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American Anti-Imperialism vs. Imperialism

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Anti-imperialism vs. Imperialism American imperialism, beginning prominently in the 1890s, had a number of motives. The dominant directive motive was the demand for markets for profitable investment. There was also the element of inevitable expansion, the "frontier mentality" and the need to secure world standing in order to remain competitive. Finally, there was a religious motivation, the providential charge to bring Christian civilization to foreign cultures. Simultaneously, anti-imperialists argued on behalf of a variety of objections to the pursuit of colonialism categorized into broad categories as constitutional, economic, diplomatic, moral, racial, political, and historical. Quintessentially, the most influential arguments were the economic argument for imperialism and the moral argument for anti-imperialism. One argument was imperialism. Albert Beveridge of Indiana was a leading advocate of American imperialism. In his 1898 March of the Flag speech he presents a case for overseas expansion. Americans were producing more than they could use and foreign markets would increase national prosperity. Acting on Alfred Thayer Mahan's book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, American imperialists felt the need to protect expanding mercantile trade through a strong two-ocean navy, coaling stations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and a canal. ...read more.


In fact, many anti-imperialists believed that imperialist policy was against the spirit of the Constitution, a document that stood the test of time and often served as a source of guidance for citizens of America. They believed that a self-governing republic based on representative rule and protection of liberties cannot govern another country without contradicting its own ideals. Many argued that a nation based on self-government couldn't subjugate other people. There are others who argued that both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution prohibited the establishment of the colonies. Some argued that there cannot be one law for a citizen and another law for a colonial inhabitant. The phrase - "Constitution follows the flag" - sums up the argument put forth by many anti-imperialists. There was also a moral dimension to the Anti-Imperialist arguments. They believed that it was simply wrong for the United States to control the destiny of other people and other countries, a philosophy the average American could sympathize with even relate to considering the increasing number of immigrants. Anti-imperialists primarily cared about the United States which convinced many that they would act in the best interest of its people. ...read more.


Under this view, the colony grabbing of 1898 (Guam, Hawaii, Philippines, Puerto Rico) was only the most obvious episode of American imperialism; it was the short period before the US discovered more subtle methods of economic domination, known as "neo-imperialism". What really made the difference was a sudden shift in opinion among a "Foreign Policy Elite" consisting largely of businessmen, intellectuals, politicians, bureaucrats, and newspapermen. Partially, this shift might have occurred because of economic motivation, especially the search for new markets and the need to protect those markets with coaling stations, as advocated by Mahan. Alternatively, imperialism could have been a continuation of "Manifest Destiny", the ideology that fueled westward expansion. With the West mostly won, people now looked elsewhere to expand. The "Foreign Policy Elite" also may have justified imperial expansion using the theory of Social Darwinism, which suggested that only the strongest nations would survive, and that fierce competition was natural and necessary. Finally, the Foreign Policy Elite might have looked to Europe and followed the example set by European imperialists, in particular Great Britain. Most likely is that some mixture of these various factors all worked together to change the mind of the Foreign Policy Elite regarding the acquisition of an American empire. ...read more.

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