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American Imperialism: 1898–1913



By the end of the 19th century, the United States was on the verge of becoming a world power. U.S. political and business leaders considered the advantages of intervention and expansion abroad. By taking control of countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the United States could expand its trade and spread democracy around the world. By becoming the world's police force, it could protect its interests and project its power. Imperialism, however, was not a natural fit for a nation founded on the principle of democratic self-rule.

At A Glance

  • The Spanish-American War (April-August 1898) was a brief but important conflict that transformed the United States into an imperial power.
  • The United States advanced an open-door policy to promote free and open trade in China.
  • Under President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States became a self-appointed "international police power" to secure stability, order, and prosperity among neighboring countries.
  • President Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Navy to sail around the globe in an exercise designed to project American military power abroad.
  • President Taft's foreign policy exported American business, but this well-intended "dollar diplomacy" became a tool for interfering in the affairs of other nations.
  • Business, military, and political interests led the United States to forcibly annex the Hawaiian Islands in 1898, despite objections from native Hawaiians and anti-imperialists.
  • Despite many obstacles, the United States persevered in building the Panama Canal to gain access to international waters.