A global Power is Born: U. S. foreign policy in the Age of Imperialism

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Unit 7 Unit Guide

A Global Power is Born: U.S. foreign policy in the Age of Imperialism
Name ___________________ U.S. History


This is the first time in our US History class that we study International Relations. The reason for this is that prior to the late 1800’s, the U.S. didn’t have many ties with the outside world. We were too busy just trying to make our own country work, and were concerned instead with events here at home, such as westward expansion, the Civil War, re-construction and the industrial revolution and immigration. By the Late 1800’s, The U.S. began to take an increasing interest in international relations because by that time we had settled our internal divisions over slavery, we had settled the western frontier, and we had become a very wealthy nation during the Industrial Revolution…drawing millions of immigrants to our shores, and establishing trade relations with the industrial nations of Europe, and by 1900, we had become the wealthiest nation on earth.
Beyond our shores, the late 1800’s was a time of global imperialism. European nations such as England and France were wealthy too, and they were using their industrial wealth to build up their military power, and to compete with each other to take over the weaker agrarian nations (against their will) making them into colonies, and building empires throughout the world. They did this because colonies made them richer and more powerful. How did they do this? It was easy… they had ocean-going navies and superior weapons, so weaker countries were outgunned and easily defeated.
The big question facing the United States during this time period was: should we use our new wealth to build up our military strength, take colonies, and become an imperialist power too?

This was a difficult question for Americans to answer.

On the one hand, we were a country founded on the ideals of democracy, freedom and equality…ideals which, if followed, would not support the taking of colonies against those peoples’ will. We had been a colony of England, and had fought for our freedom.
On the other hand, we were also a country that, at the turn of the century, was controlled almost entirely by white men with very racist attitudes and policies towards minorities…and it just so happened that most of the people living in the rest of the world were non-white. We were able to justify westward expansion in part because the Native Americans were viewed as an inferior race with no right to keep their own land. Should the same logic be applied to Mexicans, Africans and Asians?

Foreign Policy = the general rules that a country uses to guide their relations with foreign

countries. (NOT laws)

Imperialism = a foreign policy that seeks to take over (or control) other nations against their will,

through the use/threat of military force,

Colony = when a nation is taken over by another country, against their will, with the threat/use

of military force.

Empire = An empire is a nation that has taken over many other nations and made them into


Presidential “doctrine” = A major new foreign policy idea(s) a president comes up with.

Latin America = All countries in the Americas and Caribbean that are south of the U.S.

Self-Determination = when a nation is free from the influence of other nations and can decide on

it’s own form of government and way of life.

Merchant Ship = a ship that carries trade goods. NOT a military ship…un-armed.

Anglo-Saxon = descended from non-catholic white northern Europeans.

W.A.S.P = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant

Tariff = a tax on a good imported from another country. Tariffs make imported goods more

expensive, making it easier for US companies who make the same goods to compete

with foreign companies.

Alliance: an agreement to defend another country if they are attacked.

Neutrality: a foreign policy of not taking sides in a war being fought by other countries.

Supply: In economics…the total quantity of a good that is available for sale.

Demand: In economics…the total quantity of a good that consumers wish to purchase.
Part 1: Timeline of U.S. Foreign Policy

A The Revolutionary War, 1776-1783

Recall that we were once a colony of England! When we decided we didn’t want to be a colony any longer, and we declared our independence, we were attacked by England in an attempt to force us to remain their colony. We had to fight (and win) the Revolutionary War in order to obtain our freedom…so, our country was founded on the idea that imperialism is wrong!
B The Washington Doctrine

In his 1796 farewell speech, George Washington said the following: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world” He said this because:

- We were a small and weak nation (at that time)

- He feared getting drawn into Europe’s frequent wars by making alliances with

other countries.

- If we remained neutral, we could trade with all European countries.

C The Monroe Doctrine, 1823 (President James Monroe)

  1. By 1823, most Latin American countries had successfully gained

independence from Spain, whose empire was in decline. The U.S. feared

European powers might try to take colonies in Latin America…and prevent us

from trading with them! (ahh!…so it was the money we really cared about…)

2) The Monroe Doctrine proclaimed that all of the Americas would remain free

from European rule, and that any move to colonize any independent Latin

American country will be considered an “unfriendly act” towards the US.

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.

  • President James Monroe, 1823

a) How did the European powers react to the Monroe Doctrine? (notes)

D Alaska, 1867.

The United States purchases Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars! Alaska was

not considered very valuable at that time. What has caused Alaska to become VERY

important since that time? (notes)

  1. Why did Alaska end up being of strategic military importance in World War II (against Japan) and the “Cold War” (against the Soviet Union)?

2) What important natural resources have been found in Alaska?

