The United States entered the age of imperialism around 1870 for a number of reasons including military advantages, political and economic advantages, and a feeling of overall national superiority. Aside from these more selfish reasons, humanitarians and religious missionaries thought expanding was the way to go, in order to “bring a better lifestyle” to the developing nations. Believers in Social Darwinism and Manifest Destiny added to the call for the US to join the imperial Age.
The pro expansion voices of this Era were listened to, and the US expanded quite a bit. Political theory during this time was that if a nation did not expand its borders, it would eventually be taken over. The US had the idea that if they took control of some countries, it would be beneficial to both nations. Also the US believed that by occupying some countries and setting up military bases there, America could better defend itself from the other expanding nations, and protects what we value. The first big expansion was the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
Some Americans thought this annexation was a stupid idea, but I think it was spurred by the need of a sort of security barrier. The next huge annexation was that of Hawaii and the Midway islands, which provided advantageous military positioning (Pearl Harbor). The USA also took control of Cuba and the Philippines through military force during the Spanish American war. The occupation of the Philippines gave the US another naval base in Manila and helped to secure American interests in East Asia.
Economically, Pro expansion voices called for trade in new markets, the need of raw materials due to industry, and the protection of our foreign investments. The “Open Door Policy”, which was a positive result from the Boxer Rebellion of China, kept the trade routes open between the US and Asia. Expansion was good for the saturated American market in that the US could export its surplus products. Another Economic plus for America’s control of other countries was the ability to help them tap into their abundant resources for our gain by sharing our technology and ideas.
The method of protecting American investments by taking over the custom houses of a nation and managing the tariffs until debts were paid was the idea of Teddy Roosevelt. This was the action taken during the Nicaraguan scandal, when Americans heavily invested in land expecting monetary gain from the construction of a canal that never was built due to rebellion. American military crushed the rebel forces and repaid the investors by taking over. America remained in Nicaragua for 21 years.
The USA became the self appointed “cop” of the Western Hemisphere. The American idea of supremacy helped pave the path of its part in the Age of Imperialism. Even the missionaries and the humanitarian’s ideas were sort of in vain, as they still saw themselves above others. The intentions of our nation in this age were mostly self-serving, although beneficial to the countries affected by our expansion. Teddy Roosevelt made it clear that it was America’s duty to intervene when peace was threatened by “incompetence or wrongdoing”.
Imperialism in the USA did benefit our country in all the ways the pro expansion voices argued it would. Economically, politically, and socially, America prospered from the Age of Imperialism. In pursuit of its own advancement, the United States helped other nations to advance. The idea of dominate or be dominated was kind of the rule by which Americans lived and , being a competitive people, America decided to establish itself as a major power in the world affairs.