American Imperialism Essay

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The United States became an imperialist nation at the end of the 19th

century because Americans wanted to expand over seas with their belief in

manifest destiny. The three factors that started American imperialism were

political and military competition including the creation of a strong naval

force, economic competition among industrial nations and a belief in the racial

and cultural superiority of people of Anglo-Saxon decent. The Spanish American

War marked the emergence of the United States as a world power. This brief war

lasted less than four months from April 25 to August 12, 1898. A number of

factors contributed to the United States decision to go to war against Spain.

These included the Cuban struggle for independence, American imperialism and the

sinking of the United States warship “Maine”. As a result of the war Spain

ceded Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States. The United

States in turn, paid Spain $20,000,000 for public property in the Philippine

Islands. The United States gained colonies on both sides of the Pacific

including Hawaii. On August 12, 1898 Congress took control and proclaimed Hawaii

American territory, and issued the open door policy, which were messages that

president John Hay sent to Germany, France, Russia, Britain, Italy and Japan

asking the countries not to interfere with the United States trading rights in

China. The United States had long been interested in a Central American canal to

link its east and west coasts, expand trade and for military interest. In 1902

President Theodore Roosevelt decided on Panama over Nicaragua and negotiated a

treaty with Columbia giving the United States permission for the canal project.

The Panamanians had authorized Philippe Bunau-Varilla an official of the French

Canal Company to negotiate the terms and sign the agreement. The treaty also

gave the United States the right to control the Canal Zone as if it were United

States territory, and to annex more land if necessary for the Canal. The United

States agreed to grant Panamas independence and pay $10 million, plus an

annual fee of $250,000 per year. The total cost of the construction of the Canal

was nearly $400 million dollars. On August 15, 1914 the Canal opened for

business. Control of the Panama Canal enhanced the power of the United States,

however the way the canal was built damaged United States-Latin American

relations. Imperialism has proven both destructive and creative, for better or

for worse, it has destroyed traditional institutions and ways of thinking and

has replaced them with the habits and mentality of the Western world

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