American Imperialism, Essay Example

American Imperialism during the 19th Century has been a topic of much debate and analysis over the course of history.  At the height of the Spanish-American War, business industry was coming off the panic of 1893 in which a severe overproduction of industrial products and resources led to mass under-consumption, waste and financial losses for businessmen, industrialists and farmers (Task par. 2).  With these issues in mind, the overall political and economic focus turned from domestic to international in order to ensure that industry would continue to flourish without requiring a mass decrease in production.  During the 19th Century and particularly in 1898, the United States became an imperial nation as it made efforts to provide military support to protecting foreign nations during the Spanish-American War, acquire new territories under American governance, and increase trade negotiations with foreign governments and industries.

At the peak of the 1890’s Spain entered into major military conflict with Cuba and the Philippines nations in an effort to maintain control and continue to solidify strong trade industries.  The Cuban nation rose up again the Spanish and fought for their independence both militarily and politically.  The United States saw this as an opportunity to increase foreign trade by developing a close relationship with Cuba, which at the time, was a major trade stop on the way for United States naval industry to travel to the developing Latin American countries (“American Imperialism” par. 1).  Ultimately, the United States support for Cuba and its subsequent support for the Filipino nation was enough to spark the Spanish American War.  The Spanish American War was highly influential to American Imperialism as it initiated the first time in which the American military had engaged in battle where the United States had not been attacked domestically.  Due to the potential economic benefits to its industry, the United States became and international power as the American army helped the Philippines and Cubans defeat the Spanish in 1898 (“American Imperialism” par. 3).  This key victory solidified the beginning of American Imperialism.

At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of 1898 proved to be highly profitable for the United States.  Imperialism is a complex concept that is essentially defined whenever a country increases its wealth and power by bringing additional territories under its control (Coffin and Stacey par. 1).  The island of Guam and the nation of Puerto Rico were two nations that ultimately landed under the control of the United States as a result of the Treaty of 1898.  Although Cuba was granted freedom from Spain, the American politicians worked to ensure that its name was associated with this liberty to further gain favor of the Cuban nation for trade purposes shortly after 1898.  Furthermore, the Americans tried vehemently to obtain the Philippines from under Spanish control, but this was a subject that the Spanish refused to include within the treaty.  It was not until a financial agreement was made that Spain agreed to relieve control of the Philippines to the United States for the price of $20 million (“American Imperialism” par. 5).  The Treaty of 1898 and the American acquirement of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippine nations began a mass debate over American imperialist ideas and the term manifest destiny which was used to define the United States’ apparent ever-growing nature in all things industrial, political and military.

In conjunction with the Spanish-American War, the late 1890s proved to be very valuable for the United States economically as it entered into many key trade agreements with nations throughout the world.  The United States made many key efforts to increase trade relationships with Latin American and Samoan nations.  The American politicians experienced major defeat in these efforts from Latin America as it attempted to enact Pan-American trade in the late 1880s at the first Pan-American Conference, which was universally rejected by Latin America because European products were much cheaper than American products (“American Imperialism” par. 2).  Despite this defeat, the United States made great headway in the 1890s when it demanded that Great Britain revoke its sovereignty over Venezuela during the Venezuelan and British-controlled Guianan border disputes.  This not only proved to be beneficial in Latin America as many nations gave favor to the United States for acting on their behalf to relieve British control, but it also saw an increase in the Monroe Doctrine and Britain consented to the United States which opened the doors for a large increase in foreign policy especially in the hemisphere (“American Imperialism” par. 2).  Finally, the United States also achieved Hawaiian annexation and also obtained control over Pago Pago during a dispute with the Germany navy which almost saw the two sides engage in military battle over the area (“American Imperialism” par. 2 ).

Whether right or wrong, history has proven that the United States became an imperial nation during the 1890s, which culminated in the signing of the Treaty of 1898 to end the Spanish American War.  This time period was highly influential to American foreign policy and industry as it opened up trade routes throughout Latin America and created many key naval bases for expanding trade to Asia by acquiring the Samoan nations and Hawaii.  Nonetheless, the United States proved to become a major imperial power increasing its trade routes, flexing its military muscles and essentially nudging Germany, Great Britain and Spain out of its way as the greatest nation in the world.

Works Cited

“American Imperialism: 1890-1913.” American imperialism. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb 2012. <>.

Coffin, Judith G., and Robert C. Stacey. Western Civilizations 2 From Prehistory to the Present. 2nd Edition. W W Norton & Co Inc, 2009. Web. 13 May 2010. <>.

Task, D.. “The Spanish-American War – The World of 1898.” N.p., 2011. Web. 5 Feb 2012. <>.