Globalization, War, and Diplomacy Thesis

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Globalization, War, and Diplomacy Thesis
Throughout its history, American foreign policy has endorsed expansionism (in the form of acquisition of territory and foreign trade) and the assertion of its independence. While its goal of expansion has stayed constant, its methods, however, have developed along with the country itself. The growth of American military power and subsequent prospect of profit, security, and global influence prompted expansionism in all regards. Expansionist policies allowed the U.S. to become active in exploiting the power vacuum created by retreating colonialist powers and establish itself as a world power that would serve as a mediator in international affairs during the 20th century. While there were times when isolationist policies emerged as the U.S. focused its efforts on internal affairs, was unable to practically practice war, or geographical barriers impeded the American path, subtle expansionist policies emerged in regards to areas such as economic growth and the utilization of resources. Due to its self-application to global affairs and its emergence on the global stage as a champion of peace and democracy, the U.S. became involved in not only expanding and protecting itself, but in preserving world peace and attempting to create beneficial foreign relations.

Exploration and Colonization

(1492 – 1763)
European curiosity fueled the age of exploration that succeeded the Renaissance; spurred by imperialism, British and Spanish agencies began a surge of colonization that set American expansion in motion and provided a precedent for later American imperialism. The British colonies in North America, the matrix for future American society, began to develop the political structure and social ideology that would eventually form the base for an independent nation while economic growth and territorial acquisition patterned later expansion.

European Imperialism: Predecessor of U.S. Expansion

European Exploration: Foundation for Later Growth

  • The Renaissance triggered an age of European discovery and curiosity- Europeans had an increased interest in Western lands  

  • Treaty of Tordesillas: settled dispute over Western exploration, gives right to land to Spain. Other European countries, however, wanted ability to compete with Spain for New World land, leading to the establishment of Euro. imperialism and mercantilism, both of which ignited resentment in colonists

  • The Columbian Exchange ➔ immense population growth in Europe (new food sources), decimation of Native American populations (new diseases) ➔ population imbalance ➔  enormous influx of European settlers to regions of the New World, expansion of population.

Spanish Conquests: Imperialism in the Making

  • Spain first officially explored Americas (through Columbus) ➔ race for North American territory, precedent for imperialist expansion, encouraged international competition

  • The Treaty of Tordesillas set a precedent for claiming Native American territory, laying the foundation for the emergence of imperialism (later adopted by U.S.)

  • Spanish Conquistadores moved into present day US in the early 16th century to seek gold, instead found land viable for settlement ➔ opened lands for later expansion

  • The French and British colonies created stronger bases in the Americas- colonies emerged with individual cultures and governments ➔ later base for autonomy

  • Eventual Failure of Spanish Government in New World (inflation, neglect of economy, monarchical control) ➔ power vacuum, allowed for later U.S. expansion

British Colonization: Independence and Expansionism

Motives for Colonization

  • Religious: Avoid government interference ➔ sense of separation from mother country present even from founding of colonies- preparation for independence

  • Economic: Profit motive ➔ need for land ➔ early expansion

Drive for Independence

-Development of Independent Governments

  • Salutary Neglect- Product of internal troubles within England (Civil War, Glorious Revolution) ➔ The colonists established their own forms of self-government (by necessity)

  • The New England Confederation: Proven to be crucial in later wars and foreign affairs crises; also created basis for later political confederations between colonies

  • Most British colonies founded by joint-stock companies or individual proprietors according to private interests

  • Private enterprise in British colonies promoted growth of vibrant economies that surpassed French/Spanish competition as well as created a sense of political autonomy, due to a feeling of separation from British economy/politics, soon to be fought for

-Ideological Basis for Independence

  • Settlers discontent with British practices; new challenges and lifestyles in colonies ➔ cultural separation from Britain

  • Religious and Political Dissent- many dissenters from the English regime in church and state migrated to colonies ➔ arrival of dissidents refuels growing discontent of British rule

  • Enlightenment ideas, such as John Locke’s contract theory of government, would later influence prominent colonial thinkers, including Paine, Jefferson, and Madison

  • “City Upon a Hill”- early expression of the idea that American colonies should be an example for other nations; created sense of American uniqueness, justified later expansionism

Drive for Expansion

  • Patterns of Settlement: New England settlers often brought along families, unlike the French and Spaniards, whose emphasis on conquest, trade, and conversion encouraged merchants and officials, but not families, to settle ➔ New England, later Middle Colonies experienced drastic population growth compared to their colonial neighbors ➔ key advantage in future conflicts over French and Spanish territory, greater long-term expansion

  • Abundance of Land, Scarcity of Labor- economic phenomenon created an economy that contrasted that of Europe, where opposite was true ➔ enormous influx of land-seeking Europeans to Americas, promoting population growth, land development

  • Conquest of New Netherlands- Expansionist policies were already apparent, even at this early stage in U.S. development.

Revolution and the Critical Period (1763 – 1788)
 As British mercantilism and imperialism began to severely limit the extent of colonial expansion, independence was increasingly viewed as a necessity, because colonists thought that America’s position  as a land of opportunity and prosperity was predicated upon its ability to expand.

As the colonies expanded in economic and military strength and developed the basis for a self-governing political structure, resentment for British practices and a growing sense of national identity prompted the American Revolution, resulting in the formation of the U.S.A. The beginnings of nationalism merged with the development of a coherent political structure to create a new nation in both government and ideology, and independence removed British restrictions that had previously hindered U.S. expansion.

