During the time period including the close of the nineteenth century, with the climax of the industrial revolution, the United States had become an industrialized and more sophisticated nation. The United States now had the resources, technology, and political organization to hold the status of a World Power. Consequently, the United States took on the role of an imperialist country; it had aspirations to put the American flag on as much of the globe as possible. During this exciting and innovative era , there were two main underlying motivations for the United State's aspirations of expansion: self-interest and idealism.
When studying the United State's imperialist stage, historians usually argue that the motivations for expansion beyond U.S. borders were influenced more heavily by idealism, or more heavily by self-interest. Those who argue that the most influential factor was idealism believe that the United State's goal in expansion was to literally help create an "ideal" world (in the United State's view). The United States felt a sense of duty to intervene when they observed the situations of different territories such as Cuba, Hawaii, and the Philippines around 1900. When intervening in these different areas of the world, the United States (supposedly) planned to idealize by imposing their civilized ways of society and religion on these crude populations of foreign people. This idealizing by the U.S. would also involve introducing American politics into the troubled environments. The "ideal" politics happened to follow the form of the United States government; a setting where "liberty and justice for all" would help to create a more civilized world. Idealism seems to be a very influential factor until the practicality of it is questioned. When it comes down to the naked truth, America has always been motivated by money; the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" saying is probably the motto of 99 percent of Americans; thus, one might become skeptical towards the claim that idealism was the main motive for expansion. Although the United States's motivation for expansion did rely somewhat on idealism, the prevalent and straight-forward factor in this motivation was self-interest; the United States had plans for capitalizing on Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, China and many other potentially beneficiary lands around the time of 1900.
The United State's greedy imperialism was seen in its interest with Hawaii in the 1880's through the 1890's. The United States managed a reciprocity treaty (admitting Hawaiian sugar duty-free to the U.S.) out of its diplomatic relations with Hawaii, and later gained exclusive rights to build a naval base at Pearl Harbor. The United State's reasons for establishing itself in Hawaii were the economic opportunity found in sugar planting in Hawaiian soil, and the global recognition it would receive from extending the United State's empire. The formal annexation of Hawaii in 1898 further increased the United State's opportunity for profits; their placement in Hawaii established a new export market that would absorb overproduction in the States. The United State's expansion into Hawaii had no motivation from piety or idealism; everything was based on greed.
Around the time of the annexation of Hawaii, the United States was expanding throughout the Atlantic as well. In 1895, it came to the attention of the United States that the Spanish army was forcing rural Cuban citizens into reconcentration camps in order to stop the Cuban revolt. Americans felt a genuine humanitarian concern for Cubans, but self- interest motives were the basis for the United State's intervention and establishment in Cuba. As with Hawaii, Cuba had profitable resources and a convenient island location to the south of Florida. In 1896, when faced with the issue of war, McKinley decided to watch out for the United State's economic opportunity before he sought to deal with Spain's oppressive hold on Cuba. McKinley feared that taking any action against Spain might upset business recovery after the depression, or hurt the $27 million trade with Cuba in 1897. In 1898, pressure for war ensued; there was rioting in Havana, and the explosion of the American ship, The Maine, caused American advocates for war to declare Spanish responsibility. At this point in time, new situations seemed to suggest that the United State's economic prosperity and honor would be harmed unless action was taken in Cuba. McKinley sent a message to Congress that called for war.
The war against Spain held in Cuba was won relatively easily by the United States, and set the example for future American expansion. In fact, the United State's next chance to expand was a consequence of the situation faced with Spain in Cuba; the war against Spain extended into conflict with the Filipinos. In May 1898, Roosevelt ordered Dewey to destroy the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. As the U.S. seemed to be in control of the Spanish army, President McKinley decided on what course of action to take; he would push for the annexation of the Philippines. The Treaty of Paris gave the United States all of the 7,000 Philippine ...