Sunday, June 1, 2014

Imperialistic Ideals Instigate an Era of American Expansionism

In this unit, we are analyzing how three major factors influence history; people, places and power. We will analyze how specific people can shape the way a country, society or even the world can change depending on their actions. Certain places may have an impact of many countries. Behind it all is the bottomless thirst by all people and countries for power; which they will wield to defeat their enemies and become the greatest country on Earth. My group chose the topic "Imperialism In America" which focuses on the expansion of American economy and the political influence throughout the world. 
There are many important events, topics, and people who factored into this era in America. The most important idea in this topic is imperialism itself, which is when a stronger country attempts to dominate weaker nations politically, economically, or socially. Annexation played an important role in imperialism, as many of the stronger countries annexed the small nations to become part of the strong country. This meant the the empire could grow, and the political and economic control of the leading country could grow. One factor that led to imperialism was a nationalistic movement in various countries. This meant that the people of a country felt that their country was the greatest, and sought to prove this by dominating other countries in whatever way possible. One branch from nationalism was called jingoism, which was an intense spark in national pride which helped fuel an aggressive foreign policy. By annexing countries and expanding their empire, Americans and other imperialists intended to spread their sphere of influence. This was the area where they had obtained economic and political control, and were profiting from trade. An open door policy was an integral part of expanding the sphere of influence, as it allowed for free trade in foreign markets. An increase in surplus products in America meant that the American economy was producing more good than it could consume, and therefore fostering an unstable economy. The best way to solve this was to expand the American trade to foreign markets.
One vital event to the era of American imperialism was the Spanish-American War. This war between Spanish and American forces was caused primarily by the rebels in Cuba who had been fighting Spanish forces for 3 years. Afraid of the Cuban Rebels forming their own independent republic and cutting off trade from America, McKinley decided to intervene. After defeating the Spanish, the American government remained some influence in Cuba. As a result of the Spanish-American War, the US also obtained Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Another event was the global trade expansion to China. Many European countries began to flock to China's rich and untainted markets for hopes of bountiful trade. The United States began to see the prosperity gained from the trading in the far east, and sought to form trade routes and gain control in China as well. 
Some people who helped define this period of American Imperialism were Government officials, but others were military members, company owners, and most importantly - the American people. Theodore Roosevelt was a soldier during the Spanish-American War, who, upon returning to the United States was elected president in 1901. He believed in an aggressive foreign policy and thought that war was the ideal state of human society. Another great influence was Naval Captain A.T. Mahan, who was a leading propagandist who aided Roosevelt in convincing the American people to believe in expansionist policies. The Rockefeller brothers, John and William were in favor of expanding American markets because they allowed their massive Standard Oil Company to expand its massive reach even farther. 
One important thing that we learned was that often the people who have the most money and influence can control the governments actions. Rockefeller standard oil controlled 70% of the international oil trade in 1891, and had amassed millions of dollars of wealth for John and William. (The Empire and The People, page 301). Along with other wealthy members of the American corporate class, they pressured the government to pursue aggressive foreign policies. This would allow them to expand their markets and make more of a profit.I also noted that the natural resources and economic potential of a place can attract other imperialistic countries to it. This was evident when American government officials and entrepreneurs saw the economic potential of the Caribbean islands for growing crops (American History: Pathways to the Present Chapter 17 Section 1) and took advantage of them. The islands in the Atlantic were colonized and annexed by the United States for profit.
In addition, power, which can swing public opinion, can come from many places, such as newspaper editor, a company owner, or a government official. The newspapers in the North, were able to spark public opinion to join in the Spanish-American War in support of the Cuban Rebels. (The Empire and The People, page 302). The Spanish-American War lacked strong public support, but then newspapers seeking readers began publishing stories about the rebellion in Cuba. This sparked interest in the war and garnered public support for US intervention.Our topic is showing the theme of people, places and power. People and their influence on society, the government,and the economy can be seen in people such as Roosevelt, Rockefeller, and McKinley. Places in the Caribbean and in other foreign markets attracted American investors and the military to secure spheres of influence in other parts of the world. Power can be wielded by myriad people, from government officials, to newspaper editors. 

No comments:

Post a Comment