Expansion of the US

As the American frontier came to a close, a new policy of expansion was brought about. This new policy during the late 1800s early 1900s had very few similarities with that of the old. It still held the belief that the US needed to expand in order to sustain the ever-increasing population but did not go about it the same way, intervening in places off the coasts of the occupied mid region of North America. Economic growth continued to be a motive for the US to expand with more of an appeal towards widening the market and trade. The policies put forth during this period dealt with the inhabitants of the area, just like in the past, but took a more aggressive toll when it came to enforcing the Monroe Doctrine and addressing personal interests. Thus, through the US’s more developed expansion policy towards gaining more land, trading with countries abroad, and taking political interests in lands near by, one can observe that the old expansion policy was integrated into the new by only a small degree of consideration.

Since the creation of the US after the American Revolution, the idea of expanding was in the minds of many. In the 1840s the idea of manifest destiny, God had destined the US to expand, was established and was the issue in the election of 1844. The reason for this was that the east was filling up and new areas for settling and job production were needed. This belief of the necessity of expanding was also seen in the late 1800s early 1900s. There was, however, a distinction between the areas of interest during these two different periods and that is what sets the policies of expansionism apart. In the earlier decades of the US, people felt it was obvious that they would have to move west since there was much land left to settle in to the west. However, the close of the frontier towards the 1890s made the US look for other places to settle. This is where one can see the fine line between the old and new expansionism. In The Interest of America in Sea Power by Alfred T. Mahan, the interests of the US are basically summed up saying that the America wanted to be the dominant nation in the western hemisphere securing it from the major powers in Europe and Asia. McKinley in 1898 annexed Hawaii and began to intervene with Spanish colonies. The primary reason for the arbitration was that the people of the colonies wanted their freedom and that the US was going to honor the Monroe Doctrine. After defeating Spain in the islands surrounding the North America, the US decided to stay attached to all of them in one way or another. They kept the Philippines, as Albert J. Beveridge said in his speech to the 56th Congress, because it allowed them to be closer to the great market of China and allowed for their dominance in the Pacific Ocean. Places such as Cuba were forced to write into their Constitution that the US would intervene if order was not maintained and Guantanamo was sold to them as a naval base. The US taking these islands is completely unlike its past expansionism where it was just a movement towards the west. Now it was becoming more like an imperialistic expansion where they had their own colonies. Thomas Nast’s The World Plunders shows Britain, Russia, and Germany grabbing colonies from the areas in the eastern hemisphere, leaving the western hemisphere to the US. Another key difference between past expansionism and new expansionism is that there was opposition to the newer policy. The Anti-Imperialist League felt that the US was going against its beliefs by taking over these lands that wanted their freedom. In the past, people were eager for expansion and there wasn’t much opposition where as now people found it to be unethical signifying the differences of the time. It seemed as if Josiah Strong’s Our Country: It’s Possible Future and It’s Present Crisis was influencing the US making it think that eventually the US would spread all over the world.

As the US got more desperate for land, it lost its sense of liberty and morality thinking only towards the economic benefits. Boosting the economy was, however, always an incentive for expansion. In the Jefferson administration, Thomas Jefferson wanted the New Orleans area for it controlled the mouth of the Mississippi and was a major port area for trading with South America. In 1840, Polk wanted California for it would be the gateway that opened up the Pacific Ocean allowing trade with the East Asian markets. These advancements in trade did not allow that much of diversity when it came to trade. Even though it did open up the Pacific Ocean, it was a long haul to Asia. This was the old expansion policy where it was to grab whatever that could be reached by land route. The fact that the US wanted to trade with eastern Asia for profits carried over to the new expansion policy and that is where the similarities between new and old end. The US went about doing this by taking control of the Philippines, which was nearer to Asia. This opened up trade with China and the US did all that they could to appease China to make friendlier relations between them. The US told the other countries swooping in for parts of China to respect the traditions and culture of the Chinese people even while having a part of its land. This was called the Open Door policy. In the past, the US never tried to help a country in the eastern hemisphere in order to get its favor when it came to trade. This shows that this was indeed a departure from the old expansionism. During Roosevelt’s administration, Roosevelt enforced a different interpretation of Monroe Doctrine where the US would take over a country near them if they were having financial issues with the major powers of the east. This allowed the US to gain money in the long run by paying off the debts of these unprivileged nations and receiving payments from the countries that were assisted. Just like how the expansionism policy was almost completely different in this new era, the Monroe Doctrine became nearly an entirely different law.

This new Monroe Doctrine had completely changed the politics involved with expansion. In the past, expansion was solely based upon the acceptance of the inhabitants to be ruled by a country, wars that determined who gets the territory, and treaties. In 1850, the US annexed Texas, which had wanted to be annexed since it first fought for its rights from Mexico. When America finally recognized Texas’s pleas they helped fight Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo settled the boundaries between Mexico and Texas and recognized that Texas was a part of the US. This was the traditional way to receive land and the only thing that followed through into the new expansionism was that policies were put forth to establish a civilized society. This is a very little portion of the new expansionism since it was mostly about becoming a world power through “helping” other countries, showing that the expansionism during the late 1800s and early 1900s was in fact mainly a departure from the old expansionism. This new expansionism called for enforcing the Monroe Doctrine so that the US remained dominant in the western hemisphere. After taking control of all the colonies that Spain held around the North America region, the US began trying to help civilize them through provisions. Even though the US promised Cuba their freedom through the Teller Amendment, the US forced them to write within their constitution the Platt Amendment allowing the US to intervene if there was any type of disruption. The Senate kept the Philippines as US territory due to their rejection of the bill to set them free. Theodore Roosevelt said in his annual message to congress that they would give areas their freedom if they saw that they could manage to become civilized. However, the Philippines didn’t get a chance to prove itself. This was an unfavorable thing and one can see that this was contradictory towards the past expansion where the inhabitants accepted the settlement of their area placing this expansionism in a category of departure from the old policy.

As the US made its way into the 1900s, there were significant changes when it came to expanding the country. The US found that the only way to expand was to look outward and so it began enforcing the Monroe Doctrine in a way that deemed it a world power. The US fought Spain for the colonies they possessed and from it gained a wider range of markets to trade with. Thinking it would profit from the colonies, the US tried to keep itself attached to the islands through trying to civilize the people and solving issues for the territories that involved the eastern powers. When looking upon the expansionism of the time, it is quite evident that the only parts that remained of what it was before were the roots to what all expansionism is: get land, make laws, and prosper.