The Birth of the American Imperial Spirit
The seeds of American Imperialism were laid throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The values that motivated powerful European nations, such as Spain and Great Britain, spurred the expansion of the United States. There was a devout belief that the United States government had the moral imperative to conquer all of North America and to convert the natives to the "American way of life". Eventually, this set of values and political beliefs would be termed "Manifest Destiny".
The growth of the United States territory during the 19th century was gradual and deliberate. The original 13 colonies comprised the land between the Atlantica coast and the Appalachain Mountains. The Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the overall territory of the United States. This ushered in an era of progress and expansion. However, one must remember that this progress and expansion was made at the cost of the native Americans. The policy of Manifest Destiny implied that the native culture was inferior to the values of Christianity, Capitalism, and Democracy. Legislation such as the Dawes Act implemented mechanisms of assimilation. The official goal was to create a unified society in which the white man and the native would prosper
together. Unfortunatley, the legacy of Manifest Destiny was that the natives lost most of the ancestral burial grounds, hunting grounds, and their homelands. The Homesteaders and the Railroads were promoted at the expense of the native tribes of North America. Inventions such as the telegraph, the Bessemer Steel Process, and barbed wire combined with phenomena like the California Gold Rush completed the expansion of the United States of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The Spanish-American War
The creation of this North American "Empire" enabled the United States to enter the world stage as a major economic, political, and military power. The Monroe Doctrine, crafted in the early 19th century, was drafted as a means of protecting the young nation from potential threats from the major European powers of the day. President Monroe considered the Western hemisphere to be the primary "shere of influence" for the United States. Any threat to the area was to be construed as a threat to the national security of the United States of America. The philosophy of the Monroe Doctrine served the US well until the country began to emerge as as an industrial and military world power. The United States first major step onto the world stage came
with the Spanish-American war in 1898. The call to war came from a variety of sources. Tops amongst that list were a group of journalists that came put forth a style known as "yellow journalism" that adamantly called for war against the Spanish Empire. The United States of America declared war on Spain on April 25th, 1898. The War was short lived, yet significant foreign policy gains were made by the United States. At the end of the war the United States gained control of the Phillipines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The United States arrived on the world stage as an Imperial power - 1) it defeated a major European Imperial power, Spain 2) it possessed a dominant and powerful Navy 3) the US economy was growing and expanding at an unprecedented rate 4) the US had acquired territories, the final step in becoming an Imperial power.