Movement toward Self-Government: Causes of Revolution

Excessive British regulation of colonial trade and settlement, taxation under virtual parliamentary representation, nationalistic ideology, and the development of administrative structures prompted and enabled the American Revolution, resulting in U.S. independence.

-Colonial Resentment

  • Mercantilism: Parliamentary legislation enforced a British monopoly over American tobacco, sugar, and other raw materials  ➔  colonists resented liberty restriction, hindrance to econ. growth.

  • By British policies of virtual representation, Parliament made decisions based mainly on British mercantilist interests rather than colonial input ➔  Americans to seek a more democratic government to gain legislation favorable to expansion.

  • Proclamation of 1763: King George III forbade American settlement west of Appalachians (after Pontiac’s Rebellion). Colonists, determined to expand, greatly angered by restriction.

-National Identity

  • French and Indian War: British/American teamwork allows for the joint defeat of the French, sense of American accomplishment and pride arises within people. Nationalism continues to Albany Congress, where the basis of a government separate from Britain arises. American military victories → increased confidence in independence, Lack of French threat → increased nationalism (American nationalism ↑ when Brit. dependance ↓, creating a more independence-bound nation)

Organized Protest:

  • Committees of Correspondence- organized method for patriot leaders in the New England colonies to communicate with members in the other colonies- allowed for united opposition to Parliament; resentment for British governmental structure   ➔  est. of “democracy” as essential part of national identity

  • Continental Congress: resisted British control by nullifying Intolerable Acts ➔ demonstrates estrangement of Brit./Am. interests

  • Declaration and Resolves: boycotting of British imports, formation of militias (precautions for possible war)  ➔   Precedent for resistance to British control and the est. of self-government

  • 1775 Olive Branch Petition: Stated American loyalty to Great Britain and asked for peaceful resolution to conflict; rejected by King George, who formally declared the colonies in rebellion

    • Effects: further separated the colonies from Britain; Revolutionary movement gained momentum as colonists claimed the right to parley with the British Government

  • Second Continental Congress (1775) became an even greater unifying force in the colonies as it managed the colonial war effort ➔ efficiency in creating independent government (eventually necessary for creation of national identity)

Independence: Culmination of the Revolution

  • In 1776, the Second Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming their unity and strength as an autonomous confederation of states

  • The new nation now needed to fight for recognition among other world powers- official beginning of U.S. foreign affairs

  • Invasion of Canada: One of the first campaign efforts of the entire war, Revolutionaries originally attempted to seize Canada from the British, demonstrating expansionist motives

  • The Battle of Saratoga and the 1778 Treaty of Alliance: Colonial victory and subsequent French alliance allowed for defeat of the British in the Revolutionary War

  • Battle of Yorktown: Joint American and French force compels British troops to leave the United States  ➔  nationalism boosted

  • 1783 Treaty of Paris: U.S. independence is officially recognized by major European powers

  • Nationalism and American Ideals were reinforced:  Americans had a vision for the US principals that (including education, religion and social norms) should develop ➔ the notion of a “responsible Republican” was crucial to the development of technology and emergence of American forms of art

Confederation: Securing Independence

  • Articles of Confederation: Secured U.S. autonomy internationally

  • Northwest Ordinances: Established efficient pattern for settlement of land that facilitated later expansion

  • The Constitution: Effective base for later government, enabled skillful resolution of later problems in foreign policy


1. In the Olive Branch petition, the colonists tried to avoid war through diplomatic compromise, demonstrating their willingness to postpone independence and expansion to preserve peace.

The Early Republic

(1789 – 1832)

As the Napoleonic Wars enveloped the globe, the United States struggled to preserve its hard-won freedoms with neutrality, promoting internal growth and avoiding destructive wars, but eventual endorsement of adamant nationalism and militant expansionism led to American involvement in the War of 1812. Expansion and independence remained dominant themes of the era as the U.S.A. gained territory and sought unhindered control of its economic and political affairs. America’s burgeoning economy remained relatively insignificant in world affairs, but triumphs in foreign affairs fostered international recognition of the U.S.A. as a potential world power.


Washington tried to prevent harmful U.S. involvement in foreign wars while establishing a basis for later U.S. growth and expansion.

Neutrality: Keeping Pace w/ Internal Affairs, Avoiding War Damage

  • In the aftermath of the destruction of the Revolution, internal divisions (Shay’s Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion, Hamilton’s economic plan (North v. South), Fed. v. Dem. Rep.) necessitated focus on internal, not foreign, affairsneutrality, isolationism

  • Federalists v. Democratic Republicans: Partisan divisions within the U.S., although discouraged by Washington, involved disputes over whether U.S. foreign policy should favor Britain or France during the Napoleonic Wars. The stalemate reached by the parties promoted the policy of neutrality adopted by Washington and influenced similar decisions of later presidents.

  • Proclamation of Neutrality- Revoking the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with France, Washington proclaimed that the U.S. would remain impartial to the belligerent powers of Europe, avoiding open war that could have seriously harmed the U.S.

  • Farewell Address- admonition to refuse permanent alliances with other nations would influence later isolationist policies, such as Monroe’s Doctrine; fostered American ideological independence, rejecting permanent ties to Britain, previously the colonies’ mother country, and France, the revolutionary counterpart to, and principal ally of, the U.S.