E The Berlin Conference of 1884

A meeting of European nations is held in Berlin, Germany. The goal of the conference was to figure out how to colonize Africa without causing a war between European countries. They agreed to a “whoever gets there first” rule…meaning that if Britain gets troops and settlers on the ground in Nigeria before anyone else, then Nigeria will become Britain’s colony. This conference is remarkable for a few reasons:

1) It caused Africa to be rapidly colonized in the following 10 years.

2) NO African nations were invited to the conference!

3) The United States was invited to attend, and sent a representative, but the U.S.

chose NOT to seek colonies in Africa.

F Hawaii, 1893

Hawaii was an independent island kingdom. US whaling ships had used it as a stop-over point since the 1790’s, and US businesses set up pineapple and sugar cane plantations. Tariffs on Hawaiian sugar caused these businesses to push for Hawaii to join the U.S. so they can avoid paying the tariff. In 1898, Congress proclaimed that Hawaii was a U.S. territory. Hawaiians did not have a say in the decision, and their Queen was forced from power by US Marines.

Part 2: Reasons for U.S. Imperialism in the 1890’s

As can be seen in the above timeline, American foreign policy evolved over time. In the beginning, we WERE a colony, and had to fight for our independence. Then, as we became wealthier and more powerful, our attitude towards imperialism began to shift. We chose NOT to become a major imperial power and to seek a global empire of colonies in Africa and Asia…but we DID purchase Alaska, colonize Hawaii, and we were on the look-out (as you will see) for more opportunities. The following factors are what caused our foreign policy to shift to being more imperialistic:

A Economic Pressure

  1. The end of the western frontier: Throughout US history, there had been free or cheap land available on the western frontier for people looking for economic opportunities. By 1890, the frontier is closed…and those opportunities are no longer available to people…causing Americans to fear that our economy will suffer without them.

  1. Over-production of US farm/factory goods: Factories and farms were producing more goods and crops than American citizens could consume.

    1. What happens to the price of a good when the supply of that good

increases, while the demand for that good stays the same?

    1. So, when this happens, what impact does it have on the economy…(on the profits of corporations, the salaries of their workers, etc.)?

    1. American businesses wanted to open up new markets in other

countries. This was difficult, because we couldn’t trade with countries that had been colonized…because they were only allowed to trade with the countries that ruled them. We were locked out of trading with most of the world!
B) Military Competition

During the Age of Imperialism, power was defined by having a strong military, and especially a strong Navy. European powers used their military strength to take and control colonies, and to protect their merchant ships along trade routes from being attacked by other nations or by pirates. Even though we didn’t seek a global empire, many Americans felt we needed to build up our military to protect our trading ships and increase our influence in the world. Between 1890 and 1915, The United States became a major Naval Power by:

1) Developing a “New Navy”…with modern steam-powered battleships.

2) Establishing naval bases in the Caribbean

3) Constructing a canal across Panama

4) Acquiring “Stepping Stone” islands in the Pacific Ocean, for use as

Naval bases and re-fueling stations so we could trade with Asia and maintain a

Pacific Navy. What islands did we acquire?

3) Racism in Foreign Policy

How did imperialist nations justify their actions? What gave them the right or obligation to take over other countries against their will with their military?

  1. The “right” to colonize…

Comes from the belief in “Social Darwinism.” This is the belief that

humans, just like animals, must struggle to survive…and that whites have struggled harder and advanced farther than other races…which gives them the right to rule.

  1. The “obligation” to colonize (often called the White Man’s Burden)

Comes from the belief that, along with the right to rule comes the obligation to civilize the inferior people of the world (who were non-white Asians, Muslims, Africans…)

Some Americans (not all) believed in these racist ideas, and they argued

that the United States had a right and obligation to become an imperialist nation

and to take colonies.
4) The following quote, by influential Senator Albert Beveridge, sums up the reasons for

our more imperialistic foreign policy:

Today we are raising more than we can consume. Today we are making more than we can use... Therefore we must find new markets for our produce, new occupation for our capital, new work for our labor... Ah! As our commerce spreads, the flag of liberty will circle the globe and the highway of the ocean - carrying trade to all mankind - will be guarded by the guns of the republic. And as their thunders salute the flag, benighted (ignorant) peoples will know that the voice of liberty is speaking, at last, for them... that civilization is dawning at last, for them.
After reading through this quote, what are the main reasons he believes we need to

become more imperialistic?

Part 3: The Spanish-American War, May-August, 1898

As you learned from the text assignment, the United States emerges from the Spanish-American War a global power. Historians view this short war as a major turning point in U.S. history. From that point forward, we have had a very active foreign policy, helping to shape the political and economic history of the world. (Using our “10-foot tall, 700 pound freshman” analogy…the Spanish American War was when we hit puberty and had a huge growth spurt!)

