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The U.S. began expanding oversees for many different reasons. One of the earliest factors was lucrative overseas trade opportunities. By the mid 1800’s, American merchants carried on a profitable trade with Asia and hoped to expand the market into other areas. Japan was opened to American trade in 1854, and the new trade opportunities got the U.S. more interested in further expansion, which led to greater U.S. involvement in Asia.
The search for markets and materials drove the U.S. to more expansion. Some politicians, like Secretary of State Seward, dreamed of an American empire similar to those in Europe. This would allow the U.s. to take what they saw as their rightful place at the center of power. Seward purchased Alaska in 1867, which soon revealed a fortune in gold and natural resources.
Some Americans believed that a good reason for expansion into other countries was to “lift up” those races that were “uncivilized” by sharing Christianity and western civilization. This also promoted movement into Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
Also, naval power was essential to a nation projecting its power overseas. The U.S. needed overseas colonies where ships could dock to maintain this navy, which eventually allowed the U.S. to become more involved in foreign affairs.
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