  • The Cabinet- Washington’s appointment of capable leaders (Pinckney, Adams, et al.) to positions of diplomacy enabled U.S. expansion during the early decades of the Republic.

  • National Debt- Hamilton’s emphasis on repaying U.S. debts to France, Spain, and other allies, aided by his program for federal assumption of state debt and creation of a national bank, established U.S. global credibility and promoted international recognition of the nascent republic.

  • Jay’s Treaty- Minister John Jay’s many concessions to the British prompted nationwide resentment ➔  rise of the Dem. Rep. party, animosity toward British, ➔ desire for further expansion (possibly militant) ➔ War of 1812 . Mercantilist restrictions imposed by British upon the U.S. by Jay’s Treaty suggest American economic independence →  yet to be attained.

  • Pinckney’s Treaty- A triumph of U.S. foreign affairs, Spanish consent to the terms of the treaty implied recognition of the U.S. as a power of equal standing with Spain and other European countries. The treaty opened opportunities for westward expansion by decreasing Spanish power in the Southwest.

  • Treaty of Greenville- Gave settlers rights to lands formerly owned by Native Americans, showed willingness to negotiate with Native Americans, but only if U.S. demands for territory were met; demonstrates beginnings of unreserved expansionism

Adams: Continued Neutrality

Adams allowed for U.S. growth by avoiding intervention in foreign wars.

  • Quasi-War- Adams avoided an open declaration of war with France, providing the respite from war necessary to advance economic growth; also maintained crucial relations with Napoleon ➔ Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory

  • The XYZ Affair asserted U.S. independence in foreign affairs. American public denounced bribing foreign diplomats, supporting idea of American political equality to France. Slogan “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute” reflected emerging trends of nationalism and militarism

    • U.S. Navy not strong enough to fight against the French, Adams avoided declared war, sent new diplomats to Fr.

  • Development of U.S. Military- Preparation for a potential war with the French enabled later successes (Barbary Pirates, naval battles of War of 1812, etc.)

Jefferson: Peaceful Expansion

Jefferson strongly endorsed expansion and preservation of independence but attempted to avoid war.

Expansion and Involvement

  • “Revolution of 1800”- Jefferson’s election marked increase in U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, perhaps influenced by Jeffersons’ favor of the French and animosity towards Britain, a contrast to the more neutral policies of Washington and Adams.

  • Further Reduction of National Debt- in compliance  with Hamilton’s earlier policies, increased U.S. credibility abroad

  • Prohibition of Foreign Slave Trade- later, U.S. navy to play active role in stopping slave trade off of African coast as a result of the now-growing opposition to foreign slave trade

  • Barbary Pirates-Jefferson’s use of military force against marauders in the Mediterranean revealed the military strength of U.S. and its ability to take the offensive in foreign affairs- example of militant expansionism (in global trade)

Louisiana Purchase- territorial addition nearly doubled the size of the U.S.; largely eliminated French threats to U.S. prosperity, led to further decline in Spanish influence in Americas. Expansionist policies of the time modeled later American imperialism and Manifest Destiny

  • Annexation of West (and then rest (Adams-Onis Treaty)) of Florida mark U.S. expansionism and decline in Sp. influence

  • Lewis and Clark- Established U.S. claims to Oregon Territory, showed both celerity in developing newly-acquired land and the desire to stake out claims to land ahead of other countries

Avoidance of War

  • Embargo Act- Jefferson pursued a policy of “peaceful coercion,” avoiding armed conflict and employing economic sanctions in an attempt to preserve U.S. neutrality. The failure of the Embargo Act to effect a change in British and French policies indicated Jefferson’s drastic overestimation of U.S. economic power, revealing that the U.S. commerce still remained insignificant in the broader sphere of worldwide economics.

Madison: Militant Expansionism

Because of U.S. growth under previous presidents, Madison thought the U.S. ready for war and entered a new period of militant expansionism; premature belligerency resulted in few concrete gains but promoted a surge of nationalism.

  • War of 1812- Conflict originally showed lack of U.S. preparation for war, later revealed U.S. military strength; resulted in a surge of nationalism and a more prosperous economy

Causes of the War of 1812: “Peaceful Coercion” to War with Britain

  • Impressment- this degrading practice of removing sailors from American vessels to serve in the British navy resembled British mercantilist practices of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thus, U.S. entered the War of 1812 partly to enforce British recognition of its equal status as an independant nation.

  • Tecumseh- Defeat of the Native American leader Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe furthered divisions among Native American tribes, allowing for further U.S. settlement of the Northwest- N. American revolt attributed to British agitation

  • War Hawks- Congressmen lobbied for war with the British, motivated by desire for British territory in Canada, articulating desire for expansion that would define much of U.S. foreign policy in the coming decades.

Effects of the War of 1812

  • Battle of New Orleans- In a crushing defeat for the British forces at the close of the War of 1812, the American victory at New Orleans inspired nationalism and international recognition of the U.S. as a formidable military foe. Defeat of the British reinforced American audacity in foreign affairs and rendered other nations wary of hostility toward the emerging world power.

