Why Did the Us Engage in a More Assertive Foreign Policy Around the Turn of the 20th Century?

Topics: United States, Economy of the United States, International trade Pages: 6 (1906 words) Published: May 17, 2009
 Immediately prior to the turn of the twentieth century the United States began to engage in a more assertive foreign policy. There have been numerous speculations of why that the United States decided to engage in a more aggressive foreign policy, but the main factors are clear. The United States required a stronger foreign policy because of the economic, strategic, and political interests that the United States held in foreign markets. Theses interests were necessary in order to continue the strong economic growth the United States had been experiencing immediately prior to the turn of the century.

The US for the first time, saw the need to expand its global market operations by means of increasing the amount of goods being exported. This would allow the US to continue the economic growth and stability that had seen in years prior to the turn of the century. In a time when the most powerful nations on earth were the greatest traders, foreign economic expansion symbolized national structure and security and by the early 1910’s American’s had a global vision.

In 1865 United States exports totaled $234 million, but by 1900 they had skyrocketed to $1.5 billion, and by 1914 to $2.5 billion1. Both of these increases were a result of stronger domestic policy; however the second increase would not have come about without a significant growth in foreign markets. This growth was a direct result of an aggressive foreign policy change in order to expand US foreign relations.

There were signs prior to 1898 that the United States was going to engage in a more aggressive foreign policy, however most of these signs were positive and were widely accepted. The United States main goal in establishing aS more aggressive foreign policy was to increase its status as a world trade leader which not only meant having a power house militarily but also a strong economy which was not based solely on domestic trading.

Before the 1890’s the United States had never taken a strong foreign policy standpoint mainly because the United States had not yet fully developed itself prior to that point; in other words, the United States had not taken advantage of all of its resources within its borders such as, the unclaimed and undeveloped land in the west. However, by 1890 the United States had settled the majority of the West, forcing most of the Indians onto reservations, seizing their land, and Americans had moved from agricultural jobs into industrial ones. One example of this development was the fact that in 1869 the US completed the first trans-continental railroad stretching from the east to the west coast. The completion of the railroad had been fueled by the industrial revolution, and it allowed for transportation and exportation of crops, and other goods worldwide, instead of locally as it had previously been. The industrial revolution had increased productivity in the United States economy by more than 100% by the competition of the industrial revolution2. This increase in production combined with the significant increase in the amount of immigrants coming to America led to an additional increase in production of nearly 100%3. This 200% increase in production combined with the completion of the railroad created a significant surplus of domestically produced goods in the United States. The United States government officials saw exporting as the main solutions to this problem. In fact in 1874 the United States reversed its historically unfavorable balance of trade, and began a favorable trade balance, exporting more than it was importing4.

However, there were downfalls to depending on exports so heavily. For example agricultural goods accounted for about 23 of all exports in 1990, which meant farmers livelihoods were tied to world-market conditions and the outcome of foreign wars.5 This meant that the US required strong foreign ties, and for the first time in history was reliant on the outcome of foreign relations. With these...
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