Only a few days after the Fair opened, the nation was hit by the worst financial crisis in its history. Stocks plummeted, businesses went bankrupt, and millions of Americans lost their jobs. In a lecture at the Exposition, the young historian Frederick Jackson Turner suggested that the solution for the United States could be found beyond its borders.
FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER
The colonization of the Great West did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity. But never again will such gifts of free lands offer themselves. The frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.
With the frontier gone there was something akin to a panic among people. “Jeez, if American institutions can’t expand, they’re gonna shrink.” We had to find some new outlet for our energy, for our dynamic nature, for this coiled spring that was the United States. So there was a intellectual justification, rationalization’d be a better way to put it, for “Let’s get our power overseas.”
At the same time, there was an imperial race taking off in the world. Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and a new Japan, that was just emerging as a world power at this time, were all ah, engaged in--in colonial enterprises.
Spain once ruled a great global empire. It encompassed most of Central and South America, and a large portion of North America. As civil wars crippled Spanish authority, many colonies broke free. In the 1890s, all that remained of Spain’s possessions were Cuba and Puerto Rico, and in the Pacific, the Philippines, Guam, and a few scattered islands.
By the 1890s, Spain was considered very low in the estimation of many, many Americans. Spaniards had been looming around our country through our formation years, and somehow we always felt a threat from them. They were not part of the either the Anglo-Saxon culture or French culture. And so we always saw Spain as being almost, ah, a sub-human European peoples.
Through most of the nineteenth century, Spain’s dwindling colonial revenue flowed from Cuba’s sugar and slave trade. U.S. politicians since John Quincy Adams had eyed Spain’s prized possession.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
If an apple, severed by a tempest from its native tree, cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from Spain, can gravitate only towards the North American Union.