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THE 1890s: REASONS FOR AMERICAN IMPERIALISM

By the 1890s many American leaders began to have new attitudes toward imperialistic adventures abroad. The reasons for this were also numerous, At the forefront of those pushing for an aggressive American policy abroad were various industrial leaders, who feared that the United States would soon produce more than it could ever consume. New dependent states could prove to be markets for these goods. Some in business also perceived that in the future, industries would need raw materials that could simply not be found in America (rubber and petroleum products, for example). In the future, America would need dependent states to provide these materials.

Other influential Americans stated that it was important for political reasons that America expand. Bases would be needed in the future in the Pacific, many claimed—thus the need to acquire strategic locations in that region. Many of those interested in reviving the American navy also were very interested in imperialistic adventures; the Naval Act of 1900 authorized the construction of battleships that would be clearly offensive in nature. A major supporter of naval expansion was Captain Alfred T. Mahan, who in 1890 wrote The Influence of Sea Power upon History, which stated that to be economically successful America must gain new markets abroad; the navy would have to be expanded to accomplish this.

Other factors accounted for increased American interest abroad in the 1890s. The concepts of Social Darwinism were used by supporters of imperialism, as were ideas, many imported from Europe, about the racial superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race. Our Country, written in 1885 by Josiah Strong, stated that God has appointed the Anglo-Saxons to be their “brother’s keepers.” Some Americans believed in Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” and felt it was their duty to go over and civilize the “inferior races” of African and Asia. This was also the period where American missionaries felt the time was right to Christianize the “heathen” of these regions. Others, including Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, feared that the American spirit would be sapped by the closing of the frontier and suggested that adventures abroad might help to offset this. It should also be remembered that a new generation of Americans, less affected by the horrors of the Civil War, were now in positions of power in Washington, DC.

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