By the year 1850, nations that were in a position to satisfy their every need, could not see the possibility of independent futures. Around this time the imperial states of the world had control over all elements of international commerce to the extent that every country had to depend on another for a particular product.
This was around the time when global expansion was entirely based on the availability of raw materials, time and space for foreign trade and the presence of stations on the course of oceanic routes (Chimes, 1980; Davidson et al, 2008).
The third element (stations on the oceanic route) mainly helped nations develop strong military bases as well as serve as filling stations for long trips. Because every nation wanted all these opportunities at their disposal, territorial conflicts were the norm of the day.
The United States was going through a growth spurt in the 19th century and by the late 1800s imperialist movements were beginning to rise up. It took less than a century for this nation to occupy a whole continent. With civilization spreading to reach the great oceans, Americans started traveling southwards to expand their businesses (Davidson et al, 2008).
When they got to the Caribbean islands, Spain felt threatened and this ended up in war. The introduction of steam ships into the American navy in the 1880s prepared the country for global domination. By the beginning of the twentieth century America owned almost all the island between California and the West Indies (Davidson et al, 2008).
American imperialism was mainly guaranteed by two sets of legislation. First, the Monroe doctrine illegalized the European involvement in the American states. This legislation was passed into law in 1823. Secondly, the open-door notes emphasized the necessity of equal commercial penetration to the Asian markets (Davidson et al, 2008). The open-door notes were drafted between 1899 and 1900. The two pieces of legislation helped America show other world heavy weights that she was in a position to defend her interests.
Due to the inexperience of America in the concept of global domination, there were great challenges occasioned by the nation’s inability to decide whether or not to use the military to secure the interest of the country.
Most of these interests were aimed at protecting the Declaration of Independence and the constitution (Halsall, 1997). The anti-imperialists were mainly concerned that the expansion of America’s territory to include the island inhabitants (who were considered inferior) could end up tarnishing the country’s racial supremacy.
These anti-imperialists regarded the process of territorial expansion as diverting attention from the issues within the nation because by the end of the nineteenth century the nation’s economy was greatly unstable and there was extreme tension between the various cultural groups. The political system at this time was almost non-functional.
When those individuals who were against imperialism raised their concerns, those were for it defended the state’s actions by what was known as the “four-pronged attack” (Chimes, 1980). These four prongs were racial supremacy, Christian philanthropy, prophesied destiny and social Darwinism (Chimes, 1980).
Social Darwinism meant that survival was only for the strong countries hence justifying the reasons for America trying to conquer the weaker nations. Because of the support of white superiority, Americans believed they were the stronger race (Davidson et al, 2008). This meant that with them pursuing their world domination mission, they were also at the risk of diluting their culture.
The concept of prophesied destiny was founded in 1845. This was the time when Texas was annexed. The notion was based on the belief that God had chosen America to be the focal point of all world activities (Davidson et al, 2008). The destiny of America, according to this principle, was to expand gradually by traversing towards the coastal region and spreading to cover the borders of the world.
This belief made Americans think that “the fate of the nation was directly linked to global communities” (Chimes, 1980). They intended to use the oceans to expand their territories across the world as opposed to using them as barriers to set them apart from other countries (Chimes, 1980).
The aspect of Christian philanthropy was the most powerful of all the counter-arguments towards anti-imperialist ideas. The missionaries were not directly in support of use of the military to expand America’s territory but they were interested in supporting these ‘poor’ countries aside from ensuring the growth of civilization globally (Janssens, 2004).
The missionaries also saw it as their duty to spread Christianity to other regions of the world. Global expansion helped the missionaries expand their influence irrespective of whether such opportunities were created by imperialistic ways.
In conclusion it is worth noting that the worldwide expansion of America was unavoidable, much as the methods used by the American military to expand this domination were disputable (Scriabine, 2005). Collaborative efforts between nations ended up in strong alliances that saw America grow into a world empire.
By the twentieth century, America controlled nations between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (Lens, & Zinn, 2003). The nation also had an unchallenged control of activities along the Panama Canal and the Gulf of Mexico. The economy of the nation was on an upward trend as soon as the 1900s were ushered due to the introduction of international trade.
Chimes, M. (1980).American Foreign Policy in the Late 19th Century: Philosophical
Underpinnings, The Spanish American War Centennial Website. Retrieved May 30, 2010 from http://www.spanamwar.com/imperialism.htm.
Davidson, J. W., DeLay, B., Heyrman, C. L., Lytle, M. H., Stoff, M. B. (2008). Nation of Nations, 6th edition: A Narrative History of the American Republic. McGraw-Hill, New York
Halsall, P. (1997). Platform of the American Anti-imperialist League. Modern History
Sourcebook: American Anti-Imperialist League, 1899. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from
Janssens, R. (2004). Of mice and men: American imperialism and American studies. Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.
Lens, S., & Zinn, H. (2003). The forging of the American empire: from the revolution to Vietnam, a history of U.S. imperialism. London: Pluto Press.
Scriabine, C.B. (2005). American Imperialism. New York: Jackdaw Publications.