HIST 102 AMU week 3 lesson Domestic and Global Challenges American History since 1877 American Military university
Foundations of Empire
For nearly a century, the United States had pushed westward in the quest to fulfill what Americans saw as their goal of Manifest Destiny. This push involved the construction of railroads, the migration of millions of people, and occasionally violent confrontations with the native people of the West. Finally, the dream had been achieved, with the United States spanning from one coast to the other. As the frontier began to close, Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska Purchase, in which the United States acquired its first non-contiguous territory, and sowed the seeds for America’s emergence as an imperial power.
Other nations, such as Great Britain and France, grew their own empires in the nineteenth century in places such as Africa and Asia. The United States sought to do the same, but for somewhat different reasons. In addition to the territory and raw resources that would make the United States a major world power, they were driven by the idea of American exceptionalism. This idea suggested that the United States was a uniquely free country that, unlike any other, was built upon democratic ideals and personal liberty for all. In building an empire, the United States wished to spread the concept of American exceptionalism and in turn build a freer world.
The Spanish-American War
Fighting in the Spanish-American War occurred not only on Cuban soil, where Theodore Roosevelt led his 1st Volunteer Cavalry, the “Rough Riders,” to victory over the Spanish Caribbean fleet, but also on other Spanish territory. Only a week after the war had been declared, U.S. naval troops crossed the Pacific Ocean and entered Manila Bay in the Philippines, destroying the Spanish Pacific fleet in a single day and commencing a U.S. occupation of the Philippines that would last until after the war’s end.
In reality, the Spanish had not been prepared for a war on such distant territory, and combat in the “splendid little war” (as Secretary of State John Hay referred to it) lasted less than three months before the Spanish surrendered. In December of 1898, the Treaty of Paris ceded the Spanish territories of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States, as well as granted independence to Cuba. Spain’s long rule as a colonial power was over, and the United States’ had begun.
- OPEN DOOR POLICY
- PANAMA CANAL
- CONFLICT IN MEXICO
The United States’ relations with other countries also began to change as it continued to develop into a world power. In an attempt to build a diplomatic alliance with China, Secretary of State Hay initiated an “Open Door” policy of free and uninhibited trade towards the Chinese that would shape U.S. foreign policy in other Asian countries as well.
When the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, an uprising in protest of foreign influence in China, threatened the policy, Hay assured China that the United States would respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in all situations. At the same time, the formerly isolationist nation of Japan was emerging as an important modern military power that seemed to have its eyes on Chinese territory.
U.S. Marines fight rebellious Boxers in China.
Origins of World War I
While the United States expanded its territory for the purpose of spreading American ideals like liberty and democracy, European nations grew their own empires for other reasons—chiefly to protect their own economic interests, including raw materials and investments. Over time, the European powers began to silently compete with their empires. In the sixty years between 1850 and 1910, nearly all of Africa was under European control, with only Liberia and Ethiopia independent. In Asia, different countries established “spheres of influence,” with Britain dominating India, France controlling most of Southeast Asia, and the Netherlands occupying Indonesia and the rest of the “Dutch East Indies.” Nations with smaller empires, such as Germany, attempted to compensate by building military power.
America Maintains Its Neutrality
After Germany’s invasion of Belgium in 1914, the United States wasted no time formally declaring its intention to remain neutral. Most Americans supported a non-interventionist policy, and while some urged towards building the military just in case the United States was threatened, President Wilson made it clear that he had no plans to prepare to enter the war. And for two and a half years, the United States did remain out of the conflict.
However, the large-scale loans that the United States made to Great Britain and France were evidence that the country did not entirely remain neutral—and neither did many of its people. The culture of the United States still held to the nation’s strong Anglo-Saxon roots, and the American people soon started to see the Germans as wicked and villainous as reports of atrocities committed by German armies in Belgium and on the Western Front surfaced. Soon, anti-German sentiment had risen to the point that foods with German names such as hamburgers and sauerkraut were called “liberty sandwiches” and “liberty cabbage,” and the music of German-speaking composers like Mozart and Beethoven was banned from American concert halls.
As the war progressed, other events made it increasingly difficult for the United States to remain neutral. In 1915, American newspapers began to warn citizens of the United States against trans-Atlantic travel due to the presence of German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean, which had damaged several American vessels traveling to Europe. Later that year, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania was sunk and destroyed by torpedoes fired by U-boats. More than half of the 1,900 people on board died, including 120 Americans. Not only was there little to justify this attack (the ship was carrying some munitions, though that was not known at the time), but the sinking of the Lusitania also violated international law. Germany pledged not to attack passenger ships with such abandon in the future, but this promise was not kept.
America Enters the War
- ZIMMERMAN TELEGRAM
- FIRSTS FOR THE UNITED STATES
- AFRICAN-AMERICAN SOLDIERS
After Germany broke its pledge to limit warfare using U-boats, the United States ended diplomatic relations with the nation. Anti-German sentiment had risen to a new height after the sinking of the Lusitania, but the United States had still not entered the war. That would soon be changed by a secret message.
In January of 1917, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram to the German minister to Mexico. In this telegram, Zimmermann proposed that Mexico enter the war on Germany’s side and attack the United States in order to provoke its entry into the war. After the United States’ defeat, Mexico would be granted American territory in return.
This message was intercepted by and deciphered by British intelligence before it reached its intended recipient. It was presented to President Wilson in February of 1917, with the American press sharing it a week later. By the time Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies on April 6, 1917, the nation was in a fury to go to war.
Translation of the Zimmerman Telegram.
Mobilizing the Economy
World War I had a significant and mostly positive effect on the U.S. economy. Large amounts of food and supplies, as well as weapons, had to be manufactured and shipped overseas in order to support the war effort. This led to both an increase in industry, and a shortage of finite resources such as coal, which had to be used sparingly in order for there to be enough available for war needs.