American Imperialism: Impact on American Society and Foreign Policy
What does Imperialism really stand for? Taking over some colonies or countries for expansion and becoming a great world power. This topic was debated in the Senate for over 32 days. Imperialism became a big debate on June 15, 1898. This was the time when the anti-imperialist group stood up against the idea of American Annexation. This was also called the American Anti-Imperialist League. This group of people was all against the idea that taking the colonies under control would make America a powerful nation. They thought that this would affect democratic principles to annex lands and not give people the same rights as the US people. The anti-imperialists were also afraid that having an empire would involve more war.
The Imperialism Debate: Imperialists vs. Anti-Imperialists
Seeing who were the people supporting each side, here they are Imperialists- Mc Kinley, Mahan, and Roosevelt; Anti-Imperialist-Carnegie, Bryan, and Mark Twain. The main highlights were Roosevelt and Mark Twain as protagonist and antagonist pair. Imperialism was on the side where all people thought of taking the small islands and colonies and ruling them under the US government and making advancements in economic and cultural growth. This was basically forcing American culture on people. Mahan had thought that if a country had a great navy and military power, nothing could stop it from becoming a world power. On the other side, there were anti-imperialists whose thinking was the opposite of imperialists. Twain thinks that it is wrong to force culture on someone else. It is a violation of the democratic principles of the American Constitution. They all contributed something to Imperialism and made their viewpoint clear.
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Imperialists’ Motivations and Arguments
Imperialists argued that this was the way to improve and make a stronger economy for the United States. By getting the lands in control, we can sell the manufactured goods from the US to them and also get more production opportunities and make more money. They also argued that it was a way to increase the military power of our country. Let’s see how it’s a good way to increase military power; when they conquer a land, they must keep it safe from other countries trying to get it, and so they will have to keep some military bases on the islands they conquered. For that, they will need more military, and as they keep on adding land under control, they will have to increase their military. Like this, Mahan thought that having a great Military and Navy makes a country powerful. This was the second argument of the Imperialists. Now, the third one was that they must civilize the rest of the world. They said Christians have the duty to civilize people all around the world. This was possible when they had the territories under the control of the US. They would have forced the American culture on people.
Anti-Imperialists’ Critiques and Rationale
Anti-imperialists were opposite to the ideas of imperialists. They disagreed with all the arguments and had their own arguments. The moral and political argument was expanding was a violation of the principle of US “liberty to all.” This will be because America will rule the land it has but will not give equal rights to the people living there. They will force them to Americanize and want them to do what they have been said. A racial argument was there that if the US took the land under control, they already thought that they were of higher authority and the other people were under them. Also, it was a time when we had racism everywhere, and with foreign land came foreign other people. There was the point where Imperialism also got fired up with racism. As imperialists thought, economic growth would occur, and we would be good economically, but there was also a chance that the other laborers would compete for jobs with the American laborers. These were three arguments of Anti-imperialists.
Yellow Journalism and the Spanish-American War
Then, there was journalism going on with fake news to get people’s attention to its newspaper. Yellow Press reported that Spain had exploded a mysterious battleship, USS Maine. That fired off the US, and they declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898. This war is called Spanish- American War. In the war, the United States defeated Spain and became a world power. Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines became colonies of the US. The US said they would give Cuba independence from Spain. Later, Cuba gained independence, but now it has become a protectorate of the US, which means the US will protect Cuba but also rule it partially. The Philippines wanted independence and later declared war on the US. By this war, the Imperialist side was strengthened in debate, and the US started expansionism, but they got more into the war. The country that wanted to be neutral is now going to war because of ideas of Imperialism.
Philippines-American War and Its Influence
On February 2, 1899, the Philippines declared war against the US. This was a fight for the independence of the Philippines. This war for the US was most important because if we won the war, we could have our desire for commercial opportunities in Asia completed. We thought that Filipinos were not capable of self-rule. The US was also afraid that if we didn’t take control over the Islands, some other power like Germany or Japan would take over it and become a world power. This war lasted for three years; there were 200,000 Filipinos suffering from this war.
After Spanish American War, when the US was in the debate about annexation, the Philippines took control over half of the Islands. When the US came to know about this, the war broke out. Here, the US had all military advancements: undeniable military power, new weapons with ammunitions, a well-trained military force, etc. On the other side were Filipinos who had no support from outside, had shortages of weapons, suffered from diseases, etc. This was a one-sided war as the US was stronger than the Philippines. This war gave rise to the side of Anti-imperialists as they said this would take the US to more wars. There was racism and white man supremacy going on through war as the US military treated Filipinos badly.
Imperialism, on the other side, gave markets to the companies to sell their goods and become rich. The money and military-led American Imperialism into the Gilded Age. Gilded means something gold-plated, but there is something dark inside of it. This era was called the Gilded Age because many people became rich by expanding their businesses overseas at this time because of Imperialism. Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Rockefeller were some of the businessmen of that age. The US society looked good, and people were getting rich, but on the other side, there were people living in poverty for whom no one cared.
This is the main reason why this era was called the Gilded Age; it looked like gold from the outside, but inside was a darkness of poverty. Currently, there is not a lot of difference between Democrats and Republicans; both parties support businesses and ignore the poor. Democrats believed in laissez-faire and not a lot of government interference in the business and economic market. The Old South and Urban areas supported them because they did not agree with the ethics of English-only Schools and prohibition. While Republicans were supported by the big businessmen and middle-class people as they supported the social control laws.
As the time flew, the debate changed. There were sides stronger than the other. As Imperialism grew, the argument of imperialists became truer. Their arguments did come out to be true. First, there was a debate between Imperialists and Anti-imperialists, but now this debate went through the parties Democratic and Republican Parties. I think Imperialism was the reason we would have more wars. As we are free, the other nations also want their own independence, and for that, they will fight back, and as a result, both nations lose many people’s lives. Yellow journalism was fake journalism, which created content that was so cruel and wrong that people could give the news more interest.
This was also a reason that led us to the Spanish-American War and later to the Philippines-American War. If Americans followed the Anti-Imperialist, the whole scenario would have been different. The problems at our home would have been solved instead of spending lots of money on foreign and wars. Poverty would have gotten the attention of the businessmen who could have helped instead of living on their own. We would have gotten into less wars. Anti-Imperialists had their points, but to grow as a nation, we also needed economic markets, which Imperialism gave us.
- Tamaqua Area School District. (2019). The Age of Imperialism. Retrieved from https://www.tamaqua.k12.pa.us/cms/lib07/PA01000119/Centricity/Domain/119/TheAgeofImperialism.pdf
- TimeToast. (2019). American Imperialism: 1890-1920 Timeline. Retrieved from https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/american-imperialism-1890-1920
- Prezi. (2019). Basics of Imperialism. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/xkx5n7f9ingx/basics-of-imperialism/