Frederick Jackson Turner Influence American Imperialism

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During the latter half of the 1800s, the rapid growth in industrialization created the need for businesses to seek out new international markets in order to continue to grow and sell their goods. During this time there was also the popular belief of American exceptionalism; a belief that America had a special mission to spread liberty and democracy all over the world. Together, these two factors helped thrust America into an era now known as “The Age of Imperialism”. From 1890-1914, the United States pursued the desire to expand their territorial possessions, and did so by using their political, military, and economic influence over other countries. While many were responsible for encouraging this ideology, Frederick Jackson Turner, Alfred …show more content…

He is best known for his evolutionary-based sociological theories, which were merged with Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, to form a new sociological theory that became known as Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism reasoned that just like plants and animals, people compete with each other in order to succeed in life. Spencer’s theories thus helped explain how those at the top of the hierarchies proved themselves worthy of this status because they competed against the rest and were obviously the best adapted to their environments in order to succeed. His concept was coined “survival of the fittest,” a now popular, well-known term. Many politicians and wealthy people clung to his theory because for them, it justified their own elite status; it explained why they were meant to be at the top of the social, political, and economic class systems and why the weak should be subjugated by the strong. Spencer’s theories, interwoven in the Social Darwinism theory, supported the idea that the best adapted people, those most successful, would most likely reproduce and pass on their superior adaptations to their own offspring. Upper class Americans and politicians’ who desired to extend their political and economic power internationally used this kind of thinking to also support the imperialism movement and to address how to handle their dealings with other countries. They believed that since America was naturally superior, their control over the other countries would actually be in the best interest of human evolution. In fact, they saw it as America’s responsibility to bring industry, democracy, and even Christianity to lesser-developed nations. The combination of all these beliefs and that Spencer’s theories supported free competition, which was believed to be the most effective route to economic progress, helped justify the United State’s movement towards

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