American Imperialism: Characteristics

American Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century extended from several characteristics of America and American society, including but not limited to exceptionalism and manifest destiny. While these beliefs not only supported and manifested the perpetual effort to exploit and later completely oppress and subjugate the Native American populations within its borders, they also supported the later establishment of reservations and the practice of Native American boarding school education. But, American Imperialism extended far beyond its ever-expanding territory (Yale, 2008, Avalon Project).

Rather, evidence existed in many corners of the world, like Asia, Southeast Asia, and Cuba. American Imperialism informed numerous unequal relationships and unequal trade agreements including the ones entered into after each Opium War (Asia for Educators, 2008). In fact, Americans not only had military presence in China and the Philippines but also within Cuba (Halsell, 1997, p. 1; Lett, 2008, p. 403). In this way, it mirrored its European counterparts and sought domination over populations it perceived as “lesser” in accordance with Social Darwinism and its principles (Halsell, 1997; Larson, 1998).

Accordingly, Halsell (1997) contends that these American imperialist acts demonstrate America’s belief that the Judeo-Christian philosophy and worldview coupled with the worldview substantiated by Social Darwinism and its focus on the “survival of the fittest” merely strengthened American ambition and its actions extending from Manifest destiny (Larson, 1998). Therefore, these contentions and beliefs fused with American desire for more power, affluence and influence induced its Imperialist actions (Suffolk Community College, 2010, p. 1).

Not all Americans agreed with these policies and actions, especially after the Civil War. Not only had Americans realized the costs and consequences of subjugation and equality, but they understood how disparate rights coauthored the military battles, the upheaval, damage and inherent suffering such conditions inevitably produced. Therefore, some Americans argued that it was un-American to engage in colonial acts. Moreover, it more accurately made America the oppressor and therefore deemed its founding documents and the beliefs therein invalid (Halsell, 1997, p. 1).

In fact, Halsell (1997) articulates that American Imperialism is contrary to “the spirit of 1776” (p. 1). Americans began increasingly questioning the American government’s actions and policies regarding the aforementioned reasons. Subjugating people in the Philippines, in China before, during and after the Opium Wars and in both the Hawaiian Islands and the Aleutian Islands clearly violated the most sacred American beliefs. More importantly, these actions violated the very principles upon which America was founded, the principles that cohesively held a nation together.

For these reasons, this inspired debate and divisions among the American people and among government officials and representatives. Yet, America essentially picked up where other Colonial countries left off. For example, it assumed Spain’s role after its victory in the Spanish American war. Accordingly, it continued Spain’s military suppression of the people in the Philippines. While Halsell (1997) clearly states that many Americans counter-argued these actions contending that the Filipinos deserved freedom, American military efforts persisted from 1861 until 1899 (p. 1).

Culminating in the ultimate oppression and subjugation of the Filipino population, American Imperialism denied the Filipinos equal rights, freedom and their own pursuit of happiness and/or any sense of self-determinism (p. 1). This obviously demonstrated American Imperialist acts concluding in what Halsell (1997) deemed as “un-American ends” (p. 1). Aspiring to greater power, influence and affluence, perhaps, equating and/or surpassing that of Spain’s glory days, America not only continued Spain’s military pursuits in the Philippines but also closer to home—the Caribbean (Halsell, 1997; Suffolk Community College, 2010, p. ). While some might insist this extends solely from Manifest Destiny, the idea of Judeo-Christian superiority reinforced by the newly established Social Darwinism cannot be denied (Larson, 1998). In fact, the fusion of these two beliefs, the subsequent adaptations and accommodations were merely engaged in order to expand American territory in North America and far beyond. As it achieved victory over indigenous people at “home” and abroad this merely fueled the believers’ aspirations and their associative hunger for power and position.

While these pursuits also involved the Hawaiian Islands and the Aleutian islands, as well, Manifest destiny only partially explains these Imperialist acts and the eventual territory acquisitions. After all, both are strategically located beyond the contiguous states that eventually constituted America. Accordingly, one must question the motives, methods and modalities engaged, especially since they violate the most “sacred” and unifying principles upon which America was founded.

It is therefore not surprising that many disapproved and petitioned Congress. Such contentions, debates and actions, persist through current day. R

eferences Asia for Educators. (2009). 1750-1919: China and west Imperial- ism, opening and self-strengthening (1800-1919). Retrieved from http://afe. easia. columbia. edu/main_pop/kpct/ kp_imperialism. htm Halsall, P. (1997). Modern history sourcebook: American Anti- Imperialist League, 1899. Retrieved from http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1899antiimp. html Larson, E. 1998, Apr. 20). The great debate. PBS. Retrieved From www. pbs. org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june98/ larson Lett, D. (2008). Phoenix rising: The rise and fall of the American Republic, AuthorHouse. Suffolk Community College. (2010). European imperialism in the 19th century. Retrieved from http://www2. sunysuffolk. edu/ westn/imperialism. html Yale Law School. (2008). Statutes of the United States concern- ing Native Americans. The Avalon Project. Retrieved from http://avalon. law. yale. edu/subject_menus/namenu. asp

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