Economic and Political Profits of Imperialism Essay Example
Economic and Political Profits of Imperialism Essay Example

Economic and Political Profits of Imperialism Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1502 words)
  • Published: February 28, 2022
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When analyzing the motives for the shift in the US government’s approach towards foreign policy we essentially encounter a wide range of them varying from religious, to ethnocentric, to political, and most importantly economic. It is clear that as a result of the industrial expansion carried out by corporations such as Carnegie Steel the US expanded its production capacity and while the US had been adopting a policy based on Isolationism, foreign traders had established strong and profitable markets in which they exported and imported vast amounts of goods and services. Isolationism was an ingrained characteristic in the administration of the American economy since its very origins when George Washington addressed this topic, claiming that 'In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy,


so to do.”

However, a theory known as Social Darwinism defied this Isolationist notion where Darwin’s theory of natural selection and sociological conservative theories claimed that nations and individuals competed to each other for success in life, and administrations such as the US government measured this success by the prosperity of its economy and the imposition of political power over other nations. Therefore, Imperialistic policies essentially relied on Social Darwinism as a means to justify its involvement and investment in wars and assume the costs that entail them. The roots of American Imperialism date back to 1867 when the US government initiated a purchase from Russia to obtain Alaska which went to be known as ‘Seward’s Folly’. Besides the debt accumulated from the Civil War Alaska was purchased due to its availability of resources such as petroleum

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lumber, and its substantial gold deposit.

Numerous events followed this in which the US participated in foreign affairs since it provided the US with financial opportunities but these intentions are the same which led congress to declare war on Spain and which resulted in thousands of casualties at a time in the Philippines insurrection and other events of similar nature. The prosperity of the American economy and its political power came at very high costs and the support of the American population for Imperialism resulted from these intentions being hidden by the facade that was ‘Manifest Destiny’ and the desire to impose western culture and religion to aid those who found themselves trapped under colonial rule. Therefore in this paper I intend to portray how the pursuit of Imperialism did not stem from such charitable causes but was always rooted in maximizing profits in the economy and establishing and exerting dominance and power over other countries.

The Industrialization the American economy underwent in the late 19th century eventually led to the US surpassing Britain in its production means to the extent where it could now export much larger quantities of both final goods as well as capital and production resources and any surplus they had they could now benefit from as they had access to foreign markets. The Spanish-American war was specially beneficial for the US since, besides using many of its resources, the US gained vast amounts of territory with plenty of resources such as sugar and minerals in the Philippines after gaining control over the country along with Puerto Rico and Guam as a result of the the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty of Paris

took place in December 1898 and brought an end to the Spanish American war.

However, what seems curious to me is the principal motives for declaring war on Spain. The catalyst which Congress used to convince and incite revenge which resulted in favor of declaring war against Spain was the attack on the ‘Battleship Maine’ in which 266 crew members were killed from a mine explosion in which the government, after an investigation did not blame any nation or individual. However, the government had interests in attacking the Spanish military since Spain was in control of many strategic and resourceful locations. Therefore, Congress blamed the attack on Spain and the public supported a retaliation. However, many historians now believe that the explosion was due to a malfunction in the ship which is why no one was to blame but this proved a convenient incentive to declare war to improve American economy and political reach. If there is one statement to conclude from this it is that on most occasions the US government prioritized economical opportunities and political sovereignty abroad while providing a facade or distorted version of reality to direct public intent in accordance with the government’s own objectives.

A clear example of how the US neglected the intent to aid those less fortunate and uncivilized with the excuse that was Manifest Destiny by which American values were forcefully imposed was the acquisition of the Philippines after fighting along with the oppressed inhabitants within the islands against Spanish rule. After the US “bought a revolution for twenty million dollars” the results were catastrophic with 24,200 casualties from attacks on freedom by the US in battles such as

the ‘Battle of Manila Bay’. Hence, the administration that was the US Congress clearly did not induce a war on Spain to deliver the freedom it promised to the inhabitants of Spain’s oppressed colonies such as Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. In turn, the US used the existing opposition and desire of freedom to gain alliances in those territories and substitute the authoritarian system already in place to not only deliver but also profit from said system and commit “atrocious cruelties … equalled only by those of Spain.”

Gaining control over nations such as the Philippines provided the US with valuable resources and labor which increased the production possibilities of the nation and in addition acquiring consuls in Pacific Islands led to more profits resulting for the dependency of commerce on these trade routes from Asia. We could therefore conclude that Imperialism over the Pacific Islands was essentially incentivized by economic expansionism. However, perhaps a more significant motive for this expansion over the pacific into Guam and the Philippine archipelago was Washington’s clear intent to demonstrate American political and military power in the western pacific. These were strategic geographical locations which proved of great value in the various wars that followed American control of these colonies.

For example, Hawaii was annexed by president McKinkley into the United States as a result of its convenient and necessary geographic location in the Spanish American War. However, when president McKinley referred to the occurrence as “the inevitable consequence of three quarters of a century” in June 1898, we must acknowledge that the timing for this occurrence was not simply a coincidence but a key location both for commerce

of products such as sugar and more importantly a strategic military location from which the US navy could efficiently operate in the Spanish American war. In the case of the annexation of the Philippines, the geographic location was primarily beneficial at the time to establish and ease economic activity between Japan and furthermore to China, who had all the most demanded luxury and quality goods for which there was a market and much profit to be made in the US. In 1899, only one year after the annexation of Hawaii, the Anti-Imperialist League was founded with the aim to provide an opposition to the approach in foreign policy the US had undergone.

Former United States senator Carl Schurz was a member of the Anti-Imperialist League and concluded that “If an administration may with impunity ignore the issues upon which it was chosen, deliberately create a condition of war anywhere on the face of the globe, debauch the civil service for spoils to promote the adventure, organize a truth-suppressing censorship, and demand of all citizens a suspension of judgement and their unanimous support while it chooses to continue the fighting, representative government itself is imperiled.” With this of course he was referring to the political power the US had imposed and the path of destruction it had delivered as a result of the imperialist driven wars which stemmed from nothing but economic and political greed. Fifteen years after the founding of the Anti-Imperialist League and the declaration of the US Open Door Policy towards China, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated leading to the emergence of Work War One in which the United States would intervene and demonstrate

Imperialism more than ever before.

The United States profited greatly during the war but also suffered great costs during this time in which once again a motive arose to promote great sentiment for the American public to willingly participate in the war and foreign affairs. Pearl Harbor was the catalyst that caused this to take place yet there is still much speculation regarding the fact that this attack had been one of which American military had information of before it took place and could have avoided it. If this was true this would mean that once again the US government would have taken advantage of a catastrophe to incentivise imperialism and therefore prioritizing political and economic profits over human casualties.

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