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DBQ 15: The Debate Over American Imperialism

Catriona Whalley

Imperialism was not a proper and legitimate policy for the United States to follow at the turn of the 19th century. Americans defended their country’s attentions with ethnocentric, hypocritical, and overall un-American rationalizations. They imperialized for their own profit and benefit, and had no true justification behind their reasoning.

While Americans did not usually claim that they anted to maintain rule of other territories for American Profit, it was a factor. Some saw the Pacific Ocean as the key to thriving trade in the future; by holding claim to that ocean though ruling the Philippines they would hold “the power that rules the world.” (Doc 5) The country was also needed to meet the US’ growing production demands (Doc 2) For the States to turn the land they acquired over to France or Germany – who were commercial rivals to the US- would harm their own trade. (Doc 3)

If you were to strictly interpret the Declaration of Independence, you would find that the U.S’ reasons for imperializing go against the beliefs set by their founding fathers. The declaration clearly states that you cannot govern any country but your own against their will, even if it is believed that it is for their own good. (Doc 4) The loved President Abraham Lincoln once said, “no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent,” as advocates of self-government, they should have listened to these words of wisdom. Americans also claimed that as a superior, more civilized nation, they held the duty to “led in the regeneration of the world”, to spread their beliefs, customs and religion. (Doc 1) The declaration cites that “All men are created equally,” therefore all men outside of the U.S should be treated as equals to Americans. (O.I)

In the past the United States made foreign countries sign a document called the Monroe Doctrine; this contract banned...
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