There are many developments in the period from 1867 to 1914 that provide background for changes in American foreign policy. One—perhaps the most significant—is the development of American industry. It was basically an article of faith among nineteenth century Americans that expansion was necessary to continue economic growth. Most believed that continued expansion would eventually lead to the production of more goods than the domestic market could bear and that gaining "captive" markets through colonies and access to markets like China was essential to maintain economic expansion and prosperity. The fact that industry also demanded cheap raw materials only underscored the need for an expansionist foreign policy in the minds of many. Another underlying factor for American foreign policy during the period was the closing of the American frontier in the 1890s, an event that was of enormous symbolic and ideological importance to many Americans. Prior to the Civil War, advocates of expansion argued that it was the nation's "manifest destiny" to conquer North America. In the 1890s, many writers, most famously historian Frederick Jackson Turner, linked American expansion inextricably with American democracy. For many, then, expansion was seen as an American imperative, and with the American frontier gone, the theater for expansion shifted. Finally, still another crucial context for American foreign policy was the race for imperial possessions that gripped Europe during the period. This was the reason that many Americans advocated a host of policies ranging from the annexation of the Philippines to the so-called "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine. If the United States was to exist as a world power, it had to stake its claim to territories in the Pacific and limit European influence in the western hemisphere. Each of these factors provides background for American foreign policy in the fifty years following the Civil War.
This period covers the end of the Civil War through the beginning of World War I. One change that took place was that the US began to enter the second wave of the Industrial Revolution (there was an earlier wave before the Civil War). This meant that the US, particularly the northern US, became a center of production and needed raw materials and markets to sustain its industrialization. Therefore, foreign policy objectives centered on finding raw materials from other countries and securing markets in which to sell finished products.
The second change was that the frontier closed. As of 1890, the US Census determined that there was no longer a frontier. Many people, influenced by what was called the Turner Thesis (which posited that the frontier was necessary for American development and renewal), believed that Americans had to find new centers for development and renewal abroad. People believed that finding new frontiers abroad was vital to the American character.
Finally, European countries began to colonize parts of Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world. This movement put increased pressure on the US to begin to form American colonies abroad to keep up with these nations. All of these factors began to turn the US into an imperial power that sought land and markets overseas.
Three topics that are important to understanding the changes in the foreign policy of the United States between 1867-1914 include the acquisition of Alaska, the Spanish-American War, and the expanding of American influence around the world in the early 1900s.
The purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 implied that the Americans now believed that the United States should take the concept of manifest destiny and expand it around the world. Up to this time, Americans believed that they should expand from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. With the purchase of Alaska, the United States showed it wanted to expand beyond its borders.
The Spanish-American War represented a growing belief in the United States that the United States should become a world power. As a result, the Americans took up the cause of the people in Cuba who were being mistreated by the Spanish. American newspapers exaggerated this mistreatment, leading to growing outrage in the United States. When the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, Spain was immediately blamed. The United States went to war with Spain and emerged with several of Spain’s colonial possessions including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
The influence of the United States expanded further around the world after the Spanish-American War ended. The United States intervened in a revolution in Panama to help Panama become independent. The United States wanted to build a canal through this region, and when Colombia refused our offer, the United States helped Panama become free. The United States then built the Panama Canal in Panama. The United States also sent the Great White Fleet around the world to show off its power. The United States also intervened in China to help keep Chinese markets open to American interests.
There were several examples that represent the changes in American foreign policy between 1867-1914.
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Topics that will be covered:
- The Spanish American War (1898)
- The Building of the Panama Canal (1903)
- Intervention in China (Boxer Rebellion)
1. The Spanish American war signaled America's rise and the relative decline of the European powers. The war also led to America aquiring territories and colonies in the Caribbean sea and pacific ocean, namely the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Marianas and a host of other territories. The acquisition of the Philippines in particular led to permanent American involvement in Asian affairs.
2. The construction and completion of the Panama Canal has a number of important foreign policy implications. First it led to the United States' supporting secessionist factions, who separated the republic of Panama from Colombia, and it also led to the granting of sovereign land rights to the United States over the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama Canal had massive implications for the exercise of American foreign policy and military might; it greatly shortened the sea travel distance for both commercial and military vessels from the East to West coast, therefore making it easier for the U.S to exercise its influence in the pacific rim.
3. The intervention in China to suppress the Boxer rebellion was an important aspect in U.S foreign policy as it showed America's willingness to intervene militarily and to use force to secure its influence and interests. It also was one of the earlier examples of broad coalition building as the U.S intervened as part of an alliance of nations.