American Foreign Policy: Isolationism and Imperialism

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American Foreign Policy: Isolationism and Imperialism

Why did Americans mainly pursue isolationism before 1880? What changed?

What were the reasons for imperialism? What did we hope to get from this policy?
I. Isolationism

Isolationism—official foreign policy of the U.S. until the late 19th century; belief that the nation should __________________ of other nations’ affairs in order to focus on ___________________ issues

  • This belief began with Washington’s Farewell Address and outlined in the _______________________________________

The rationale for isolationism was that it kept America ____________ and out of __________________.

  • stemmed from ________________________________ (xenophobia) and potential harm to U.S.

  • prevention of entanglements and wars in affairs that did not directly affect the nation

II. Imperialism

Imperialism—policy in which _________________________________expand their economic, political, or military control over weaker territories.

  • Started with U.S. desire to ___________ with other countries to create economic ____________

_______________________________—policy of “taking over” or gaining control of other countries
Americans began to warm to the idea of expansion overseas due to three reasons:
1. Desire for _________________________________

  • ________________________________________________, an officer in the U.S. Navy, urged government officials to build up American naval power in his famous work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History (1890)

  • concept of “sea power” was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide impact

  • European naval arms race began in the 1890s, which included the United States

  • Attempt to gain more influence in foreign countries as _________________________ (protector nations) and trading partners

  • United States built nine steel-hulled cruisers between 1883 and 1890; became the world’s third largest naval power by 1900

2. New ____________________________

  • Advances in technology allowed farms and factories to produce more than Americans could consume.

  • United States needed raw materials for its factories and new markets for its agricultural and manufactured goods; _________________________ is the solution

3. ______________________ Superiority

  • Some Americans believed in a racial superiority of the Anglo-Saxons (“whites”), based on ideas of __________________________________________

  • Some believed the United States had a responsibility to spread Christianity and “civilization” to the world’s “inferior peoples.” especially in Africa (i.e., Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness)

III. Territories Gained from Early Imperialism and Expansionism

A. Alaska (“Seward’s Folly”), 1867

  • ____________________________, Secretary of State, arranged U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 bil. (Russia wanted to avoid further war with Britain)

    • Seward had trouble persuading the House of Representatives to fund the purchase—many believed it would cause conflict; changed with discovery of _____________________________ (timber, gold, minerals, oil)

B. Hawai’ian Islands

  • England had been a naval power for over 200 years at this point; when the U.S. looked to conquer new lands, much of the world had already been claimed.

  • Americans gained influence in Hawai’i as a result of the _______________________________

  • 1867: U.S. took over the Midway Islands

  • 1887: U.S. built naval base at Hawai’i’s best port, _______________________________

  • 1890: turning point in U.S.-Hawaiian relations when Congress approved the ______________________ __________________________, which raised import rates on ______________________________

  • The tariff created a depression on the island. Sugar growers, mostly white Americans planned to have the U.S. _________________ Hawai’i in order to end the tariff on their goods

  • At the same time, the Hawai’ian throne was passed to Queen Liliuokalani, who was determined to end American influence on the island

  • 1893: American business groups organized a revolution with the Marines and overthrew the queen

    • They set up a new government headed by __________________________________, a prominent sugar plantation owner (later, founder of the Dole Fruit Company)

  • President Cleveland did not support the revolution and ordered that the queen be returned to the throne.

  • Dole refused to surrender so Cleveland recognized the Republic of Hawai’i but refused to annex the nation unless a majority of Hawaiians favored it.

  • In 1897, pro-expansion President William McKinley succeeded Cleveland as president

  • Following the Spanish-American War, McKinley and Congress proclaimed Hawaii an American territory on August 12, 1898

IV. The Spanish-American War (1898)

The Spanish American war had a number of CAUSES:

  1. Trouble in Cuba – Spain’s treatment of Cuban citizens angered those in favor of __________________


  1. _______________________________ – some reporters wanted to sell more newspapers so they made little problems seem far worse than they were (“Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!”)

  2. The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine off the coast of Havana, Cuba

At the end of the Spanish-American War (“The Glorious Little War”), the U.S. gained territory, expanding its empire.

  • After much fighting, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris (1898):

  • Spain gives Puerto Rico and Guam to the U.S.

