Influence of sea power upon history

After reconstruction America's empire or the influence of it first started to spread across North America itself. this influence included the ideaology of imperialism which was basically social darwinism or "The White mans Burden". This ideaology which was very prevalent in the late 19th century also appeared in early US history when we decided to bring "our" religion into NA to everyone and "help" them by forcing the natives to integrate into our system, regardless if they were open to our ideas or not. The same aspect appears in the late 19th century after reconstruction except without the racial aspect involved. Instead the ideaology was applied to economics, giving those with wealth power.(In-class Notes)

The first evidence of this happening was in 1862 when U.S. vitally needed a way to transport goods across the country, leaving a gap to be filled by the railroad companies. The few railroad companies were basically able to monopolize all of the profit out of continuous westward railroad expansion. As the railroads expanded Lincoln also passed what is called the homstead act of 1862, allowing any white man to apply for a federal land grant out west. This essentially was giving white men free land out west. This heavily influenced the expansion of American influence throughout North America, but these lands were also already occupied by native americans leading to the idea that they were an "obstacle to civilization". This brings the imperialism ideals back into the picture meaning since the U.S. was the fittest they believed they had the right to occupy the area and use the native americans for personal profits. Needless to say this lead to conflict but ultimately played the native americans into the hands of american capitalism.(In-class Notes)

After the quickly evolving american influence dominated the majority of North America the next frontier was to move on into latin american areas. The most obvious first choice was to take over Mexico. Although the tactics used were not typical for the original way Americans conquered an area, rather than using military tactics and violence Americans simply used the dominating force of the American economy. Throughout 1880-1910 U.S. corporations started to take over the Mexican economy, eventually owning 98% of the economy.(In-class Notes) After Mexico the U.S. decided to move on to Cuba who was vulnerable after the 10 year war which took place in 1868-1878. Cuba was still seeking independence from Spain and continued to rebel. The U.S. wanted to help Cuba gain independence partly because, i believe, the U.S. recognized the similarities between the creation of the U.S. and the Cubans current situation. Most importantly the U.S. did not want to lose the source of sugar that Cuba supplied. At the time about 90% of Cuba's exports went directly to the U.S.. The U.S. merchants being effected heavily by the loss of Cuba's sugar pressured president McKinley to negotiate with spain.("The Spanish-American war, 1898" Paragraph 1-4)

On February 15th 1898 a ship called the USS Maine, that was sent to havana harbor to keep the peace in Cuba, was mysteriously sunk with an explosion which prompted the U.S. to send troops to cuba in accordance with the Monroe doctrine. This soon prompted the Spanish to break off any relations with the U.S. and caused the U.S. to declare war on Spain on April 25th 1898. The idea of America's manifest destiny was starting to become more of a reality. After war was declared with Spain the U.S. started to weed out the spanish forces in Cuba and move over towards the philipines. Like Cuba, the philipino people were seeking independence without the occupation of a dominant government presence. It seemed apparent in the philipines that Cuba in reality just traded the Spanish for the U.S. and did not want a similar fate. Ultimately the power was with the U.S. and spanish which lead to the independence of the Philipines. After the defeat of the Spanish in Cuba and the Philipines, the Spanish sought peace which led to the U.S. acquiring the occupied areas and the treaty of Paris in 1898. Although a minority of U.S. citizens believed American imperialism was against our nations base beliefs, manifest destiny succeded in the majority of the American minds. The U.S. now were essentially watching over "lesser" or "unfit" civilizations while continually expanding in power and economy.

Throughout the spanish-american war many leaders had direct influence on our initial and final domination of many of the undeveloped regions of the world. Probably the most important person during this period of time was Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a driving force behind the progressive movement which believed heavily in the obligation to intervene in world issues and could be said to have links to American manifest destiny or the idea of the American empire. in 1897 roosevelt was appointed assistant secretary of the navy by McKinley. Roosevelt believed that the U.S. had an obligation to help those seeking independence as well as undeveloped areas. When the spanish-american wore broke out Roosevelt even resigned from the assistant secretary of the navy and formed an all volunteer cavalry regiment known famously as the the "rough riders". Heading directly into Cuba to support his beliefs. Soon after the Spanish-American war in 1901 Roosevelt was elected president of the U.S. and started to push for American imperialism and continued his support for the Monroe doctrine and "insisted that we must not only bow to it in theory, but be prepared to defend it if necessary by force of arms." (Thayer, 58). Roosevelt added the "Roosevelt collorary" to the Monroe Doctrine which outlined the justification for dominating undeveloped areas. Roosevelt also played an important role in the construction of the Panama canal agreeing with Britian to maintain free passage.(Thayer, 123)

Another important leader or someone who held great influence was Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan wrote "The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783" which outlined various ways for a nation to hold power through naval activities. It held many ideas related to imperialism and makes a distinction on the importance in holding overseas posesions. Mahan justified imperialism basically by saying if we have security in our wealth and power we will never fall as a nation.("Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History: Securing international markets in the 1890s.")

Overall the exansion of American influence across North America, Latin America, and Asia was fast and involved plenty of conflict. The standing of the U.S. as a world power became apparent. The idea behind Manifest Destiny became a reality with the acquisition of oversea lands and with the U.S. Western dominance driven by leaders and authors such as Roosevelt, McKinley, and Mahan justifying their actions morally and economically.

  • "Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History: Securing international markets in the 1890s." US Department of State., Web. 1 Mar 2010. .
  • Thayer, William Roscoe. Theodore Roosevelt; an intimate biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919;, 2000. xiii, 474 p. facsims., plates, ports. 23 cm [March 1, 2010].
  • "The Spanish-American War, 1898." U.S. Department of State, Web. 1 Mar 2010. .

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