  • Treaty of Ghent- return to “status quo antebellum” seemingly had little effect; nevertheless, boosted American morale (a military draw had been achieved with military power of the nineteenth century); established U.S. economic independence (no more mercantilist restrictions, as in Jay’s Treaty)

Monroe: Return to Peaceful Expansion

With the advantage of previous U.S. assertion of power in the war of 1812, Monroe avoided potentially destructive wars but continued to strongly promote U.S. expansion in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Rush-Bagot Agreement- peaceful resolution of conflicts over the U.S. and Canadian border, especially rights to the Great Lakes; pattern for later compromise between Britain and U.S.

  • Convention of 1818- further resolution of disputes concerning U.S.-Canada border, American fishing rights in Canadian waters, and joint British-American settlement of Oregon- peaceful resolution of conflicts with compromises that benefited both countries reflected growing U.S. willingness to avoid militant nationalism and embrace more isolationist policies toward European powers (not same towards other nations in Americas)

  • Oregon Territory- Russia’s claims refuted; basis laid for future division by British and Americans; movement toward peaceful compromise with Britain

  • Adams-Onis Treaty- Officially annexed U.S.-controlled Florida

  • Monroe Doctrine- stated U.S. isolationism regarding European affairs, though supported intervention in the affairs of other American countries; established U.S. claim to unhindered expansion in the New World (resembled colonialism); framework for U.S. foreign policy until WWI.


  • Embargo Act- Jefferson avoided militant expansionism through this policy of “peaceful coercion.”

  • Hartford Convention: New England merchants opposed militant expansionism because of interference with lucrative British trade

  • Initial Bribery of Barbary Pirates- avoided militarism and conquest

Jackson and the Age of Reform

(1828 – 1840)

In accordance with the Monroe Doctrine and earlier proclamations of U.S. neutrality, the U.S. entered a period of isolation from European politics. Nevertheless, the U.S. continued to expand in the Americas at the expense of Native American tribes and also invested more heavily in global commerce. Although interactions with nations outside of the Western Hemisphere were very limited during this period because of an emphasis on domestic growth, internal policies would lay the economic and political groundwork for the eventual development of the U.S.A. as a world power.

-The Monroe Doctrine established a precedent for isolationism from European affairs during this period.

-The increased sectionalism of the time prevented the US from being very involved in international politics

- Jackson’s Indian Policy

  • Indian Removal Act: Moved Native Americans to West of the Mississippi with the intention of gaining more land

  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia- Supreme Court Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokees were a “domestic dependant nation” and, thus, dealings with the Native Americans would not require the same diplomacy as those with European nations

  • Trail of Tears: 800 mile journey that forced Natives to walk west → very high mortality rates; showed willingness of the United States to expand at the cost of Native American tribes/lives

- State vs. Federal Power: Establishment of a Single National Interest

  • In granting more economic power to the states, Jackson limited funding and the federal government’s ability to interact with Europe (no Bank of the United States or national currency), promoting isolationism, limiting influence of foreign investors.

  • Nullification Crisis- Jackson’s forceful assertion of federal power strengthened the national government → stronger national government allows for the U.S.A. to act as a single, complete entity in foreign affairs rather than as independent states- also prefigured Lincoln’s response to Southern secession

European Affairs: Although supposedly dedicated to protecting republican systems of government, the United States made little or no effort to support the Revolutions of 1848 or to protest the restoration of monarchy in Europe, and especially in France, after the Napoleonic Wars. The United States welcomed political refugees, especially from Germany, but generally did not intervene in the military and political affairs of Europe. This lack of intervention in European politics illustrates the Monroe Doctrine, which limited U.S. involvement in foreign affairs to that which promoted U.S. political and economic interests: because intervening in Europe from 1776-1914 was not economically or politically profitable to U.S., involvement remained limited; corollary: when expansion was profitable (especially in North America, later in Cuba [Ostend Manifesto], Philippines, Guam [Spanish-American War],  Hawaii, Panama, etc.) should be pursued, even at the expense of other nations.


-British investment allowed for economic growth; later, when Britain suffered from a recession, British investments were recalled and the U.S. suffered Panic of 1837. This shows that the United States’ economy still largely depended upon foreign support. Still, Britain was also becoming more dependent upon U.S. as a major, if not key, source of its cotton.

Unit 5

As the U.S. increased in military and economic strength, leaders promoted militant expansion at the expense of weaker nations in the Americas. To sanction these expansionist attempts, Americans created the idea of “Manifest Destiny” coupled with the ideal of the American Dream, claiming that, because of America’s unique tendency to embrace opportunity and equality, American expansion at the expense of other nations was justified. Sectionalism, a result of both economic specialization and controversies regarding immense territorial expansion,  began to play an increasingly important role in foreign affairs, limiting U.S. involvement in cases such as Oregon and the Ostend Manifesto and finally straining sectional tensions to the breaking point, leading to Southern secession and claims of autonomy. Preoccupation with preserving and later rebuilding the Union through the ardours of Civil War and Reconstruction replaced much of national interest in foreign involvement, resulting in a period of general isolationism.

