Humanities
Discussion Quesiton

Question Description

I’m stuck on a History question and need an explanation.

Background: America’s Age of Imperialism was relatively short-lived, and somewhat anomalous in terms of overall US history. For a few brief years in the 1890s, the US aggressively pursued overseas colonies, holding on to those colonies even in the face of indigenous resistance and, unlike its handling of continental territories, offering the new colonies no pathway toward equal statehood and citizenship. The Filipino Insurrection of 1899 to 1902 provides a particularly unsettling episode in terms of how Americans generally like to remember their past. Having driven the Spanish out of the Philippines, the US ignored the Filipinos’ demand for independence, for which they had been fighting against the Spanish for several years, and instead took possession of the islands, treating the Filipinos as colonial subjects. For several years, Americans and Filipinos fought over the destiny of the Philippines in a brutal conflict which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands—perhaps even more than a million—Filipino civilians. 

American Imperialism combined the expansionist ideology that propelled Americans from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans with a desire to become a world power as well as the need for new markets and raw materials to feed the growing industrial base. Inspired by Alfred Thayer Mahan’s concept of sea power, Americans began to look outside their borders for the means to grow their global political influence. Fueled by the technological innovations and cheap labor of the Industrial Revolution, American industry looked abroad for new markets and access to natural resources. Unlike in previous periods, the United States pursued territorial expansion through the acquisition of imperial possessions with no intention of offering a path to statehood. An early and vociferous proponent of American Imperialism, Theodore Roosevelt aggressively and effectively promoted the cause through initiatives like the construction of the Panama Canal and the demonstration of American military power embodied by the Great White Fleet. With the articulation of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt claimed the US right to keep European powers out of Latin America through the use of military force. 

Drawing from material in the textbook and the video below, explain how American foreign policy generally grew more interventionist and aggressive from the 1890s into the twentieth century, identifying key moments in that development. Then, examine the specifics of the Filipino Insurrection, explaining how the conflict was perceived in the United States. Using at least three primary sources—articles written during the conflict—summarize the arguments which Americans of the time made for and against the colonization of the Philippines. Also, review one scholarly secondary article about the insurrection. Summarize its contents and explain how its depiction of the insurrection compares with what you read in the primary sources.


  1. BeamLibrary. (2009, September 23). Primary, secondary, tertiary sources . [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/L5DdedR_iF8
  2. Review the How to Research Primary Sources and How to Research Secondary Sources in the Ashford Writing Center located in the Learning Resources tab in the left navigation bar.
Draw from material in the following video for a discussion of American foreign policy generally:

  1. (2001). America becomes a world power [Television series episode]. In America in the 20th Century. New York, NY: Films for the Humanities & Sciences. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=36214&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=640&h=480&ref=
  2. Chapter_02.pdf  Textbook Chapter
Instructions: After reviewing your Instructor’s Guidance and completing the weekly reading assignments (including those in the resource section below), please post a substantive discussion post of at least 200 words that analyzes American Imperialism in either the Philippines or Latin America, using the following questions as the basis of your analysis: 

  • How did American foreign policy become more interventionist (aggressive) from the 1890s into the twentieth century? 
  • What issues led to the Filipino Insurrection? How was this conflict perceived in the United States? 
  • What arguments did Americans use to justify their colonization of the Philippines? What arguments were used against colonization? 
  • Why did the U.S. want to build a canal across Central America? How did the U.S. eventually accomplish this? 
  • What is the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and how was it used to justify imperialism? 
  • In your opinion, which branch of the service, the Army or the Navy was more influential in this period of imperialism? Why?
Your initial post should be at least 200 words in length. Support your claims with examples from the required material(s) and properly cite any references. You may use additional scholarly sources to support your points if you choose.