A The situation in Cuba

  1. Spain was a fading empire, and Cuba was one of Spain’s last colonies in the Americas…a very valuable colony because of the sugar trade.

  2. Spanish control of Cuba was threatened by a rebellion from Cuban guerrilla fighters

who wanted independence. Spain sends 200,000 troops to put down the rebellion!

  1. Spanish troops set up “concentration camps”…forcing peasants to leave their villages

so they can’t join the guerrillas. Spain fails to supply the camps with adequate food and water, and tens of thousands of Cubans die in the camps from disease and starvation!
B Forces that pushed the U.S. towards war with Spain over Cuba

1) Economic Opportunity: U.S. businesses were drooling over Cuba…and the money

they might make from the Sugar Trade.
2) Military Opportunity: The U.S. wanted military bases in the Caribbean, and some

leaders were looking for opportunities to demonstrate our new

military strength.
I welcome almost any war because I think this country needs one”

- Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (at that time)

3) “Yellow Journalism” = a journalistic practice common during the late 1800’s where

reporters would take a factual story and greatly exaggerate the details to sensationalize

the story, with the goal of generating reader interest and selling more papers.

The true Story: Spain was responsible for starving Cubans

The “yellow” truth: (see last page of unit guide)

The Spanish were portrayed as vicious monsters out to exterminate the Cuban people, with no remorse. Americans were outraged, and sympathy for the Cuban people leads to growing public support for a war to remove Spain from power.

  1. Explosion of The U.S.S. Maine: while on a mission to Cuba to protect US citizens and businesses, the new battleship blows up in a massive explosion, killing 266 U.S. soldiers. Spain is immediately blamed by the press (with no evidence), and Americans want revenge!!!

  1. Investigation (back then) reveals it was a mine…but from who?

  2. REAL cause was likely an internal explosion…

C The war

  1. Goal: to take several strategic territories from Spain, including…

  • Spanish territory in the Carribean Sea (Puerto Rico and Cuba), so the U.S. could establish dominance in that region.

  • Spanish territory in the Pacific Ocean (Guam & The Phillipines), so the U.S. could obtain access to trade with China.

  1. The fighting: Spain was over-matched.

  • Our Navy blockaded Cuba, preventing re-supply from Spain. Our Army overcame the Spanish in three months.

  • Our Navy destroyed the Spain’s Pacific Naval Fleet in the Phillipines with no losses, and Spain quickly surrendered. Our Army overcame the Spaish forces on land in three months

D Outcomes of the War: Secretary of State John Hay called it “a splendid little war” referring

to how much we gained, very quickly, while taking very few losses.

  1. Length: 3 months

  2. Losses: 350 killed in action (from actual combat)

(another 5,462 died from disease, heat exhaustion and rotten meat)

  1. Territorial Gains: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Phillipines

  2. USA! USA! USA!…for the first time since the Civil War, Americans rallied around a common cause…and there was a burst of patriotic pride over each battle, victory and hero.

  3. The U.S. emerges as a global military power…which we have been

ever since, making this little war a major turning point in US History.

E The Fate of new US Possessions

Does the constitution “follow the flag?” (In other words…do possessions and

peoples the United States captures in war get constitutional rights extended to

them if we decide to keep them?)
1) Cuba is given independence.

2) Puerto Rico becomes a “commonwealth” of the U.S. (375)

They are citizens, but can’t vote for President and have no Congressional

representation. They make their own laws and finances. We protect them.

3) The Philippine-American War (378)

Filipinos felt betrayed by the United States. They thought we were freeing them from Spain. When they find out our intention to stay and rule them, they rose up in opposition, and our old friend Emilio Aguinaldo leads guerrilla forces against the United States. Highlights of this war included:

a) Length: 1899 – 1902…3 years!!! (much longer than the Sp. Am. War)

b) The United States tries the same “re-concentration” policy (moving

peasants into controlled areas), that Spain had tried in Cuba. It fails

miserably again…and thousands of peasants die of disease in the camps.

  1. High Casualties

United States: 4200 soldiers dead

Phillipines: 15,000 soldiers and…and 200,000 civilians!!!!
Part 6: U.S. Foreign Policy

After the “success” of the Spanish American War
A Theodore Roosevelt’s Foreign Policy: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”

TR’s goal was clear: to build US into a world power. He sought to achieve this goal through the following actions:

  1. Creation of a large ocean-going Navy: “The Great White Fleet”…16 modern white battleships sent on a world tour to show off U.S. power.

  1. Expansion of US power in the Americas: The “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine…which said we would basically become the “policeman” of the entire region, intervening in other countries internal affairs when anything happened that went against U.S. interests!

