American Expansion and Imperialism Essay
Across all of time, imperialism and expansion from country to country has been widespread. From the Holy Roman empire, to the expansion of Germany in World War II, expansion has been a common occurrence in history for hundreds of years. However, some question the morality of expansion. Isn’t it better to just leave countries alone? That was a very common question during the late 1800’s, when imperialism and expansion became more widespread in America. Many people questioned the morality and justification of this expansion.
American expansion was not justified, because America was already becoming very successful, and did not actually need those extra territories it took over. During the Spanish-American war, America was divided. Everybody had their own opinion on imperialism and expansion, and tensions were high. Politics were cutthroat, and people had extremely strong opinions on their cause. During this time, persuasive media materials such as newspaper articles and political cartoons were vastly popular among the citizens of the United States. Many of these cartoons depicted a character named Uncle Sam, who is commonly known as a symbol for the United States. In many of these cartoons, he is directly interacting with immigrants, specifically Asian, African American, and Hispanic individuals. Often, many of these depictions of these people of color were racist caricatures, and often depicted negative stereotypes of each of these races. One notable cartoon shows Uncle Sam carrying these people to “civilization”. This cartoon shows an image of Uncle Sam, straining, with a basket full of African American people on his shoulders. These African Americans are racist caricatures, and below them, it shows that Uncle Sam is carrying them over rocks painted with negative words such as “ignorance”, “oppression”, and “barbarism”. In the distance, there is a golden rock, painted with the word “civilization”. This is just an example of the ways some Americans would try to justify imperialism and expansion during this time, even though they knew in the back of their minds that they were hurting innocent people.
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Some people may have argued that expansion and imperialism was helping those being captured by the white man. They made the argument that they were bringing the natives to civilization, and helping them to escape for their savage ways and backwards lifestyle.Many people, specifically the younger generation during the time, had a strong belief that it was the moral duty of the the United States, as the more powerful country, to “uplift backwards societies” However, the natives themselves disagreed. Many people spoke out against expansion and imperialism, saying that it was wrong and could not be justified, regardless of the circumstances. However, despite all of this, there were many compelling arguments for American expansion and imperialism. During this time in history, the United States was becoming increasingly dependant upon foreign trade. This was a large problem, specifically because of the United States’ unique location; across the Atlantic ocean and at least 2000 miles away from any and all trading partners. Because of this predicament, it was imperative that the United States find some way to trade across the ocean without spending a very large portion of money on ships and working to get their imports and exports across the Atlantic Ocean. To many people, as well as many politicians, imperialism seemed like it may just be the best option to keep America thriving on foreign trade programs. However, this ease of trade would have to come with a heavy cost. As a direct result of the United States expanding their territory overseas, the natives of whatever land the United States claimed would pay the price.
The specific natives that had their lives turned upside down by American colonization were the people of the Philippines. Many of the people of America also had large problems with the invasion of the Philippines, and protested passionately against it. On June 15th, 1898, hundreds of people gathered in Boston, Massachusetts to oppose the annexation of the Philippines and organize the anti imperialist movement Ultimately, the United States ended up seizing control of a group of small Polynesian Islands off of the coast of the Pacific Ocean. These small landforms eventually became the Hawaiian Islands. The struggle for and against imperialism and expansion within the United States was a great one. This extremely controversial topic divided the country back then, and Americans today could still learn a lesson from it: American Expansion was not justified, because America was already becoming very successful, and did not actually need those extra territories it took over. Every American could learn to respect other cultures and races, and learn to be satisfied with what it has already.