Mexican-American War

U.S. acquired Mexican Cession; sectional tensions increased


  • Long-Term: 1) Manifest Destiny ➔ expansion seemed justified by democratic ideals; 2) pressure on Eastern farmers from growing industry (reverse balance of land versus labor) and abundance of cheap land prompted western/southern settlement; 3) ecological change ➔ decline of Native American resistance; 4) Southern desire to preserve political influence ➔ desire to get more slave states

  • Short-Term: U.S. emigration to Texas because of fertile land controlled by Mexico; Republic of Texas gains independence and requests annexation after successful revolt; American indignation over Mexican assaults on Alamo and at Rio Grande

  • Supposed Mexican aggression infuriated many Southerners + Westerners, Lincoln’s “Spot Resolution” reveals that many Northerners more concerned w/ harmful consequences of war than expediency of reprisals against Mexico- prefigured conflicts of Civil War

  • Thought of Mex. aggression angered many South/Westerners; while Lincoln’s “Spot Resolution” revealed Northern ideology of greater concern for harmful war than expediency of reprisals against Mexico → prefigured conflicts of Civil War

  • Despite sectional rift, America quick to go to war →  demonstrates imperialist ambitions and intent for expansion


  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War, U.S. gained Mexican Cession (land), increased its size by ⅓

  • Acquisition of land boosted U.S. economy by providing natural resources, Pacific coast trade, government-owned land ➔ settlement facilitated, federal revenue increased

  • America becomes dominant in Western Hemisphere (reinforces ideals of the Monroe Doctrine)

  • Further division over slave state v. free state issue ➔ Civil War

Oregon: Sectionalism Affects U.S. Foreign affairs

  • Fertile soil, new pressures on Eastern small farmers from rise of industry, rapid growth of population, economic difficulties in Panic of 1837 ➔ “Oregon Fever”, massive immigration

  • Land claims settled with Britain in Buchanan-Pakenham treaty: although some Americans were in favor of using force to acquire maximum land, Polk settled for the 49th parallel to 1) avoid fighting with Britain (Northern concern) and 2) limit the # of free states admitted to the union (Southern concern)

Further Expansion: “Manifest Destiny” on a Global Scale

  • Ostend Manifesto- unsuccessful Southern ploy to gain more land  (in Cuba) for slave territory. Shows willingness to acquire territory through military force; South desperate for expansion

  • Japan and China- acquisition of American land on Pacific coast sparks treaties and advanced trade relations with Asian countries

    • Commodore Matthew Perry- entrusted with a naval command to open trade with Japan-demonstrates expansionism even in global trade

  • Gadsden Purchase: infertile land purchased from Mexico in Southwest, intended and later used for railroads

The Civil War: War Promoting Isolationism

  • Civil War: South viewed itself as a separate nation (similar to thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary war); North viewed South still as part of the Union

  • Trent Affair- Confederate agents J. Slidell and G. Mason captured from British vessel by Union Ship. Britain nearly involved (to secure Confed. indep), but appeased by wary Union

  • New technology would influence later global wars; involved use of ironclad ships (Monitor vs. Merrimack); new mil. strategy

  • Because of preoccupation with the Civil War and its aftermath, the U.S. retreated into isolationism during the crisis of war and the process of Radical reconstruction, marking a period of relative non-interference in foreign affairs between previous and later periods of involvement.

The Gilded Age (ca. 1860-1900)

Political stalemate, the need to regulate businesses, and an international balance of power limited the extent of direct territorial acquisition, but the U.S. subtly expanded in the international sphere by strengthening its economy relative to that of other nations and by attracting foreign immigrant workers.

Isolationism and Neutrality


-Few opportunities for expansion- Canadian and Mexican boundaries resolved by the Buchanan-Pakenham and Guadalupe Hidalgo treaties;

-European balance of power after Napoleonic, Crimean wars few conflicts for U.S. to intervene in or take advantage of

-All parties in Congress more concerned about preserving political power, managing business/economy than foreign involvement/affairs


-U.S. expansion during this time period generally limited to economic growth, which in turned prompted the later imperialism of Spanish-American War by creating need for new markets

Summary: As a continuation of Civil War and Reconstruction policy and as a result of preoccupation with internal expansion, the U.S. remained primarily isolated from world politics during the Gilded Age, while still establishing its economic integrity, an important factor in later years. Economic/internal expansion was due to focus on and development of big business and industry
Technology, Tariffs, and Trade

The U.S. economy expanded relative to international competitors.

Causes: Absence of Southern delegates from Civil War and Radical Reconstruction Congress Northeastern congressmen promote own business interests by:

1) issuing land and subsidies to railroad companies (esp. transcontinental) → further internal economic gains

2) loose regulation of business, e.g., Sherman Anti-Trust Act and Interstate Commerce Act nearly unenforced, allows for scandals such as Credit Mobilier, Gould-Fisk Scheme, various Robber-Barons’, etc.

3) Specie Resumption Act (1875)—adherence to gold standard—and McKinley Tariff (and others) favor business at expense of U.S. pop.