3) Keeping U.S. trade with China open (378-379)

a) The “Open door” policy with China….got European powers to agree to

respect China’s right to remain independent and to trade with all


b) The Boxer Rebellion (the “open door” in action…)

The US joins with European powers in a joint military action to

retake the Chinese capital from a group of Chinese “nationalists”

who wanted to throw ALL foreign businesses out of China!

Do the U.S. play this role in today’s world?

4) Playing “peacemaker” in the world… (382-383)

Roosevelt mediates a peace treaty between Russia and Japan to end their

war over the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria. TR wins the Nobel Peace

Prize (and increases U.S. prestige and power in the world another notch)

5) Building of the Panama Canal

a) Why was a canal in Central America necessary?

The “USS Oregon” took 71 days to get from San Francisco to Cuba to fight in the Spanish American War…which was over by that time!

  1. How did the U.S. get the land we needed for the canal from Columbia?

    • Columbia rejects our offer to lease a 6 mile swath for 99 years

    • So…T.R. “hints” to some Columbian rebels seeking to create an independent country called “Panama” that the U.S. would support their efforts. We “supported” their efforts by parking a battleship just offshore when they declared independence, in case Columbia tried to put the rebellion down.

    • The new country of Panama gave the US the 99 year lease.

    • The U.S. sort of apologizes to Columbia in 1921…we gave

them $21 million (“Canalimony”)

#1: African Imperialism Assignment (see assignment sheet)

#2: Foreign Policy Current Event

#3: Text 364-374 “Imperialism and Hawaii” + “Spanish American War”

#4: Text 375 – 381 “Puerto Rico and Cuba” + “China and US Imperialism”

#5: Text 382 – 389 “Panama Canal”

#6: Complete worksheet on Hawaii and Alaska

Assign on Test Day for next unit: “A Century of Bloodshed”

Vocab Quiz? This will shorten the exam, and then they’ll know the terms as we go over them…

#1: African Imperialism Assignment (see separate assignment sheet)

#2: As you read through the following text readings, keep a running list of examples of

the United States trying to influence the world beyond our borders at that time (the

“lower 48”). Then, create a graphic that shows ALL of these examples. Your

graphic could be a map, a carton, a diagram, etc. Each example should be labeled on

the graphic, and should be explained in an attached text key focusing on our foreign

policy goal, and what action(s) we took. .
a) 364-374 “Imperialism and America” + “Spanish American War”

b) 375 – 381 “Puerto Rico and Cuba” + “China and US Imperialism”

c) 382 – 389 “Panama Canal”

#3: Complete worksheet on Hawaii and Alaska


Yellow Journalism Examples
The skulls of all were split to pieces down to the eyes. Some of these were gouged out. All the bodies had been stabbed by sword bayonets and hacked by sabers until I could not count the cuts…The tongue of one had been cut out, split open at the base and placed on the mangled forehead like a horn”

- New York Journal
No man’s life, no man’s property is safe (in Cuba). American citizens are imprisoned or slain without cause. American property is destroyed on all sides…Wounded soldiers can be found begging in the streets of Havana…Cuba will soon be a wilderness of blackened ruins….the horrors of a barbarous struggle for the extermination of the native population are witnessed in all parts of the country. Blood on the roadsides, blood in the fields, blood on the doorstops, blood, blood, blood! The old, the young, the weak, the crippled – all are butchered without mercy. Is there no nation wise enough, or brave enough to aid this blood-smitten land.”

- New York World
"Weyler throws nuns into prison. Butcher wages brutal warfare on helpless women."

- New York Journal headline
"All around ... squatted little forms whose days of schooling were done forever in this world. All they could do was to endure a few days or hours longer the dull gnawing pain and exhaustion, and then sink noiselessly into nothingness ... The victims of starvation appear to succumb more easily and quickly than do the Hindoos (sic), who to be sure are in the habit of starving all their lives."

- New York Journal

"About a hundred quiet and inoffensive men have been shot without trial in the neighborhood of

Campo Florida. Their neighbors were helpless to save them....Several unarmed peasants were

shot without trial at Guanabo near Campo Florida, six or seven days ago, and the soldiers did

not even take the trouble to bury them. I have talked with a farmer who saw dogs and vultures

eating the bodies."

- James Creelman

Activity: Do Round Robin worksheet from Gunboats and Ballyhoo

“the survival of the fittest”

“the spread of Christian civilization”

“national strength through sea power”

War coverage was so popular it sparked a newspaper war!

  • W.R. Hearst: New York Journal

“You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war”

  • Joseph Pulitzer: New York World

    1. The de Lôme letter: a Cuban rebel steals a private letter written by the

Spanish ambassador to the US to a friend in Spain…and leaks it to the

newspapers. The letter insults President Mckinley!

Mckinley “weak, a would-be politician, and a bidder for the admiration of the crowd)

people, (not so much Mckinley) were upset.

- Americans resent this letter

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