Essay about American Imperialism

Essay about American Imperialism

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The United States of America had begun its political life as a colony of the British Empire. However, as the 20th century dawned, the nation quickly found itself as one of the world’s leading imperial powers. Historians have proposed various reasons for this change in the American psyche. Historians from the progressive school of thought argue that economic interests dictated American foreign policy; while academics of the Conservative or older patriotic tradition advocate that the nation's brief foray into imperialism represented a “great aberration” from typical American isolationism. A third school led by Julius Pratt, applied Social Darwinism to the country – stating that a combination of religious and humanitarian components motivated expansionism. The first school, however, most adequately articulated the nature of American imperialism. Acquisitions in both the Atlantic and Pacific were motivated by economic and business interests. During the late 1800's and the early 1900's, the United States actively engaged in expansionist policies that culminated in the acquisition of several overseas territories; this imperialism was both aggressive and motivated by economic factors.
The era of American imperialism had its roots in the economic Panic of 1893. Just as other panics in the past, this economic slowdown was caused by over-speculation in the stock market (Financial Panics). However, the scale of the disaster was far greater than anything the nation had previously experienced. After the Civil War, and even antebellum, America developed a national economy in which the financial well-being of one region was intimately connected with the well-being of the entire nation. The panic essentially served as a wake call for American bu...


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...that capitalism’s “need of constantly expanding markets for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe” (Marx 12). This articulated the idea of American imperialism – expanding in order to attain raw materials and new markets for the now industrialized nation.
American imperialism was not a simple aberration – nor was the endeavor undertaken for completely humanitarian goals. Instead, imperialism was both a continuation of the American expansionist tradition – mainly the Manifest Destiny – and a response to a changing economic international community. The industrializing America had needed new markets, raw materials, and overseas territories to compete with the burgeoning European colonial empires. The American Imperialism of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was aggressive, an ordeal undertaken for the economic welfare of the nation.

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