Loose regulation → striking down labor disputes (Pullman Strike, Haymarket Affair, Great Railroad Strike of 1877) with military or police; south had far fewer labor unions and were as not concerned with this as the northern businessmen who now held the reigns of congress were

Economic Growth: Entire U.S. economy grows as big business prospers, which promotes philanthropy among the wealthier classes

  • Follows trends est. by Hamilton’s Economic Plan: to become powerful internationally, legislators thought industrial growth, foreign trade, reduction of debt (even to point of fed. surplus) necessary, thus promoted legislation favorable to businesses

  • Second Industrial Revolution- American innovation encouraged by favorable setting for entrepreneurship and prospects of quick profit in increasingly-industrial society development and utilization of such innovations as electrical appliances and distribution, steelmaking, oil refining, internal combustion engine, telephone, lightbulb, agricultural implements, etc., as well as business practices such as vertical integration and holding companies international influence; U.S. gains advantage over competition


1. International trade increased and the U.S. economy grew stronger relative to the economies of other nations with the rise of big business → US economic hegemony/corporations were efficient and had monopolized many industries (+implementation of high tariffs)→ less importation from abroad (a result of this is the U.S.’s independence from foreign economies)

2. Technological innovations gave the U.S. a key advantage over other industrialized nations (not only independence from, but superiority over other nations/economies)

3. Over-production led to world-wide depression and internal discontent (Populists, silver-standard supporters, etc.)

4. Worldwide depression/widespread discontent increased desire for reform; ultimately led to the progressive era

  • Note: American internal expansion resulted in its application to global affairs as a world power, so subtle expansion→ big waves in foreign sphere

Immigration: Subtle Form of Expansion: Immigration allowed U.S. population to increase at expense of foreign populations

Causes: Developments in urban use of resources and industrial development provided the means and the incentives (need for labor) for government to support immigration contract labor supported by federal legislation 1865-1885, after 1885 regulations only weakly enforced massive influx of immigrants, (federal support Ellis and Angel Islands built)

Effects: Reinforced capitalist economy by providing a large labor force for enterprise (and subsequent trade) and developing Western land


U.S. government forbade some immigration, esp. Chinese, despite profitability to industry that would allow for further economic expansion

  • Resulted from nativism and the drive for “100% Americanism”; also from fear that immigrants would take jobs from Americans

  • Tension btwn. U.S. and other nations built out of structural racism that would come out of selective immigration reform

Progressivism, Imperialism, and World War I (1896-1918)
The Globalization of United States Expansion:
Because it had reached the limit of its economic and territorial expansion on the mainland North American continent, the U.S. began to search for territories and markets abroad. The U.S. thus became more involved in interactions with other nations. To justify American expansionism, the United States was portrayed as a champion of democracy, a view which would remain influential in American policy even after expansion had nearly ceased. New challenges emerged as fewer opportunities for expansion were afforded to the United States because of competition with other world powers, leading to new methods of expansion, including advancing American prestige and influence by assumption of the role of mediator in world disputes and efforts to preserve global stability in order to protect U.S. economic and political interests abroad.

Precursors to Global Imperialism

  • Turner Thesis: By 1893, the United States had reached the limits of its territorial expansion on the mainland North American continent. Due to the drive for expansion, spurred by the desire for more economic resources and political power, politicians found new arenas for U.S. expansion in the Pacific and, gradually, across the world. As the U.S. encountered other imperialist powers in its global expansion, the focus of expansion shifted from increasing U.S. territory to fortifying U.S. influence abroad.

  • Seward’s Folly: Alaska, one of the last additions to the U.S. on the North American mainland, represents the desperation for easily accessible territory which was to be used for economic purposes (in this case, easier trade with Asian nations)


Without North American land to expand to, McKinley was forced to widen the scope of expansion to appease the driven expansionist minds in America

  • Causes of the Spanish American War:

    • American sugar planters aim to save investments in Cuba

    • U.S. needed naval bases to facilitate trade with Asia— influenced by Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power

    • Sinking of Maine- no evidence it was Spanish doing: US assumed involvement to forge reason to go to war

    • De Lôme Letter: Criticized McKinley and pushed US to defend itself ➔ U.S. interests do not require defense of president, but still seen as a reason for the war

    • Yellow Journalism: Journalists Pulitzer & Hearst ‘expose’ evils of Spanish oppression in Cuba ➔ Seemed as if the US had a moral imperative;

  • Teller amendment- Provided for temporary Cuban independence

  • Platt Amendment- Functionally revoked Teller amendment; gave US priority access to Cuban markets and allowed intervention ➔ Represented that US did not act on democratic intentions- more self serving reasons (confirmed U.S.’s moral imperative)

  • Annexation of the Philippines: Annexed by McKinley after implying that the US would help them win their independence

    • Near China- would allow the U.S. easier trade with China

    • Creates inroad for US - Open Door policy would be signed a year later

  • Hawaii and Samoa: Land acquired by the US

    • Argued that acquisition of Hawaiian and Samoan land had no purpose besides a commercial one

    • This and Platt amendment spur doubt about America’s claim to expansion in the name of democracy


Although an ardent expansionist, Roosevelt realized that global expansion could not be pursued by direct territorial expansion because of the presence of well-armed imperialist rivals. Thus, Roosevelt advocated new expansionist techniques, trying to increase U.S. influence over other nations by both demonstrating and asserting U.S. military power and by trying to create prestige for the U.S. as a nation of democracy and peace.

  • The Treaty of Portsmouth (1904)-U.S. assumes role of mediator in world affairs, often previously limited to matters directly regarding the U.S.. Roosevelt’s action represented daring shift from isolation to involvement/ globalization, indicating the rise of the U.S. as a world power. (The mediation also earned Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize, furthering the nation’s reputation as a champion of democracy, freedom, and peace.)

