Causes of Imperialism
Imperialism in late 19th century America involved both territorial and economic expansion, but not necessarily at the same time or in the same place. Imperialism was an international phenomenon, but the Americans, who had the whole continent to provide raw materials and domestic markets, had little compulsion to acquire more territory, in contrast with the Europeans and Japanese that had an entirely different attitude toward imperialism. America’s causes for imperialism were the belief of cultural superiority, thirst for new markets, and the desire for better military strength.
Americans wanted to ensure that the European countries would not overtake the western hemisphere. Imperialism in England had partitioned much of Africa and set its sights on other countries as well. Fearing that America would be left in the background, Americans looked to theorists for answers. Some theorists argued that imperialism was the natural result of struggling people attempting to survive. Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution stated that nations or races would constantly struggle for survival and that only the “fittest could survive (Brinkley, 2009).” Darwin’s theory basically stated that it was only natural for strong nations and races to want to dominate weaker nations and races. This was an extension of Manifest Destiny spreading to all parts of the world. Americans extended their belief in Manifest Destiny overseas, justifying imperialism as God’s will. American imperialists believed they were the fittest nation because they were racially superior. Reverend Josiah Strong published Our Country, which predicted that the English-speaking Protestant people were superior and would triumph over any other religion. Secretary of State John Hay believed that peace and order in the world depended on its domination by Anglo-Saxons. Most Americans were Anglo-Saxon and the belief that Christianity should be the main religion was highly prominent.
America was looking for areas to take over for colonizing. They were also looking for a cheap labor force and plenty of raw natural resources with which to fuel the United States economy. The people of America were afraid of the frontier closing, and in doing so creating insufficient amount of natural resources (Brinkley, 2009). Many resources were needed such as rubber, tin, and copper. Economic factors did not compel the United States to dominate noncontiguous lands, but advocates of imperialism stressed that the nation needed markets for growing surpluses of agricultural crops, raw materials, and manufactured goods to avert disastrous downturns in the business cycle like the one that began in 1893. Frederick Jackson Turner argued that foreign commerce was needed as a safety valve to relieve economic downfalls like overproduction. A severe economic depression with widespread employment, violent strikes, low farm income, and a divisive debate over the currency attracted politicians to an imperialist venture that would divert attention for tensions in the United States.
The Panic of 1893 had a substantial amount of influence in the imperialism…