The Path of Empire, 1890-1899
In the 1890s a number of economic and political forces sparked a spectacular burst of imperial expansionism for the United States that culminated in the Spanish-American War—a war that began over freeing Cuba and ended with the highly controversial acquisition of the Philippines.
Various developments provoked the previously isolated United States to turn its attention overseas in the 1890s. Among the stimuli for the new imperialism were the desire for new economic markets, the sensationalist appeals of the “yellow press,” missionary fever, Darwinist ideology, great power-rivalry, and naval competition.
Strong American intervention in the Venezuelan boundary dispute of 1895-96 demonstrated an aggressive new assertion of the Monroe Doctrine and led to a new British willingness to accept American domination in the Western Hemisphere. Longtime American involvement in Hawai’i climaxed in 1893 in a revolution against native rule by white planters. President Cleveland temporarily refused to annex the islands, but the question of incorporating Hawai’i into the United States triggered the first full-fledged imperialistic debate in American history.
The “splendid little” Spanish-American War began in 1898 over American outrage abut Spanish oppression of Cuba. American support for the rebellion had been whipped up into intense popular fervor by the “yellow press.” After the “mysterious” explosion in February 1898 of the USS Maine, this public passion pushed the reluctant President McKinley into war, even though Spain was ready to concede on the major issues.
An astounding first development of the war was Admiral Dewey’s naval victory in May 1898 in the rich Spanish islands of the Philippines in East Asia. Then in August, American troops, assisted by Filipino rebels, captured the Philippine city of Manila in another dramatic victory. Despite confusion, American forces also easily and quickly overwhelmed the Spanish in Cuba and Puerto Rico.
After long and bitter debate over the wisdom and justice of American imperialism, which ended in a narrow proimperialist victory in the Senate, the United States took over the Philippines and Puerto Rico as colonial possessions. Regardless of serious doubts about imperialism, the United States had strongly asserted itself as a proud new international power.
Rev. Josiah StrongOur Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis Social Darwinism
Capt. Alfred T. MahanThe Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 James G. Blaine
Pan-American Conference (1889)
Venezuela Crisis: 1895-1896Richard Olney Monroe Doctrine Hawaiian commercial reciprocity (1875)Hawaiian Treaty (1887) McKinley Tariff (1890)
Pres. Cleveland and Hawai’i
“yellow journalism”William R. HearstJoseph Pulitzer
Dupuy de Lome
McKinley’s war attitudesDeclaration of War 11 April, 1898 Teller Amendment
Treaty of Paris 1898
“White Man’s Burden” Rudyard Kipling
Past APUSH essay questions from this area of study:
1.Analyze the factors that influenced the Senate in ratifying the treaty of Paris in 1899 and assess the relative significance. Your analysis and assessment should take into account the complexities and/or contradictions presented by the evidence. (DBQ, 1975—Mr. D has the documents)
2.Both the Mexican War and the Spanish-American War were premeditated affairs resulting from deliberately calculated schemes of robbery on the part of a superior power against weak and defenseless neighbors. Assess the validity of this statement. (FRQ, 1986)
3.Compare the debates that took place over American expansionism in the 1840s with those that took place in the 1890s, analyzing the similarities and the differences in the debate of the two eras. (FRQ, 1992)...