  • Great White Fleet-U.S. flaunts now powerful navy by parading around world. International acceptance of action shows growing reputation of U.S. as global power; also demonstrates U.S. attempts to gain prestige as it becomes more involved in global affairs

  • Roosevelt Corollary: attempts to justify extension of an American protectorate to Latin American countries intendede to lead to U.S. domination in the Western Hemisphere

  • “Gentleman’s Agreement”- Roosevelt attempts to curtail Japanese immigration to the United States after Japan protests San Francisco segregation; indicates willingness to compromise with other imperialist powers to avoid disputes, both within and without of the U.S.

  • Panama Canal- direct U.S. naval intervention prevents Colombian troops from suppressing a Panamanian insurrection; demonstrates U.S. willingness to use military force to promote economic expansion and increase U.S. influence in other countries

  • Open Door Policy- an attempt to halt the partition of China among rival imperialist powers, Americans advocated a free trade policy by which the advantage of America’s industrial power in foreign trade might be maintained without military interference from other countries; not accepted by other countries, possibly because of the benefits to U.S. commerce which it implied; also demonstrates U.S. portrayal of itself as the protector of democracy as it ostensibly tried to defend China’s territorial and commercial independence


Taft largely continued Roosevelt’s policies of expansion by influence, using economic investments to increase America’s influence over other countries.

  • Dollar Diplomacy in which the U.S. interfered with South American and Caribbean nations’ economies to prevent intervention by European nations regarding debt furthered the U.S.’s message to other nations that it was the primary power in the Western Hemisphere and that, despite the colonial status of many Western countries in relation to Eu


A fervent idealist, Wilson rejected many of the policies of earlier presidents in trying to force American expansion, when unwanted, upon other peoples; nevertheless, his description of America’s mission to “make the world safe for democracy” ironically served as a powerful catalyst of American involvement in foreign affairs and, later, as a frequently-used justification for expansionism. Thus, while not intended to promote expansionism, Wilson’s idealistic view of the special mission of the U.S. proved an important part of later U.S. attempts to increase its global interest.

World War I

  • U.S. interest in war starts with accidental sinkings of the U.S. vessels Lusitania, Sussex, and Arabic by German submarines, despite assurances that no passenger vessels would be sunk without due warning

    • Germany continuously re-negs on former agreements regarding naval neutrality

  • Zimmerman Telegram: alleged correspondence between Germany and Mexico proposing a Mexican invasion of U.S.; frightened many Americans by making war seem closer to home

    • Theories about genuineness of the telegram represent how many countries wanted America to get involved

  • Bolshevik Revolution- Because previously feudal/monarchic Russia withdraws from the war, America claims that it alone is supporting the alleged democracies of France and Britain in their war against the Reich of Kaiser Wilhelm

  • “Keeping the World Safe for Democracy” - Wilson’s justification for entering the war. The information above, as well as the threat to European democracy, bring U.S. into position of assistance in war

  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points- U.S.’s war aims: freedom of seas, no secret diplomacy (treaties, etc.), political self-determination for various nationalities, assembly of a league of nations. These aims attempt to keep Russia in the war, establish U.S. as a global peacekeeping power, and add psychological aspect to Great War

    • The advancement of an agenda internationally represented the power the U.S. acquired from the War

    • 14 Points aim to democratically protect countries without the power to represent themselves in the “global court”

League of Nations: Wilson’s capstone of 14 points, and while not ratified due to domestic opposition, established U.S. as a proponent for means of global peacekeeping

  • Underwood Tariff: Wilson saw tariff abused by big business to keep prices high, so lowered it, sparking international trade for first time since Progressive era

  • Red Scare- as Communist party rises w/ Bolsheviks, fear of Comm. party in America arises as post-war racial tensions grow. Fear dies off with decline of Bolsheviks

From Isolation to Involvement: Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, and World War II

Although isolationism and peacemaking remained the emphases of U.S. foreign policy in the 1920s, global conflict caused by economic struggles and the rise of fascism necessitated a gradual increase in U.S. involvement in world affairs during the 1930s. External pressures would eventually lead the U.S. into World War II, catapulting the U.S. into a position of world prominence after the war had devastated much of the globe.

After World War I, the United States attempted to regain prosperity and security by proscribing war and reverting to political isolationism, attempting to create a stable political arena in which it might continue expansion of its international economic influence. As the Great Depression abruptly concluded the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties both at home and abroad, American leaders decreased their focus on isolationism and, while curtailing expansionist policies that entailed unnecessary expense, increasingly emphasized the need to preserve U.S. security in response to the fascist and imperialist governments emerging in nations across the globe. Although Roosevelt and other leaders had already begun to contribute to the Allied war effort, official entry into the war was sparked by the long-feared invasion of U.S. soil.  In response to Pearl Harbor, the U.S. launched an American offensive in Europe and Asia, ending in triumph for the Allies. As America emerged victorious from the war, expansionist leaders used the opportunity provided by America’s new dominance in world affairs to subtly expand U.S. spheres of influence as tensions began to emerge between the United States and its primary competitor for world hegemony, the Soviet Union.
The 1920’s

  • A period of isolationism after the horrors of WWI, the U.S. and the rest of the world looked to prevent another world war, and many, but not all, nations signed agreements in an attempt to prevent such a conflict.

  • League of Nations: despite presidential support, Congress (influenced by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge) prohibits US involvement in Treaty of Versailles because of League’s estab. Shows extent of US isolationism.