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2 Pivotal Decades, 1900–1920 For the United States, the first two decades of the twentieth century marked a turning point. During these twenty years a political, economic, social, and cultural agenda was set that still dominates American life . . . —Cooper, 1990 bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 65 6/10/11 8:26 AM Chapter Outline 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) 67 The Idea of Imperialism 68 Seward’s Folly—Alaska 69 Hawaii 70 Cuba and Spain 70 Remember the Maine! 71 War with Spain 72 The Empire after War 74 Conclusion 75 2.2 Progressivism in America (1900–1919) 75 Who Were the Progressives? 76 Democracy 77 Efficiency 78 Regulation 79 Social Justice 80 Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments 81 Prohibition 82 Conclusion 83 2.3 2.4 bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 66 Suffrage and Segregation (1900–1920) 83 Women and Work 84 The Gibson Girl 85 Fashion and Birth Control 85 Women’s Suffrage 85 The Color Line 88 Racial Violence 88 Up from Slavery 89 Birth of a Nation 88 The Souls of Black Folk 90 Conclusion 91 Pivotal Technologies (1900–1920) 91 Birth of the Computer Age 92 Modern Prometheus 93 Realizing the Dream of Flight 94 Streets and Model Ts 95 Sloanism 96 Conclusion 98 2.5 From the Square Deal to the New Freedom (1901–1914) 98 Roosevelt the Cowboy 99 Roosevelt’s Square Deal 99 Roosevelt’s Big Stick 101 Taft, the Reluctant President 102 The Election of 1912 102 Woodrow Wilson and the New Freedom 102 New Freedom? 104 Conclusion 104 2.6 The United States in the Great War (1914–1919) 104 The Causes of World War I 105 The United States Enters the War 106 Trench Warfare 107 Mobilizing for War 108 The Home Front 109 Women and War 109 African Americans and War 110 The American Soldier 110 Bloodshed at Meuse-Argonne 111 The End of the Great War 111 Wilson’s Postwar Vision 112 Conclusion 110 2.7 Savage Peace (1919) 113 Demobilization 114 The Spanish Flu 114 Race Riot 115 The Rise of Communism and the First Red Scare 116 Clear and Present Danger 117 Baseball and the Police 118 Conclusion 119 6/10/11 8:26 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 I magine for a moment taking a walk down a city street in the year 1900. If you looked up at the sky you would never see an airplane, because they had not yet been invented. If you talked to a woman, she might discuss politics with you, but she was unable to vote because in most states only men could go to the ballot box on election day. If you struck up another conversation with an African American man, you would hear an even bleaker story. Though free from slavery, he still encountered racial violence, segregation, and isolation from white society. While you pondered these conversations, your attention would soon be drawn to the street itself. People, carts, horses, trolleys, bicycles, and buggies all interacted in the chaotic street space, only occasionally sharing the road with an automobile. The other curious thing you would notice was an absence of personal technologies. If you went into anyone’s home, you would find no radios, televisions, or computers. Entertainment came from nonelectronic devices like pianos, books, and stories told by visitors. If you asked one of those visitors to tell you about the United States in 1900, he would say that it was an isolated place, separated from the rest of the world by two great oceans. The natural landscape protected it, and as a result its Army numbered less than 100,000 men (no women except for nurses), and its Navy was smaller than Germany or England’s in terms of overall size and firepower capabilities. An Air Force did not exist. However, the nation was at a critical turning point, and during the 20 years from 1900 to 1920, technological, political, economic, and social developments transformed the country in ways that still effect us today (Cooper, 1990). These were the pivotal decades. 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) I n order to understand the pivotal decades at the turn of the 20th century, we need to step back into the 19th and explore how the United States changed its view of the world and its relationship with it. For the first time in its history, the nation’s leaders were not looking to expand within the continent itself. Instead they set their sights on global expansion with the desire to control various island nations that represented strategic importance. The motivation was not physical expansion. The United States had enough land, and its people did not seek new regions to conquer and occupy. Economic expansion was one motivating force, though trade with the inhabitants of these islands was not the priority. These locations served as access points to even larger markets from which to expand America’s commercial interests. In the age before the airplane, the seas were the avenue of economic interaction, and the United States knew that if it could control places like the Hawaiian Islands, those places could serve as an important gateway to Asia. This was the era of the growing American empire, and its leaders formulated an imperialistic strategy to protect and promote its interests throughout the world. The idea of an American “empire” and “imperialism” is challenging to some because it is typically associated with European nations and their colonies. This was a tremendous era of European imperialism, and in the years between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these powers claimed 25 percent of the world for themselves. Was the United States like one of these empires, such as Britain, with a desire to boldly colonize the world? With a hint of sarcasm, historian Niall Ferguson said, “The great thing about the American empire is that so many Americans disbelieve in its existence . . . They think that they’re bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 67 6/10/11 8:26 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 so different that when they have bases in foreign territories, it’s not an empire. When they invade sovereign territories, it’s not an empire” (Immerman, 2010). Yet, by annexing Hawaii, purchasing Alaska from Russia, creating a protectorate in Cuba, going to war with Spain, and taking control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, the American “empire” was on the march. The Idea of Imperialism Americans had always felt the desire to grow, move, and acquire, as expressed through the ideal of Manifest Destiny (see Section 1.3 for a history of this term). This concept suggested that progression from east to west across the continent was not so much a choice of the European settlers as it was their