8US History

Imperialism vs. Isolationism
By: Kaitlin Propeck and Mack Pierson
Per. 6
-Imperialism is the policy in which stronger
nations extend their economic, political, or
military control over weaker territories.
America Claims an Empire
-Americans began to warm to the idea of
expansion over seas due to three reasons:
-Desire for military strength
-Thirst for new markets
-Belief in cultural superiority
Desire for Military Strength *
-Alfred T. Mahan of the U.S. Navy urged
government officials to build up American
naval power.
-United States built nine steel-hulled cruisers
between 1883 and 1890.
-World’s third largest naval power
Thirst for New Markets *
-Advances in technology allowed farms and
factories to produce more than Americans
could consume.
-United States needed raw materials for its
factories and new markets for its agricultural
and manufactured goods.
-Foreign trade is the solution!
Belief in Cultural Superiority
-Some Americans believed in a racial superiority
of the Anglo-Saxons.
-Some believed the United States had a
responsibility to spread Christianity and
“civilization” to the world’s “inferior peoples.”
Alaska *
- William Seward, Secretary of State under
Lincoln and Johnson, arranged for the U.S. to
buy Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 billion
dollars in 1867.
- Seward had trouble persuading the House of
Representatives to acquire funding.
- Alaska did not become a state until 1959.
- It was then discovered that Alaska was rich in
timber, minerals, and oil.
Hawaii *
-The United States took over the Midway islands
in 1867.
-In 1887, the United States built a naval base at
the kingdom’s best port, Pearl Harbor.
-American business groups organized a
revolution with the marines and overthrew
the queen.
-They set up a new government headed by
Sanford B. Dole.
-President Cleveland did not support the revolution
and ordered that the queen be returned to the
-Dole refused to surrender so Cleveland recognized
the Republic of Hawaii but refused to annex the
nation unless a majority of Hawaiians favored it.
-In 1897, William Mckinley succeeded Cleveland as
president and he favored annexation.
-Congress proclaimed Hawaii an American territory
on August 12, 1898.
-Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.
Spanish-American War *
-At the end of the Spanish-American War, the
U.S. gained much more territory thus
expanding its empire.
-After much fighting, the United States and
Spain signed the Treaty of Paris which gave
Puerto Rico and Guam to the U.S. It also freed
Cuba and the Philippines was sold to the U.S.
for $20 million dollars.
The Philippines *
-Much controversy arose because of the U.S.
annexing the Philippines.
-Many people did not believe the U.S. had the
right to do so.
-President Mckinley tried to justify the
annexation by stating that they were going to
Christianize the Filipinos; however, they had
already been Christian for centuries.
Philippine-American War *
-Filipinos were outraged by the Treaty of Paris and
the U.S. annexation of the Philippines.
-In February 1899, the Filipinos revolted.
-The war lasted for nearly 3 years and cost 4000
American lives and $400 million dollars.
-The United States then set up a government where
the president elected a governor and members of
the upper house legislature.
-The Philippines gained independence on July 4,
Puerto Rico *
-After the U.S. acquired Puerto Rico in the Treaty of
Paris, many Puerto Ricans hoped for
-Puerto Rico was ruled by the U.S. military until
-In 1900, Congress passed the Foraker Act which
ended military rule and set up a civil government.
-In 1917, Puerto Ricans were given the right to
become U.S. citizens.
Cuba *
-Although Cuba became free after the Spanish-American
war, American troops continued to occupy the
-In 1901, the U.S. insisted that Cuba adopt the Platt
Amendment which stated that the U.S. reserved the
right to intervene in Cuba, Cuba was not to go into
debt, the United States could buy or lease land for
naval stations, and Cuba could not make treaties that
might limit its independence.
-Cuba then became a U.S. protectorate, a country whose
affairs are partially controlled by a stronger power.
China *
-U.S. imperialists saw the Philippines as a
gateway to the rest of Asia, especially China.
-China was potentially a vast market for
American products.
-China became known as the “sick man of Asia.”
-France, Germany, Russia, Britain, and Japan set
up settlements along the coast of China.
-U.S. began to fear American traders would be
shut out
Open Door Notes *
-U.S. Secretary of State, John Hay, wanted to
protect American interests so he issued a series
of policy statements called the Open Door Notes.
-The notes were letters addressed to leaders of
imperialist nations proposing that the nations
share their trading rights with the United States.
-Thus, no single nation would have a monopoly on
trade with any one part of China.
Protecting American Rights
- The Open Door Policy reflected American beliefs
about the United States industrialist capitalist
- Americans believed that:
- The growth of the economy depended on
- The U.S. had a right to intervene abroad to keep
foreign markets open.
- The closing of an area to American products or
people threatened U.S. survival.
Panama *
-The United States wanted to build a canal that cut
through Central America to reduce travel time between
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
-The U.S. bought the French company’s route for $40
million dollars in 1903.
-The United States began negotiations with Colombia, the
ruler of Panama, to build the canal.
-Panamanians started a rebellion against Colombia and
then 15 days later, signed a treaty with the U.S. which
gave the United States a region called the Canal Zone
for $10 million dollars plus an annual payment of
$250,000 dollars.
Mexico *
- In 1911, Mexican workers and peasants
overthrew their military dictator.
- After 2 years, a new government was established,
but President Wilson refused to recognize it.
- After this incident with U.S. citizens, President
Wilson sent in Marines to occupy Veracruz.
- The Huerta Regime collapsed and a new
government was formed under Venustiano
- This government was accepted by the U.S.
-A rebel group formed under a man named Francisco
“Pancho” Villa.
-Villa also killed many Americans in his raids which led the
U.S. to seek revenge.
-President Wilson sent 15,000 troops into Mexico to
capture Villa.
-Eventually the troops caught up with Villa’s men and
created fighting with deaths on both sides.
-The countries were on the brink of war but both
eventually backed down.
-This U.S. intervention provides us with a clear example of
American imperialist attitudes of the time.
Rationale for Imperialism
-By 1900, the U.S. had gained a substantial empire and
President McKinley, who was a confirmed imperialist,
was reelected.
-However, some people such as Grover Cleveland and
Andrew Carnegie did not support imperialism. They
believed it was wrong for the United States to rule
other people without their consent.
-Although some disagreed, many others agreed with
imperialism because it helped American to grow in size
and thus become a stronger world power.
-Isolationism is the policy of pulling away from
involvement in world affairs and economic
entanglements with other countries.
World War 1 *
-At the beginning of World War 1, the U.S.
declared neutrality and took a strict noninvolvement stance on the war.
Rationale for Isolationism
-The rationale for isolationism was that it kept
America safe and out of conflict.
-It stemmed from fear of outsiders and the
harm that they could do to America.
-Isolationism ensured America’s safety and kept
it from being dragged into wars and
entanglements that did not directly affect the
Review Questions
-What is imperialism?
-What is isolationism?
-What were Open Door Notes?
-What was the Treaty of Paris?
-Why did Americans want to expand overseas?
- Why did Alaska prove to be important?
- What caused the Philippine-American war?
Work Cited
Danzer, Gerald A., Jorge J. Klor De Alva, Larry S. Krieger, Louis E. Wilson, and
Nancy Woloch. The Americans. California ed. Evanston: McDougal Littell,
2003. Print. Reconstruction to the 21st Century.

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