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U.S. Foreign Policy from 1890-1914

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Topics: United States
McKinley's presidency starting in 1896 restored American prosperity through the use of higher tariffs and the return to a gold standard. Foreign nations became dependent on the United States' prosperity because economic problems, such as crop failures, were affecting their stability. This along with many other factors developed America's strong sense of nationalism. The concept of social Darwinism was applied not only to domestic concerns, but to foreign concerns as well. Americans felt that their previous abilities to empower themselves over the Native Americans set as a precedent for their capability to influence foreign nations. America looked beyond its borders for new markets because after the closing of the frontier, a fear of possible resource depletion swept through the nation. America's desire to colonize foreign nations was driven by economic intentions especially in Hawaii and Samoa, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. The United States' involvement in trade with China made the importance of Hawaii and the Samoan islands evident. These islands acted as a stop for ships in the midst of their journey to Asia. American influence on the islands existed by America's growing population settling there. For these two reasons, the United States' navy looked at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as a permanent naval base and Pago Pago in Samoa. American settlers in Hawaii gradually drew the power away from Hawaiian leaders causing struggles for power. King Kamehameha became dominant over rival Hawaiian communities and acted hospitable toward American merchants. American trade with Asia flourished causing missionaries to travel through Hawaii and William Hooper of Boston to establish sugar plantations there, with many Asian immigrants working them. Americans' presences in Hawaii halved the Hawaiian population through disease and destroyed their religion and culture. In 1898, a disputed annexation of Hawaii was confirmed to restore a dwindling situate in the sugar trade. America wrested a treaty from the Samoa establishing Samoan island Pago Pago as an American naval base. Disputes arose with Great Britain and Germany who also held treaties with Samoa, but the nations agreed to allocate powers. The United States' disposition on the islands was focused on their own benefit, never attempting to be of assistance to the islands. Cuba had been rebelling against Spanish rule for decades and the United States never intruded. America claimed that the reason for their involvement in 1895 was to assist Cuba against Spanish slaughter, but they hadn't thought about involving themselves until their trade for sugar with Cuba was cut off. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff of 1894 placed high taxes on sugar, destructing Cuba's sugar market and causing the discontinuation of trade with the United States. Cuba had acted as America's primary sugar market. President Cleveland and successor, McKinley, desired to stay neutral, but the revealing of the Spanish De Lome letter and the sinking of the Maine in 1898 presented no other option. The De Lome letter was written by a Spanish minister criticizing President McKinley. The letter built tension in the United States and when an American battleship, the Maine, blew up in a Cuban harbor, Spain was held responsible. Spanish suffered many losses against the United States and later surrendered. Spain agreed to an armistice, recognizing Cuban independence, and giving up Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States.
Puerto Rico gained some independence from Spain, but was placed in the hands of the United States. The United States colonized in Puerto Rico with the power to veto any Puerto Rican legislature. The United States annexed Puerto Rico in 1917 under the Jones Act. America's taking part in Puerto Rico was because of their flourishing sugar market which helped the United States economy. The armistice that gave Puerto Rico to the United States also allowed American activity to take place in the Philippines. The United States influenced themselves in foreign nations for their own benefit. McKinley did not support the annexation of the Philippines, but did not want to end up with a cowardly name on the United States. He therefore decided to spread American influence in the unfit Philippines through converting the people and educating them. Filipinos rebelled against Americans, but later pledged allegiance to the United States. The United States helped the Philippines to become a stronger nation, but although the Filipino colony did not help to expand the American economy, it helped to give it a good name. American imperialism in the most part helped to justify the strength of the American economy and their superiority over other nations.

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