As the 19th century came to a close, many voices cried for American expansionism to match the imperialistic ambitions of Europe and Japan. The dream for global destiny was justified by such logic as the expansion of overseas markets, desire for a stronger navy, and the spreading of Christianity to uncivilized peoples around the globe. Eventually, this expansionism translated into conflict, climaxing in 1898 with the Spanish-American War.
James G. Blaine, Pan-Americanism: As Secretary of State, Blaine fostered closer U.S.-Latin American relations and brought about the first Pan-American Congress in order to forge commercial, social, economic, military, and political cooperation among the 21 republics of North, Central, and South America.
Venezuelan boundary dispute: Venezuela had a dispute over its boundary with the British Colony of Guiana. In 1895, while the British refused to resolve the issue, United States Secretary of State Richard Olney sent a message to London declaring that the US would be "practically sovereign on this content."
Bering Sea seal controversy: When the US purchased Alaska in 1867, it included some small Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. Congress leased the island to a US company which killed seals with the understanding that they would not kill more than 10,000 male seals per year. This led to the regulation of pelagic sealing in 1893.
"Yellow journalism": Two rival newspapers in New York City, William Randolph Hearst’s Journal, and Joseph Pulitzer’s World, sensationalized editorializing on the issues to increase circulation. One of Hearst’s gimmicks was "The Yellow Kid," which gave the name of Yellow Journalism to this tactic.
Josiah Strong, Our Country: Reverend Josiah Strong wrote the book Our Country: Its Possible Future and Present Crisis expressing his fears of the inability of relief organizations to cope with the explosive growth of the urban poor in the 1870’s and 1880’s.
Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890) helped create and develop the expansionist movement. Mahan, former head of the Navy War College at Newport, Rhode Island wanted to expand United States Navy to build an isthmusian canal, and to establish strategic colonies as cooling stations, and to protect US political and economic interests.
Samoa, Pago Pago: America’s Navy wanted to establish a port in the Samoan Islands, so their ships could refuel in the island of Pago Pago. This was an example of the United States Navy’s expansion efforts in the pacific. Their goal was to obtain more ports so they could have more ships out on the ocean to control the seas.
Virginius: In 1873 a Spanish gunboat captured the Virginius, a ship fraudulently flying the American flag, in Cuba. Secretary of State Fish and the Spanish minister came together in Washington and signed a protocol bringing the end to the Virginius affairs. Spain paid the US $80,000.
de Lôme letter: On February 8, 1898, Hearst’s Journal published a private letter written by Spanish minister to the United States Depuy de Lôme regarding his reservations for Cuban independence and disparaging President McKinley. Many Americans would have agreed, but they resented hearing it from a Spanish diplomat.
Maine explodes: When an explosion rocked the Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, killing 266 American crewmen, irritation turned to outrage. A review of the evidence later concluded that a ship-board ammunition explosion caused the blast. Still, a navy inquiry blamed the blast on a "Spanish mine."
Teller Amendment: The U.S. had been motivated o war in part by the desire to aid the Cubans in their attempt to liberate themselves from the colonial rule of Spain. To this end the Teller Ammendment was added to the Declaration of War. It speciffically prohibited the annexation of Cuba, as a cause of the war.
Spanish-American War: The Spanish-American War lasted just three months with only a few days of actual combat. Action started on May 1, 1898, when George Dewey’s fleet steamed into Manila Bay in the Philippines and seized or destroyed all ten Spanish ships anchored there. The war ended after Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera attempted to break through American forces losing 474 men. The Filipinos celebrated their freedom from four hundred years of Spanish rule on July 4,1898.
Assistant Secretary of Navy Theodore Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt was appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President William McKinley in 1897. Roosevelt was an impatient disciple in the Spanish-American War, acting largely on his own. In 1898, Roosevelt resigned to become second in command of the Rough Riders.
Commodore Dewey, Manila Bay: The first action of the Spanish-American War came in 1898 when Commodore George Dewey’s fleet steamed into Manila Bay in the Philippines. This fleet destroyed and captured all ten Spanish ships that were assigned in Manila Bay. One American and 381 Spanish men died in the attempt.
