American Isolationism Before the End of World War I

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Before the end of World War I, the United States at first was very un-isolationistic. Before the war, America was a very expansionist nation. It had taken up military occupation in Cuba in 1906, taken the Philippines, taken hold of the country of Panama, and begun relations with Japan and China. But when World War I suddenly occurred, it was an unprecedented war. Never before had America seen such a large war that involved so many countries. The devastation that resulted from the war dispirited many Americans, and the problem of foreign nations not properly paying back U.S. war debts created some resentment among the American people as they felt they might have been cheated. Isolationism, it seemed at the time, was the best way to avoid foreign entanglements that might lead to another war that might have more disastrous effects.

The first step to carrying out this new isolationistic policy was for America to put a stop to the overwhelming foreign influence on the nation. The first law that reflected this attitude was the Emergency Quota Act of 1921. It limited the immigration of European foreigners to America to 3 percent of the people of their nationality who had been living in the United States in 1910. Then three years later came the Immigration Act of 1924, which cut the quota for foreigners from 3 percent to 2 percent and shifted the national-origins base from the census of 1910 to that of 1890. This virtually stopped immigration to the United States in order to cut down on foreign influence. With immigration almost nonexistent, the United States sought to separate itself from foreign nations and their entanglements. To accomplish this, America did not join the League of Nations and refused to fully accept the Treaty of Versailles. Tariffs were yet another tool in isolating America from foreign countries. The trend of higher tariffs continued, making in incredibly difficult for any European products to enter the American market.

America was determined...
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