  • Hawley-Smoot tariff and (later) Mellon’s economic plan use high tariffs to bolster US industrial production; results in a lack of US politics/influence in global trading affairs.

  • Due to unrestricted German sub warfare (and advance in naval war technology) in WWI, US calls many nations together in Washington Naval (Disarmament) Conference (1921-22) to discuss efforts to ensure naval peace/security in the Pacific. (Of many resolutions, one limited amount of warships a nation could control. Also out of conference came a series of treaties...)

  • Five-Power, Four-Power, and Nine-Power Treaties: Helped to establish the status quo by partitioning the world into spheres of influence, with U.S. participation largely influenced by attempts to secure American assets in the Western Hemisphere

  • Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928): denounces war as means of resolution between two or more feuding nations; failed, because idea of outlawing war was radical, and was not universal—not all nations signed on, so did not apply to whole world

  • Despite this, the U.S. still felt a partial obligation to promote its own democratic governmental ideals

  • Calvin Coolidge decided to send troops into Nicaragua from 1927-28 after his refusal to recognize the country’s newly established government; however, in 1933, then-president Herbert Hoover deemed the stationing of the troops unnecessary and dismissed them from Nicaragua

  • New restrictions on immigration also allowed the nation to become increasingly isolationist while also reflecting such a mentality

  • Immigration: while Immigration Act of 1924 limited total immigrants, 1920s immigration quotas and National Origins Act both slow immigration and show favoritism towards No./We. Europeans, nearly banning immigration of Asians (China/Japan) which allowed for a storm of So./Ea. Europeans to immigrate to America

The 1930’s

  • Great Depression: US economy was stagnated: farmers especially were hit hard with the crisis- further depleted international trade; affecting countries abroad

  • Focus on internal struggle halts peace talks and foreign relations

  • Reciprocal Trade Agreements- response to need for international collaboration during the time of the Depression, illustrated willingness to increase involvement or decrease the isolationism created by high protective tariffs to increase trade

  • Cash-and-Carry: non-war effort to reintroduce US to global trade at little risk (countries pay cash, not credit, & carry own goods)

  • Clark Memorandum and the Pan-American Conferences- as the cost of maintaining military units in Latin American countries began to outweigh its benefits, Franklin D. Roosevelt formally denounced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, a policy which also more closely aligned with the ideal of “keeping the world safe for democracy”

  • Fear of War

    • Nye Committee: discov’d that banks and munition makers, who drew great profits from war, pushed U.S.  into WWI for own sake → makes public weary of war

    • Panay: U.S. ship in Chinese harbor bombed by Japan but drew no government action, just Japanese repayment

    • Hints at involvement: FDR calls for nation’s first peacetime conscription; all able men apply for army

  • Fear at home culminates in internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans in camps. Result of war’s intensity, propaganda, proximity of war industries to Japanese populations

World War II

  • Fascism (In Italy, Japan as well as to Germany) created the perception that democracy was threatened

  • Hitler: Came to power by promising to improve the German economy: did so by dominating neighboring regions; maintained control with fascism

  • The idea of “Keeping the world safe for democracy”, a Wilsonian idea, was applicable again; economic woes prevented immediate public support for intervention

    • SO, U.S. avoided direct involvement, but showed opinions through Brit.-favoring lend/lease and cash/carry

  • Japan Expanded: Manchuria invasion was considered threatening to the safety of other nations; US responded with the Stimson Doctrine: Formal statement that the US would not recognize land acquired violently (Functionally ineffective); Panay incident: Japanese attacked a U.S. gunboat in China

  • Italy (Mussolini): like Japan and Germany, threat to democracy induced national paranoia in U.S.

  • The Fighting of the War:

    • Pearl Harbor: Japanese bombed US base in Hawaii. Damage inflicted, but no serious effect on U.S. naval strength. War became a direct threat to U.S. security, so U.S. became directly involved; declared war against Japan.

D-Day and On:

  • Strategy:

    • Allies (US., Brit., USSR, mainly) develop war strategy, prioritize fighting with Germany; settle for first action in Northern Africa, then move through Italy into Europe.

    • New technology (radar, bombs) allow for Allied air control, more bombing in Ger., more supplies to soldiers

  • Japanese Surrender: the U.S., fighting nearly alone against Japan, ended the war by forcing surrender by use of  atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where blasts killed hundreds of thousands of civilians; Japanese PM under Allied control.

  • The Aftermath

    • Economic stimulation: defense industries brought full employment to the homefront (ultimately ending the Depression), employing workforce minorities (Native Americans as Code Talkers, Mexicans through Bracero Program, African Americans as a result of FERA, and women [not only in the work force, but in the armed forces of WACS and WAVES]), and managing prices and rates by means of the War Productions Board

    • U.S. “Application” in Foreign Sphere: finally joining the UN and creating NATO, the U.S. established itself after the war as a strong diplomatic power in global issues

Marshall Plan: billions of dollars allocated (in conjunction with Truman Doctrine, which pledged US support for free peoples resisting armed subjugation) to help reconstruct Europe after the war → set a precedent for presence on global stage; role as “global police” that would develop throughout the cold war

    • US reestablished its economic presence; tension builds: after war, US and USSR were the remaining superpowers; while differences were visible during war, tension visibly increased at peace talks (Yalta Conference, Tehran Meeting) as post-war world was decided (See Cold War section).

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