Spanish American War and American History

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Late 19th century was a time of change. It saw a new wave of imperialism from Europe in a scramble to gain control and colonize of Africa sparked by the idea of social Darwinism, a rush of immigrants entering America, an American economic rise from the industrial revolution and decline due to bank failures in the panic of 1893. The most important factor that contributed to the rise of American imperialism was the majority of the American public’s belief that imperialism would be the panacea for the economic, social, and militaristic issues of the time.

Up to the late 19th century, the United State’s expansion was limited to the continent of North America fueled by manifest destiny. Manifest destiny was the belief by many Americans that they had a god given right to spread its culture(Norton). During the industrial revolution, many of the upper class used the idea of social Darwinism as a “scientific” explanation to why there was a gap between the rich and the poor (Norton). This idea of natural selection was then rebranded to justify the superiority of Anglo-Saxons. In Rudyard Kipling’s poem, he sends a call to action for white American men to take up the white man’s burden and civilize their “new-caught, sullen peoples, half devil half child”(Kipling). White Americans believed that it was their duty to educate the natives whom they considered savages by imposing unto a more civilized Christian life. The concept of Manifest Destiny coupled with the idea of social Darwinism led America to expand past its borders with ambitions of civilizing the barbaric.

In 1893, Congress removed the tariff on sugar. The sugar tariff was one of the largest sources of income for the United States at this time. This largely affected the federal revenue, putting a twenty-five percent dent into it. This coupled with the purchase of a large amount of gold, severely hurt federal gold holdings which were the basis of the American dollar at the time(Nelson). Due to this America went into an economic depression known as the Panic of 1893. This economic depression led to America’s need to find a new market for goods (Norton). America has observed other European nations such as the British, experiencing large amounts of economic development from imperialism due to better access to trade and more resources being acquired from their conquests. To America, Imperialism seemed like a viable option to bolster their economic standing(Healy).

Hawaii, already tied to America’s economy because of its sugar was a logical next step in America ’s transition into imperialism. Hawaii was covered in America’s sugar plantations dominating its economy(Norton). From an economic standpoint, Hawaii was already controlled by the United States. Around 1893, there was an uprising taking the current queen of Hawaii, Liliuokalani out of power. After the queen was overthrown there was a plea for annexation this however failed. At this point annexing Hawaii had no larger economic benefit considering America already had economic control of the island. Later in 1898, Hawaii was annexed. This was due to the start of the Spanish American war. America annexed Hawaii in order to prevent other powers from attaining it, “growing advocacy of a sort of prescriptive imperialism, a conviction that the united states should seize desirable areas before a rival power got them. Most notably applied to Hawaii”(Healy). In this case, the United States rather than obtaining Hawaii for their own economic gain annexed Hawaii for the purpose of preventing the economic gain of another nation a sort of “counter” imperialism in order to preserve their economic hold on the island.

In February 1898, the U.S.S. Maine exploded. This explosion was the spark that started the Spanish American war. In the United States, this was covered by many journalists mostly writing yellow journalism. Yellow journalism was a form of journalism that was sensationalist and filled with exaggeration loosely based in facts. Yellow journalism fueled a fire angering Americans leading them to blame Spain and cry for a war. This explosion and the yellow journalism reporting it was the main reason for the Spanish American war(Norton). President Mckinley agreed with the American public and demanded a declaration of war. The war lasted around four months eventually getting called a “splendid little war”(Norton).

The first strike of the Spanish American war was in Manila the capital of the Philippines where US troops took control of the city and created a military base on the land. America made a military base on the land in order to gain “strategic naval bases”(Norton). The American public believed America’s navy to be weak and America needed a stronger navy in order to control the seas surrounding it. This idea came from Alfred T. Mahan’s, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, which argued that a nation’s ability to control the sea was essential to it being able to become a great power(Mahan). It was because of this that America could not allow Spain to regain control of the Philippines. Much to the distaste of the Filipinos, President Mckinley decided to annex the Philippines rather than grant it independence.

Cite this paper

Spanish American War and American History. (2022, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/spanish-american-war-and-american-history/

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