destiny to do so. Many believed it was God’s plan for the United States to control the continent from sea to shining sea. However, when they fulfilled this destiny, America did not declare itself a finished nation (Brinkley, 2010). It continued to explore new areas of expansion in the 1890s for several reasons. The first was simply that expansionist tendencies were a fundamental component of the American psyche, and since the first settlers came to North America in the 17th century, they had sought to expand. Second, though the United States seemed protected by its oceans, many thought it was also trapped by them. The natural resources that existed in America were finite, and once depleted, the nation might be helpless to sustain itself. Third, in 1859 Charles Darwin had published a revolutionary scientific theory called The Origin of Species. In it he described the idea that all life evolved from simple to complex organisms (including humans) through a process called natural selection. This meant that the genetic traits of organisms that allowed them to better survive were passed on to succeeding generations, enabling the formation of more complex organisms. In the late 19th century, some observers applied this scientific theory and the idea of “survival of the fittest” to the social world. Though not Darwin’s idea, proponents called this controversial ideology social Darwinism, and it provided the rationale for strong nations to control weak ones, simply because it was viewed as an extension of natural law. Thus, some felt this was a scientific justification for imperialism and empire building, and for others, more tragically a desire to create a “master race” (Hofstadter, 1993). Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840–1914) was an American naval historian who advocated the importance of strong naval forces for military preparedness. bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 68 Fourth, another concern was that other nations like Britain had navies far stronger than the United States. Alfred Thayer Mahan, in his famous book entitled The Influence of Sea Power upon History, argued that the strength of a nation was measured by the power of its navy. By this criterion, the United States was weak, and many sought to immediately strengthen the deficiency. This meant not simply building a strong navy, but also establishing an American military presence around the world where its vessels could dock, refuel, and restock. The best places to do this were islands strategically positioned 6/10/11 8:26 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Caribbean Sea. However, controlling the seas was valuable for more than just military might. There was another essential reason to pursue it, which Mahan called the “profound influence of sea commerce” (Mahan, 1890). The pursuit of economic gain has been a reason for imperialistic desires of many nations, including America. Taken together, these ideals—historical precedent, natural resources, social Darwinism, military power, and economics—led the United States into an era of imperialistic expansion. It should be noted that there was an underlying tension with these issues deeply rooted in the American past. The American colonists fought against what they saw as oppression from British control and unfair taxation without political representation. As a result, these themes of tension and enthusiasm for expansion shaped its American imperial destiny. Seward’s Folly—Alaska As the Civil War was ending in 1865, the nation returned its focus to Manifest Destiny. The question was, Where next to expand? The answer, according to U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, was to purchase land from Russia in the far northwest. Why would Russia choose to part with this land? First, it was a long way from Moscow and, therefore, was nearly impossible to colonize. Second, the country needed money, and their asking price of $7.2 million for land it could not colonize seemed like a good deal. Finally, because of its location, Russia could not adequately defend it. As a result, they were ready to sell—and Seward was eager to buy. Baron Edouard de Stoeckly, Russia’s minister in Washington, appeared at Seward’s doorstep and at 4 a.m. on March 30, 1867, signed the deal. Remarkably, he did this without the knowledge of Andrew Johnson, the president of the United States (Jones, 2009). This resulted in the addition of nearly 400 million acres haps most importantly, it was a strategic move, which eliminated another powerful nation from the continent that the United States was dominating. When asked what the most significant moment of his career was, Seward responded that it was the purchase of Alaska. However, he predicted it would take the United States another generation to realize the brilliance of it (Borneman, 2004). He was correct—for many years after 1867, the purchase was known in mocking terms as “Seward’s folly,” “Frigidia,” “Polar Bear Garden,” and “Seward’s icebox.” Seward’s purchase was eventually appreciated for its significance. As explorers surveyed the area, they came back with stories about the important natural resources in Alaska, which included control of whaling and fishing regions. In the 20th century, it became a vital oil reserve, secured the continent for the United States (along with allies like Canada), and thus enabled the nation to begin expanding its reach across the seas (Harrell, 2005). bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 69 of land for 2¢ an acre. But, per- Northwestern America showing the territory ceded by Russia to the United States, 1867. 6/10/11 8:27 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 Hawaii Throughout the late 19th century, there was a small American population that resided on the Hawaiian Islands. At the time, Hawaii was nation led by King Kalakaua, and though he had some diplomatic ties with the United States, such as the lease of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was an independent nation. In 1890, military leaders were reading Mahan’s book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, and one of the ideas within it was that the nation had to have a stronger sea presence. Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy agreed and said in his annual report, “The sea will be the future seat of empire” (McDougall, 2004). Hawaii appeared to be strategically essential for the United States because it had a naval base at Pearl Harbor and could ensure protection Letter from Liliuokalani, Queen of of its Pacific coastline. It also possessed natural prodHawaii, to U.S. House of Represenucts like sugar cane and pineapple that were desirable tatives protesting the United States’s commodities. However, political conflict on the islands assertion of ownership of Hawaii, made the American goals there problematic. One year December 19, 1898. after Mahan published his book, King Kalakaua died while on a visit to California, and Queen Liliuokalani, his sister, succeeded him. She was strongly nationalistic and wanted to rid her nation of its American settlers. But she increasingly demonstrated strange behavior that alienated her from her people. This culminated with a speech delivered on her balcony in January 1893, when she claimed that only native Hawaiians had the right to vote and that as the sovereign ruler, her command was absolute. To solidify her power, she planned a new constitution. Her once-loyal government disapproved and with U.S. support, mounted a revolution; Queen Liliuokalani abdicated her throne. By this time, Mahan was the head of the Naval War College and had attained worldwide celebrity status. Looking at the turmoil in the Pacific, he said that the Hawaiian Islands were essential for the United States, both economically and militarily. Most agreed with him, but the United States was patient and did not move immediately. From 1894 to 1898, Hawaii maintained its independent status as the Republic of Hawaii. When William McKinley became president, the goal to annex Hawaii became stronger, and on July 4, 1898, McKinley issued the Newlands Resolution, which made it the Territory of Hawaii. One month later, on the steps of Iolani Palace, Hawaii transferred sovereignty to the United States. However, it would not officially become a state until March 1959, when President Eisenhower welcomed it as the nation’s 50th state. Just two months earlier, he had named Alaska the 49th state. Cuba and Spain The impending Spanish-American War was another reason the annexation of Hawaii was so critically important in the late 19th century. The problems with Spain began in another island far from Hawaii. This was the island of Cuba, about 90 miles south of Florida. Cuba was a territory of Spain, and for many years, its people sought independence. The bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 70 6/10/11 8:27 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 United States also saw a free Cuba as in its best interest because it would eliminate a European power from being close to its shores. José Marti (1853–1895), one of the revolutionaries, came to America to gather money, weapons, and people to support his Cuban cause. Meanwhile, Cuba and the United States strengthened their economic ties with exports of Cuban sugar and tobacco. Despite the common interests against Spain, this Cuban– American relationship began to suffer when, in 1894, the Wilson-Gorman Tariff established a duty on all Cuban sugar entering the United States. Prior to this, there had been no duty at all. While this hurt Cuba economically, it increased Cuba’s resolve to start a revolution against Spain, and one year later it commenced under Marti’s leadership (Norton, 2008). Remember the Maine! President Grover Cleveland’s position was to remain neutral in Cuban and Spanish relations. However, this policy changed when President McKinley took office in 1898. That year, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, who was the Spanish minister in Washington, DC, wrote a private letter that Cuban rebels intercepted. In it, Lôme described McKinley as a “weak” leader and a “would-be politician” who was a “bidder for the admiration of the crowd” (Lens, 2003). Newspaper publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fueled the fire with what came to be known as yellow journalism. This was a term first used in 1897 in New York newspapers that redefined the way people learned about current events. The genre had several important characteristics, including large multicolumn headlines, a combination of diverse front-page topics from politics to society, heavy use of photographs and charts to accompany the text, experimental page layouts and some attempts at color, reliance on anonymous sources, and self-promotion for the newspapers. Most important were the reporters who wrote for these papers and their crusades against the corruption they saw from city leaders, business monopolies, and corrupt political and corporate activities (Campbell, 2001). Hearst and Pulitzer helped perfect yellow journalism with their depictions of the cruel Spaniards acting against the people of Cuba, and this helped create an American resolve for war to support Cuba (Gilderhus, 2000). There was truth to some of the inflammatory stories—like Spanish military leaders forcing women, children, old, and sick into concentration camps where they quickly died from disease and starvation. Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “It was a dreadful thing for us to sit supinely and watch her death agony. It was our duty, even more from the standpoint of National interest, to stop the devastation and destruction” (Cirillo, 2004). President McKinley dispatched the U.S.S. Maine battleship to lend support to the Cuban cause and also show support for Americans in Cuba. On February 15, 1898, the Maine suffered a devastating explosion in which 266 of its 354-member crew died. Americans immediately blamed Spain for the attack. McKinley attempted a diplomatic resolution, but it quickly failed, and on April 11, he sought congressional authorization to go to war with bow11111_02_c02_065-122.indd 71 This graphic illustrates the violent destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898. 6/10/11 8:27 AM Section 2.1 The American Empire (1890s) CHAPTER 2 Spain and establish a stable government in Cuba. Seven days later, the United States made an announcement that it regarded Cuba as a free nation, and Congress gave McKinley the power to remove Spain from the island. The Spanish-American War commenced, though in an ironic twist, Americans soon realized that Spain had no involvement in the explosion on the Maine. It occurred because there was faulty ventilation of the coal bunkers. Nevertheless, “Remember the Maine!” was the cry that led the United States to battle (Trask, 1996). War with Spain On April 22, 1898, Spain issued its own declaration of war against the United States, and Secretary of State John Hay called it a “splendid little war”—in part due to the brief period in which America endured casualties (from April to September 1898). At no time was there a possibility of the United States annexing Cuba like it had with Hawaii because it issued the Teller Amendment, which assured the Cuban revolutionaries that America would support their independence. The war wa ...
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