What factors, old and new, shaped American foreign policy in the late nineteenth century? How were they interrelated?

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Much of the early foreign policy of the United States was defined by the Monroe Doctrine. This policy, first issued in 1828, declared the Western Hemisphere must be free from new efforts by Europeans to colonize it. Essentially, it opposed colonialism based on a moral standpoint which considered a people's...

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Much of the early foreign policy of the United States was defined by the Monroe Doctrine. This policy, first issued in 1828, declared the Western Hemisphere must be free from new efforts by Europeans to colonize it. Essentially, it opposed colonialism based on a moral standpoint which considered a people's right to national self-determination paramount.

The interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine in terms of US foreign policy shifted by the end of the 19th Century. By this time, the United States was looking for new opportunities to become an imperial power itself. From its very start, the country had had an expansionist attitude. However, this expansion was mostly internal as there was usually room for further settlement in the western parts of the continent. However, with the closing of the frontier in 1890, Americans were forced to look overseas for expansionist opportunities.

Subsequently, the Monroe Doctrine went through a re-interpretation. As Americans looked beyond their own borders, they increasingly saw a place for themselves as the masters of the hemisphere and beyond. Changes to the Monroe Doctrine, such as the Olney Corollary, declared that the United States had the mandate to intervene in any disputes between Europeans and any other countries in the Americas. The United States took this even further when it declared war on Spain, ostensibly over protecting Cuban freedom fighters, and started taking its own colonies and extending diplomatic and military influence far beyond its own borders.

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In some respects, there was nothing all that new about American foreign policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As an increasingly wealthy, powerful country, the United States closely followed the historical example of Ancient Rome and Great Britain in expanding its reach across the globe. Despite a persistent thread of isolationist sentiment in American foreign policy, complete disengagement with the outside world has never been a live option for the United States at any time in its history.

In the late 19th century, it became clear that the United States would need to become more actively engaged with the wider world if it were to maintain its status as an economic super power. In that sense, US foreign policy was guided by practical imperatives, mainly economic. But there were also ideological factors at work, and this was something new. Policy-makers in Washington genuinely believed that American involvement in Cuba and the Philippines was part of a noble endeavor to end old-style European colonialism and bring the benefits of American liberty to its subject peoples.

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In the late 19th century, American foreign policy was shaped by the old factor of Manifest Destiny, the idea that Americans had the God-given right to expand. The newer factor was that the frontier had just closed, and there was no longer "undiscovered" land to which people could expand on the continental United States. Therefore, Americans, motivated by Manifest Destiny, began to want to expand overseas.

Another new factor was the growth of the Industrial Revolution, which created the need for raw materials (such as rubber and tin) and for larger markets in which to sell finished products. Overseas territories provided both raw materials and new markets. The economic reasons for expansion dovetailed well with the ideological reasons. Manifest Destiny gave people a philosophical reason to expand, while this expansion also benefited the growing industrial economy.

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In the late 19th century, the main US foreign policy was imperialistic.  The US was trying to expand its global reach, taking such places as Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines.

I would say that the main "old" factor was a desire for more wealth and power.  The US was pursuing these in a different way than it previously had because it was now looking to colonize other countries rather than to expand its own country.  But it was still the same idea.

I see two relatively "new" factors.  First was the idea of "white man's burden."  The US had had Manifest Destiny before, but not this idea of civilizing other people.  Second was competition with other imperial powers.  The US had not previously been interested in building an empire outside North America.

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