  • Placed Cuba and Philippine Islands under U.S. rule

V. Territories Gained as a Result of the Spanish-American War

A. Cuba

  • Although Cuba became free after the Spanish-American war, American troops continued to occupy the territory.

  • In 1901, the U.S. insisted that Cuba adopt the ____________________________________, which stated that the U.S. reserved the right to intervene in Cuba, Cuba was not to go into debt, the United States could buy or lease land for naval stations, and Cuba could not make treaties that might limit its independence.

    • Cuba then became a U.S. ______________________________, a country whose affairs are partially controlled by a stronger power.

B. Annexation of the Philippines

___________________________—occupation and/or addition of another territory or country to a larger, more powerful country

  • Many people did not believe the U.S. had the right to interfere with or prevent Philippines’ independence

  • McKinley justified the annexation of the Philippines through “Christianization”

Philippine-American War

  • Filipinos initially saw their relationship with U.S. as two nations joined in a common struggle against Spain; However, U.S. wouldn’t commit to paper a statement of support for Philippine independence

  • Filipinos were outraged by the Treaty of Paris and U.S. annexation

  • War broke out in 1899, after two American soldiers killed three Filipino soldiers

  • lasted for nearly 3 years at a cost of $400 million dollars and countless lives

  • Philippines would not become independent until 1946

C. Puerto Rico

  • After U.S. acquisition of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in the Treaty of Paris, many Puerto Ricans hoped for independence

    • However, it was ruled by the U.S. military until 1900, when Congress passed the ________________________________, ended military rule and set up a civil government.

D. American Samoa

  • Samoa is a group of Pacific Islands known for their trading ports in the 1800s; as European and American expansionists hoped to gain territory, Samoa became a point of contention.

    • U.S. and Germany entered a naval battle in 1899 for control of the Samoan Islands, but were stopped when a storm sank most of the ships; division of Islands into territories

    • U.S. territories become “American Samoa”, incorporated as a protectorate, and later a territory after the role American Samoa played in the American/Allied victory in World War II.

VI. International Trade Issues

A. China & Open Door Policy

  • U.S. imperialists saw the Philippines as a gateway to the rest of Asia, especially __________________.

  • However, six European nations had taken over small parts of China and forcibly controlling the people and trade in those areas (________________________________________)

  • As a result, China had become known as the “__________________________________.”

  • U.S. Secretary of State, John Hay, wanted to protect American interests so he issued a series of policy statements called the ________________________________. This would become later known as Open Door Policy, which reflected American beliefs about U.S. industrialist capitalist economy:

    • growth of the economy depended on exports

    • U.S. had a right to intervene abroad to keep foreign markets open

    • The closing of an area to American products or people threatened U.S. survival.

  • Many Chinese were unhappy with the other countries being in China and started an uprising: the Boxer Rebellion, which was quickly “crushed” by the countries involved in trade and occupation of China, including the U.S., Russia, Japan, Britain…

  • After the Rebellion, the U.S. reaffirmed that trade between the U.S. and China would be open to all without compromising China’s sovereignty

  • However, most of the other European powers continued to exploit China, and fought wars over control of trade (Russo-Japanese War)

  • Internal divisions in Chinese rulership also emerged, leading to a civil war in China

B. Regime Change in Mexico

  • In 1911, Mexican workers and peasants overthrew their military dictator. However, U.S. President Wilson refused to recognize it, sending in Marines to occupy Veracruz.

    • A new government was formed under Venustiano Carranza, unpopular with many Mexican citizens

  • A rebel group formed under a man named Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

    • On his raids, Villa also killed Americans, prompting Wilson to send 15,000 troops into Mexico to capture Villa.

    • The countries were on the brink of war but both eventually backed down. This U.S. intervention provides a clear example of American imperialist attitudes of the time: no one was to intervene in U.S. affairs.

VII. Rationale for Imperialism

By 1900, the U.S. had gained a substantial empire and President McKinley, who was a confirmed imperialist, was reelected. Most believed that imperialism helped America to grow in size and thus become a stronger world power. However, some people such as Grover Cleveland and Andrew Carnegie did not support imperialism. They believed it was wrong for the United States to rule other people without their consent.

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