Following the Civil War was a economically flourishing United States due to the Industrialist Era and emergence of new technological advancements such as more efficient transportation. With this debut of the U.S. in the 20th century to propel them into the center of the world stage also came the United State’s constant craving: overseas expansionism to exploit their power and impose colonialism to further expand their economic ideals. While these yearnings germinated throughout American society, it all boiled down to the extremely fluctuate ideology of imperialism during the late 19th and 20th century. Americans were cleaved on the issue of imperialism by arising questions such as what the country’s true founding beliefs were; America was placed on its first ever expedition to assess its founding doctrine and relevance within the world. Though steadily swayed by the notion of national identity, imperialism ultimately served as the foundation for national debate among multitudes of eminent politicians and the American people. Numerous Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt favored an assertive and vigorous foreign policy approach because they believed U.S. had a mission to unfold their thriving welfare internationally. However, several others such as William Jennings Bryan fancied a non-interventionist foreign policy approach because they believed it didn’t coincide with America’s ideals. Defenders of expansionism insisted that the role of the United States on the global scale was to both aid and civilize other countries, while challengers of expansionism contended that the United State’s long prevailing traditional and domestic health should be of primary first.
One of the components that played a role in getting the U.S. involved in the Spanish American War in 1898 was something identified as “Yellow Journalism”: popularized in the late 19th century, it acted a catalyst for American nationalism to grow and imperialistic mindsets to become rampant when the Battleship Maine sunk in Havana Harbor. Sensations of an angry American public pointed towards Spain. Within the wake of the war and U.S. intervention, imperialism steadily became a considerable issue. Countless Americans possessed the intention that in participating the Spanish American War, numerous reforms could be integrated at home. One of the manifold American civil rights activist and foremost black leader, W.E.B. DuBois, projected to society that the prime barrier of the 20th century was in relation to one’s color which hindered black Americans from receiving civil rights. What was perhaps the most pronounced opportunity to terminate that problem was both overseas expansion and war. African American editor of the Washington D.C. newspaper “Colored American”, E.E. Cooper, predicted at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 that black participation in the war effort would bring about an “era of good feeling” between the races in America as they set their eyes on overseas colonies (Document 1). There was hope that the war would help to improve race relations in the U.S. when fighting against a common enemy, enduring tribulations together and supporting one another. In fulfilling these standards, it was hoped that there would be national unity among all the races within America and have blacks be treated similarly to whites. Ultimately, E.E. Cooper and others asserted with the hope that in impelling African Americans to fight in the Spanish American War alongside whites, it would push Americans to give blacks civil rights.
The U.S. had to decide how it would recognize its overseas acquisitions, especially the Philippines which showed resistance to U.S. presence. American imperialists, such as Roosevelt, believed U.S. had to procure the Philippines to guide the Filipino people toward a government based on the republican ideals of the American Founding Fathers (Document 5). He appealed to the emotion of the social reformers by claiming that the U.S. needed to guide these “uncivilized” people and reform their culture to become reared towards democracy. Roosevelt was quite the belligerent imperialist because knowing that many opposed the annexation of the Philippines, he nonetheless criticized them and implemented his views onto the ideology of a “Big Stick”. The foreign policy symbolized the belief that presidents should engage diplomacy by also maintaining a strong military readiness to back up their policy. One included Roosevelt’s Corollary, which was an extension of the Monroe Doctrine. The Roosevelt Corollary stated that the U.S. has the right to intervene in Latin American countries if they aren’t acting “correctly” or are disorganized/unstable. If a country was unstable, it might lead to colonization. In this situation, it was something the U.S. didn’t want to happen because they didn’t desire foreign powers on their borders (Latin America was their neighbors). Many also believed that it was also God’s call to colonize the world. In a speech, President William McKinley defined his decision to acquire the Philippines from divine revelation. Ultimately, he believed that because the Philippines were unable to govern themselves, America had the duty to go in to assist the process of educating and civilizing them (Document 3). During the Second Great Awakening of the 19th century and the social movements that followed, it opened up American hearts to the idea of bringing human charity to those who needed it most. Part of imperialism was the power to make a lasting influence upon a civilization, and for the U.S. it served to be a perfect tool with the purpose of a destined Christian mission to uplift the Filipino society and bring about economic achievement. Soon, the U.S. acquired more overseas colonies such as Guam and Puerto Rico.