Causes of American Imperialism
PREDICT: Based on the title of this reading, what do you predict the causes of American imperialism will be?
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In the late 1800s, European powers practiced imperialism. In imperialism, a strong country takes over the political, economic, or social life of a weaker nation. Great Britain, France, Germany, and other European nations acquired weaker countries as colonies throughout Asia and Africa.
The European powers sought colonies for economic reasons. Great Britain, an island nation with few natural resources, acquired colonies to supply raw materials for its factories. British companies took raw materials like Egyptian cotton and West African palm oil and exported the finished products – in this case cotton cloth, oil-based candles and soap – around the world. Americans wanted to get into the act, too.
PREDICT: Have your predictions changed? Based on what you just read, what do you predict the causes of American imperialism will be?
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Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana summed up the economic argument for imperialism at the end of the 1800s. “Today,” he said, “we are raising more [crops] than we can consume…. Therefore, we must find new markets for our produce, new occupation for our capital, new work for our labor.” If the United States had colonies, he argued, all parts of society would benefit.
The Hawaiian Islands were a good example of how U.S. influence grew. Since the early 1800s, Americans had migrated to Hawaii and become sugar planters there. Many of the planters grew wealthy and gained influence over Hawaii’s government.
The Hawaiian planters had an economic advantage over sugar growers in other parts of the world. They could ship their sugar to the United States without paying any tariffs. But when Congress ended tariffs on sugar from all countries in the world in 1891, they lost that advantage. Congress also gave U.S. sugar growers a government subsidy – payments to encourage them to grow sugar.
ANSWER: Have your predictions changed? Based on what you just read, what were the causes of American imperialism?
PREDICT: What do you predict Hawaii will do next?
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The sugar growers in Hawaii were outraged. They could not receive the subsidy because Hawaii was not part of the United States. The growers responded with a revolt against the native ruler, Queen Liliuokalani, and set up their own government to encourage the U.S. to annex Hawaii. But President Grover Cleveland refused to approve the annexation. In 1900, after the Spanish-American War, Hawaii became a territory of the United States.
PREDICT: Were your predictions correct? Predict how the situation in Hawaii will influence the future of American Imperialism.
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The imperial momentum of the United States spread to other nations. Puerto Rico and the Philippines became U.S. territories. Cuba, though independent after the Spanish-American War, was strongly influenced by the U.S. government. America supported a revolution in Panama, then negotiated the right to build the Panama Canal.
In all these cases, American economic motives were central. The government helped to protect American corporations in several Latin American countries, and the Panama Canal helped to spur trade and shipping with the world.
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
1. Describe the main cause for American Imperialism based on this article.