Cleveland and Hawaii: In 1887 the United States gained the right to establish a naval port in Pearl Harbor. President Grover Cleveland was troubled with the crisis in Hawaii since Hawaiians claimed to want annexation. However, once their queen was overthrown, Hawaiians were uncertain if they wanted annexation at all.
Queen Liluokalani: Liluokalani was the Queen of Hawaii who did not like Americans since they built their port in Pearl Harbor. Queen Liluokalani was overthrown when Hawaii’s sugar prices dropped 40% and planters wanted the independent Republic of Hawaii.
Annexation of Hawaii: In 1890 under the McKinley Tariff, domestic sugar growers ended the duty-free status of Hawaiian sugar. After Hawaii’s sugar prices dropped 40% and Queen Liluokalani was overthrown, the Hawaiians decided to request United States annexation.
Rough Riders, San Juan Hill: The battle of San Juan Hill was fought on July 1, 1898 during the American advance on Santiago during the Spanish-American War. A division including the Rough Riders, under the command of General Kent, captured the hill, placing the American army on high ground overlooking Santiago.
Treaty of Paris, 1898: The Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War and developed an American empire overseas. In the treaty, Spain agreed to abandon Cuba and exchange Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to America for $20 million. The treaty gave the United States a new imperialistic reputation.
American Anti-Imperialist League: The critics of imperialism were many and influential. Forming the Anti-Imperialist League, they believed that every country captured by the U.S. had the same rights under the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico: By the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Spain recognized Cuba’s independence and ceded the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the Pacific Island of Guam to the United States in exchange for $20 million. As 1899 dawned Americans possessed an island empire from the Caribbean to the Pacific.
Walter Reed: In 1900 Walter Reed was appointed to the Yellow Fever Commission as a result of his investigation of the disease. After being sent to Cuba to find out more about Yellow Fever, he discovered that the disease was carried by a mosquito. He later became a curator at Army Medical Museum and a professor at Army Medical College.
Insular Cases: The decisions regarding whether the Constitution applies to Puerto Rico and the Philippines are known as the Insular Cases. They ruled that the residents are inhabitants but not citizens of the United States. Because of this ruling, these countries were not honored by the Constitution and were treated as colonies.
Platt Amendment: Senator Orville Platt, at the request of the War department, made a revised bill to remove some of the restrictions stated in the Teller Amendment. The Platt Amendment stated that the United States would withdraw from Cuba if they did not sign a treaty with any other foreign power. It also gave the United States the right to interfere with Cuba if they believed that it was not a fit enough country to take care of itself. Also, they established the right to hold a naval base in Cuba.
Protectorate: When a more powerful state controls the economy, foreign affairs, or police power of another state, it is considered a protectorate. In the case of the United States, Cuba was a protectorate as a result of the Platt Amendment. Other examples might include Nicuaragua, the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and other Pacific islands.
Aguinaldo, Philippine insurrection: In 1896 Emilio Aguinaldo started a Filipino movement for independence to get out of Spain’s control. When Spain surrendered, Aguinaldo drew up a constitution and proclaimed the Philippines’s independence. When the Treaty of Paris gave the United States power over the Philippines, Aguinaldo became angry and tried to fight. He soon realized that he would lose and gave up.
Secretary of State John Hay, Open Door Notes: John Hay’s Open Door Notes was a policy that explained the importance of American commercial influence on foreign policies. The Open Door Notes stated that the pre-thought "informal empire" was correct as opposed to overseas colonies being favored by imperial power.
Boxer Rebellion: The Boxers, a secret group of Chinese men known as I Ho Ch’uan, opposed Christianity in their country. Numbering 140,000, the Boxers killed thousands of foreigners as well as Chinese suspected of being Christian. British, American, Russian, Japanese and French soldiers were sent to China to end the "Boxer Rebellion."
Extraterritoriality: Extraterritoriality is a principle in international law that allows certain visiting foreign citizens or their property to be exempt from the laws of a host nation. Foreign heads of states traveling abroad and diplomats representing their home countries are examples of people benefiting from extraterritoriality.
Most favored nation clause: The most favored nation clause is a commercial treaty that regulates special low tariffs on goods imported to the United States. All countries awarded the Special Nation Status must be treated equally. Duties for the same group of goods should be the same low regardless from which country signatory of the status they are imported.