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Imperialism DBQ Essays

A.P. U.S. II DBQ
What role did Imperialism play in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Prior to the late 19th century, the United States was preoccupied with domestic affairs and simply used the Monroe Doctrine as their lone foreign policy. By the late 19th century, however, domestic concerns suppressed just enough to let foreign issues take the spotlight. The Industrial Revolution brought mass production, which forced the United States to seek a new global market for trade. America also became increasingly concerned with intervening in Latin American affairs and spreading democracy to less powerful nations. Due to the aforementioned factors, imperialism played a pivotal role in shaping American foreign policy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mass production in factories left surpluses of goods in government warehouses due to the low amount of consumers. Big business owners pushed for and received, through Roosevelt, an aggressive foreign policy that would allow them to gain an expanding overseas market in areas such as China, Japan and the Philippines (Doc. J). Owners saw the rising number of consumers in China as the main focal point for American imperialism. They pushed American policy makers to establish the Open Door Policy, which guaranteed the protection of American interests and reduced tariffs in China (Doc. F). Colonization of other Pacific and Latin American islands became major goals of imperialism due to the need for an expanding market for trade and the increasing influence of big business owners on American foreign policies. American involvement in Latin America was another key factor of imperialism that impacted foreign policy.
Perhaps the most significant foreign policy that came out of American intervention in Latin America was the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Roosevelt Corollary was created to protect American interest groups in Latin America, make sure the nations involved remained civilized, and restrict the ability of European nations trying to trade in that area (Doc. B). Intervention in Latin America, mainly Cuba, also led to the Spanish-American War. When the American naval ship, the USS Maine, exploded in the Havana Harbor, President McKinley immediately decided to go to war after being labeled a coward by yellow journalists. This is a prime example of how incidents in Latin American countries forced presidents to act rapidly and without much thought, causing America to form a bold and aggressive foreign policy. According to the United States, democracy and Christianity were principal elements of a successful society. During the end of the eighteen-hundreds and throughout the beginning of the nineteen-hundreds, America tried to colonize and reform less fortunate nations. Following a social-Darwinist point of view, Americans took their “God-given” superiority to those who were incapable of establishing their own self-government (Doc. H). After much debate, American foreign policy towards the Philippines and Cuba was that it is our duty to rule them until they could rule themselves.
We pledged to save the indigenous people from their savage, bloody, and corrupt ways of life. President McKinley’s foreign policy towards the Philippines stated that “they would soon have anarchy and misrule…there was nothing left to do but take them all, educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize them” (Doc. A). Imperialistic fervor was spreading more than ever during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The United States was eager to propel itself onto the world stage and be included in the conversations of global power. As a direct result of the developing imperialistic fervor, the U.S. was forced to create a new and improved foreign policy. Stretching through the presidencies of William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, an aggressive American foreign policy was formed. Among other things, industrialization, intervention in Latin America, and the desire to spread democracy through the idea of social-Darwinism were leading factors in shaping American foreign policy amongst this time.

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