American expansionism in the late 19th century and early 20th century was, to a large extent, a continuation of past United States expansionism, while also departing with previous expansionism in some aspects. During the period of time between the late 19th century and early 20th century, America was going through significant changes. After a revolution in Cuba against the Spanish, as well as the Americans starting the Spanish-American War, the Americans received several territorial concessions from their defeated opponent.
Thus, America started on the path to imperialism, gaining several more territories in a short amount of time. Such an expansion in the late 19th century and early 20th century was mostly a continuation of past United States expansionism, such as that in the West after the Louisiana Purchase and Mexican-American War. However, the new Imperialism was different from expansionism in other aspects, such as how America acquired the new territory and where it was located. Overall, United States expansion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was very similar to previous expansion, only departing from it by a very small margin.
In the early 19th century, the Louisiana Purchase was made between the United States and France, in which a large amount of French territory west of the Mississippi River was bought by the U. S. A few decades later, the Mexican-American War was fought between the U. S. and Mexico. By the end of the war and Mexico’s defeat, the U. S. acquired even more land to the west, including a lot of land along the Pacific coast. The continental borders of the U. S. were essentially the same as they are now in modern day. In both cases, the concept of “Manifest Destiny” played a very important role.
Individuals attributed expansion with the idea that America was spreading its influence and culture to less fortunate peoples. Josiah Strong wrote about such a concept in his piece, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, stating that further Anglo-Saxon expansion was inevitable and would extend into all parts of the world. As the U. S. entered the era of imperialism, some opposed the concession of Pacific territories to the U. S. , notably the Philippines. In response, some politicians decided to address such feelings, one of them being Senator Albert J. Beveridge.
In a speech to Congress, he expressed a view supporting the idea of Manifest Destiny and based upon that, argued that territory obtained by the U. S. in the Philippines should not be refused. From its differences with previous western expansion, some didn’t really see a reason for the U. S. to become an imperialist country. Though it could be viewed as a way for America to expand social and cultural influence, certain individuals viewed it with much contempt. Cartoonist Thomas Nast expressed certain conflicting ideas with his cartoon, “The World’s Plunderers” in Harper’s Weekly.
By depicting German, British, and Russian imperialists taking part in the possession of territory around the world, he seemed to see imperialism as a competition between countries to gain both land and power. Thus, it is implied that if America were to get involved with such acts, it would be to compete with other countries rather than to benefit themselves or others. Another view is presented with Josiah Strong’s work, which both associated expansion with Manifest Destiny but also declared it to be a competition between rivaling countries, a “survival of the fittest” between different races.
An avid supporter of American imperialism, naval strategist Alfred T. Mahan summarized his views in The
As America entered the age of imperialist expansion, certain groups were highly opposed to the policy, especially members of the American Anti-Imperialist League. In their platform, imperialism is shown to go against traditional American values, betraying certain major documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for its violation of individuals’ freedoms ( specifically people living in the territories acquired by the U. S. ). Problems were also being presented by this form of expansion, as determined in the Supreme Court Case of Downes v.
Bidwell, which identified that granting citizenship to inhabitants of territories outside the continental U. S. was much more difficult than doing so for those within the borders. However bad it may have seemed, there was still some support for an imperialist policy. Theodore Roosevelt supported it, stating that it wasn’t a result of a hunger for land and resources, but a desire to help less fortunate peoples and bring stability and prosperity to their societies. Others also viewed America’s “Open Door” policies in China to be beneficial for not just the U. S. and China, but for other nations as well.
From the early 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, America expanded from a small group of colonies into much of North America and even into the Pacific. In acquiring territory west of the Mississippi River and gaining territorial concessions from the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, America has been able to identify itself not just as an expansionist country, but as an imperialist one as well. Both concepts differ from each other to some extent (how the territory was gained, where the new territory was located), but for the most part the two periods are very similar to each other.