rights, so that Europeans do not carve up Asian countries, like China, into Spheres of Influence (having special trading privileges & more or less controlling an areas trade & industrial development).
      An example of the Open Door Policy would be that no nation would pay higher port fees than another country.

      1. China – enjoyed a favorable balance of trade. The following events changed this balance:

        1. Opium Wars 1899 –Britain gains Hong Kong, extra territoriality, & special trading privileges.

        2. Boxer Rebellion 1900 – ‘Righteous Order of Harmonious Fists” led a violent anti-foreigner movement. An international force captured and executed the Boxers. The Emperor (Chinese Govt.) who initially supported the Boxers were forced to pay an indemnity (sum of $ for damages & deaths). However the U.S returned the money and encouraged European nations to continue the Open Door Policy.

    4. Big Stick” Diplomacy- (“Speak softly and carry a big stick). – T. Roosevelt uses the powerful U.S. Navy in a show of force to impress the Japanese into cooperation.
      Issues: The Japanese were unhappy on 2 issues

      1. Russo-Japanese War (1905) They wanted $ (indemnity) from Russia. Teddy spearheaded the peace conference. Japan rec’d Manchuria & Korea.

      2. 21 Demands (1915) Japan made demands on China that would if accepted, make China a Protectorate of Japan. U.S. & British objections helped to maintain China’s independence.

  2. William Howard Taft “Dollar Diplomacy”
    Taft’s’ foreign policy of promoting & safeguarding American business investments & bank loans in Latin America and if necessary use troops.
    Taft believed:

    1. U.S. should protect American business interests in Latin America

    2. U.S. should use force to have L.A. repay U.S. loans.
      (ex. 1912 Taft sent U.S. troops to Nicaragua b/c a civil war prevented the govt. from repaying their loan).

  3. Woodrow Wilson “Watchful Waiting”

    1. WW did not believe in ‘Dollar Diplomacy”.

    2. WW did believe in keeping order.
      Ex. 1915 Marines to Haiti b/c civil War
      Ex. 1914 U.S. Marines sent to occupy Mexican port of Vera Cruz b/c Mexican leader jailed some American sailors. Wilson “watchfully waited” for an opportunity to force Mexican dictator Huerta from power and to implement a democracy. Later the “ABC Powers” Argentina, Brazil, & Chile urged Huerta to resign & WW removed troops.

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