Chapter 29 ~ The Path of Empire ~ 1890 – 1899
I. Imperialist Stirrings
From the end of the Civil War to the 1880s, the United States was very isolationist, but in the 1890s, due
to rising exports, manufacturing capability, power, and wealth, it began to expand onto the world stage,
using overseas markets to sell its goods.
The “yellow press” or “yellow journalism” of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst also
influenced overseas expansion, as did missionaries inspired by Reverend Josiah Strong’s Our
Country: It’s Possible Future and Its Present Crisis. Strong spoke for civilizing and
People were interpreting Darwin’s theory of survival-of-the-fittest to mean that the United States
was the fittest and needed to take over other nations to improve them.
Such events already were happening, as Europeans had carved up Africa and China by
Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783,
argued that every successful nation had a great navy, and started a naval race among the great powers
and moving the U.S. to naval supremacy.
James G. Blaine pushed his “Big Sister” policy, which sought better relations with Latin America, and
in 1889, he presided over the first Pan-American Conference, held in Washington D.C.
However, in other diplomatic affairs, America and Germany almost went to war over the Samoan
Islands (over whom could build a naval base there), while Italy and America almost fought due to the
lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans, and the U.S. and Chile almost went to war after the deaths of
two American sailors at Valparaiso in 1892.
The new aggressive mood was also shown by the U.S.—Canadian argument over seal hunting
near the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska.
II. Monroe’s Doctrine and the Venezuelan Squall
British Guiana and Venezuela had been disputing their border for many years, but when gold was
discovered, the situation worsened.
Thus, the U.S., under President Grover Cleveland, sent a note written by Secretary of State
Richard Olney to Britain informing them that the British actions were trespassing the Monroe
Doctrine and that the U.S. controlled things in the Americas.
The British replied four months later saying that the Monroe Doctrine didn’t exist.
Uproar resulted, and the two nations almost went to war, but after second thoughts by both sides, the
issue was settled with the British getting most of the land that they had wanted in the beginning.
Britain didn’t want to fight because of the damage to its merchant trade that could result, as well
as the vulnerability of Canada; plus, after the Dutch Boers of South Africa captured 600 British,
Germany’s Kaiser Wilhem cabled his congratulations, sending British anger to Germany, not to