Unit 7 - Period Review (Part A)
Part A - Further Expansion and the First World War
For two decades after the Civil War, the nation looked inward. Involved with westward expansion, railroad building, political scandals, and economic dislocation, America was insular and mostly self-contained. Secretary of State William Seward did acquire Midway Island and purchase Alaska in 1867, however. Later, the United States took over part of the Samoan Islands (1889) and made an abortive attempt to annex Hawaii (1893). Overall, however, the nation was content to focus on domestic issues.
Expansion in the 1890s
Expansionist ideas began to build in the 1890s. A “New Manifest Destiny” swept the nation. Writers such as historian John Fiske and Congregational minister Josiah Strong promoted Anglo-Saxon superiority as a force to spread both civilization and Christianity throughout the world. In a different vein, Alfred Thayer Mahan linked sea power and expansion to domestic prosperity, national security, and international commerce. These ideas meshed with the upheavals brought on by the Populist movement and the Depression of 1893 to fuel “an outward impulse” for American foreign policy.
By the 1890s, the United States was a regional power focusing its expansionistic energies in the Caribbean area. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland rejuvenated the Monroe Doctrine when he pressured Great Britain to arbitrate a boundary dispute with Venezuela. At the same time, the United States became concerned about the Cuban rebellion against Spain. With fifty million dollars invested in the sugar industry, and appalled by the brutal tactics of Valeriano Weyler in attempting to crush the Cuban rebels, the United States demanded Spain end the turmoil on the island or grant Cuba its independence.
The “Splendid Little War”
President William McKinley wished to avoid armed intervention in Cuba, but in 1898, the yellow journalism of American newspapers was pushing the nation toward war. Further souring relations with Spain were the DeLome letter that criticized McKinley’s leadership, and the mysterious destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. By April, McKinley gave Spain an ultimatum—end the rebellion, set Cuba free, or face war with America. The Spanish government could not accept these terms, and on April 25, 1898, Congress authorized a declaration of war.
The Spanish-American War was a “splendid little war” for the United States. The war was popular with thousands of volunteers, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who happily went to Cuba to fight the Spanish. By December 1898, America and Spain completed the Treaty of Paris, in which Spain freed Cuba and ceded Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands to the United States for twenty million dollars.
Results of the War
The war had a downside, however. While the United States guaranteed Cuba’s independence in the Teller Amendment, America controlled the island’s domestic and foreign policy through the Platt Amendment for many years to come. And when the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, discovered they had exchanged Spanish colonial rule for American, a four-year rebellion ensued that cost 4,600 American lives and those of over 50,000 Filipinos. Many Americans believed these imperialistic actions violated the nation’s principles of liberty, freedom, and justice.
The United States tightened its control of the Caribbean region with Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick policy and his Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Roosevelt warned Europe that Latin America was not only closed to colonization but that the United States would use its military might to police the region and enforce standards of proper behavior by all nations. His successor, William Taft, supported this approach with Dollar Diplomacy, which sought commercial dominance for the United States through America’s economic and military power.
In Asia, the United States wanted a piece of the vast China market, yet America was unable to flex its military power to open markets in China. With the other major powers already possessing spheres of influence throughout China, Secretary of State John Hay proposed cooperation among the nations. In 1899 and 1900, he issued two Open Door Notes, which called on all nations to maintain equal trading rights in China and respect its territorial integrity as well.
World War I
In 1914, a hundred years of European peace came to an end when Germany and the Central Powers challenged France and England for dominance in Europe. Sparked by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in the summer of 1914, long-simmering nationalistic disputes and rivalries brought on the first general war in Europe since the time of Napoleon.
The United States declared its traditional policy of neutrality at the outset of the conflict. Within three years, however, America’s favorable trade and financial policies towards the allies, Germany’s treacherous Zimmerman Note, and the Germans’ use of submarines as a blockade weapon brought America into the war on the side of the French and English. While President Woodrow Wilson hoped America could work as a neutral to achieve “a peace without victory,” Germany’s outrages against the United States forced the president on April 2, 1917, to ask Congress to go to war and “make the world safe for democracy.”
America and its two-million-man army turned the tide in favor of the allies in 1917–1918. Commanded by John Pershing, American troops repelled German offensives in the summer of 1918, and on November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered. The United States lost relatively few men (112,000), but the other major combatants suffered 6.4 million deaths in the four-year struggle.
Rejecting the League of Nations
The Big Four leaders gathered early in 1919 to settle the war issues. President Wilson wanted a League of Nations to preserve world peace. He hoped the treaty would adhere to his Fourteen Points, but the French and English demanded that Germany accept blame for causing the war and pay for its cost. The final version of the Treaty of Versailles was harsh toward Germany and far different from Wilson’s vision, but he hoped the League would correct its punitive shortcomings in time.
Wilson faced a hostile Senate in July 1919, as he sought ratification of the treaty. Republican leaders opposed both the treaty and the League of Nations. William Borah and his “irreconcilables” believed the treaty compromised traditional American isolationism and opposed the pact under any circumstances. Henry Cabot Lodge and the “reservationists” accepted the League’s idea of collective security but demanded more congressional control over America’s role within the organization.
President Wilson, for many reasons, refused to compromise with his opponents and embarked on a cross-country campaign to put public pressure on the Senate to accept the treaty without changes. In September 1919, the tour ended tragically when Wilson suffered a paralytic stroke that left him incapacitated for six weeks as the Senate debated the treaty. Neither Wilson nor Lodge would budge in their position, and the Senate rejected the treaty.