U.S. Involvement globally
At the time of the Spanish American War the United States went from relative isolation to increased global involvement because of economic expansion, and rebellion in the western hemisphere. The consequences of this increased global involvement on American society was that America exited the Spanish-American war as an Imperialist country and America began to abuse its position as an emerging world power. American policy makers were forced to consider a greater global involvement because the domestic marketplace was flourishing and America wanted to share their trade politics with the world. As America’s population grew at an exponential rate during the end of the nineteenth century, the economy started to flourish. Economic expansion was inevitable, America’s domestic economy led to an exportable surplus of capital during the late nineteenth century. The surplus stemmed from an efficient internal transportation system, a high degree of specialized and mechanization, rapid scientific advance and innovative marketing techniques.
The historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s influential 1893 essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” captured this sense that the proving ground for American society was no longer on the North American continent, but now overseas.1 With the economy booming, many companies in the U.S. looked to foreign nations to expand their market. Foreign policy was being driven by the large American companies that were creating more products than were being consumed by the American people so they had a need to expand their corporations across the world. For the first time the people in the U.S. accumulated a surplus of capital much more than they needed for themselves.2 Some circumstances that encouraged American companies to expand in other countries were the domestic merger movement and new forms of large scale corporate organization, and the interest in moving closer to raw materials and markets.3 Having your business in a foreign market, reduced costs from high tariffs and shipping and let you spread your ideas and views into these countries.
The U.S. government had a vision of spreading the American Dream throughout the world and with these American companies moving into foreign lands, it was showing what the American Dream was all about. Distinguished historian Walter LaFeber noted that American foreign policy was being driven by corporations to make money and avoid neo-Marxist revolutions in the United States.4 Having these companies in foreign countries showed them how a free market system can work and showed the importance of owning private property and why it is a big deal and how nice it is to possess. The growth of shipping and foreign trade slowly enhanced America’s world role. During the rebellion in the western hemisphere, American policy makers contemplated on becoming global involved in the predicament circulating Spain. One of the countries that the U.S. felt they needed to deal with was Cuba because of the strong Spanish presence there. President McKinley felt that having Spain in Cuba was a threat to America’s national security and that the U.S. needed to control Cuba to avoid any trouble from the Spanish or any other countries that may use Cuba to attack the U.S. Spain was not really looking to get in any type of war with the United States but also didn’t want to just give them Cuba.
But after American journalists, William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer reported they had pictures of some members of the Spanish military planting mines on the USS Maine, which did actually explode, they pressured President William McKinley to decide to go to war with Spain.5 The U.S. went in the war with no plans beyond sinking the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and it took them months after Manila to send troops to Spain but with the Spanish putting up hardly any opposition, the United States was easily able to defeat them. This led to both nations signing the Treaty of Paris and the U.S. acquired Cuba and around the same time acquired the territories of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.6 This allowed the government to advance its interest in economic prosperity and spread the idea of the American Dream in these lands.7 Businesses in America mostly opposed the war with Spain at the beginning because they believed that war through free trade into confusion. In the end though, this war spread free enterprise in these countries and helped businesses to expand throughout the world. The consequence that stemmed from Americas military and economic involvement in foreign affairs was that America was beginning to resemble an imperialist country. America fought a bloody forty-one-month war to secure possession of the entire archipelago. During this Philippine Insurrection, the United States created an occupation army that waged total war on local resistance. Forty-two hundred Americans died in battle for possession of this colony.
As many as twenty thousand Filipino insurgents also died. As never before, the United States had established direct control over a foreign society—seven thousand miles from North America—through brute force. McKinley, anxious to preserve his image as a cautious statesman, bided his time. He pressed Spain to stop fighting the rebels and start negotiating with them for Cuban independence, hinting broadly that the alternative was war. Spain decided declared a concession for one sovereign state. That was not enough for Mckinley, which ultimately leads one to believe that Americans had alternative motive for entering the Spanish American war. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the evidence of American imperialism was unmistakable. An additional consequence that was beginning to materialize as a result of Americas global involvement, the U.S. were beginning to become a world power and it was misusing its power. America’s participation in the Spanish-American War signaled a much larger commitment to the world. By acquiring the Philippines, the U.S. had a much larger presence in East Asia and looked for an Open Door Policy in China which Senator John Hay sent a note to the major powers asking them to not interfere with the free trade and economic policies in China.
8 Although this is commonly believed to be an international agreement with several countries, it was mostly a unilateral U.S. policy. This was an example of the U.S. continuing to expand its international role and expressing its ideals of free trade in foreign countries. Americas views of establishing a trade free world market mirrors Bellamy’s view, “Their misery came with all your other miseries, from that incapacity for cooperation which followed from the individualism on which your social system was founded, from your inability to perceive that you could make ten times more profit out of your fellow men by uniting with them than by contending with them.”
9 Another ideal that the United States had was that they wanted to keep Europe out of the western hemisphere so they could expand the United States’ territory and be more economically profitable in the region by using those countries resources and by being the supreme power on that side of the world.10 They wanted to spread the American Dream throughout these countries without interference forms other nations. After Leon Czolgaz assassinated President McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt took over and gave The Roosevelt Corollary, which spoke of keeping European Powers from colonizing in our hemisphere and how we need to take out any Dictatorships that may arise because it is a threat to our interests as a Democratic nation. He talked about how American interests made it necessary to intervene in other countries.
11These interests were mostly economic ones so the U.S. needed to involve itself throughout the world in order to insure its economic prowess and also show the world how to effectively run a free market system. Roosevelt was also responsible for the construction of the Panama Canal, which opened up more effective trading in the Latin America region and further helped the United States’ economic growth. Roosevelt acted with a separatist movement in Colombia and helped settle the new country of panama. Roosevelt quickly had the leaders sign a treaty that granted America the right to build a canal and to intervene militarily if the country was deemed unstable.
12 Roosevelt’s brash actions in acquiring the canal illustrated how the expansion military capabilities and the needs of burgeoning commerce rein enforced one another.
13 America’s presence as an emerging global power was felt during the beginning of the twentieth-century. The involvement in the Spanish-American war combined with the combination of a flourishing economy proved to be the first major stepping-stones into the global market.