Chapter 27 Overview
Empire and Expansion, 1890-1909
• Imperialism refers to the domination of another
society against the expressed will of its people.
Imperialism can be both formal and informal. In
the case of formal empire—as in the British rule
over the thirteen American colonies during the
eighteenth century—a powerful foreign state
manages the day-to-day political, social, and
economic affairs in another land. Informal
empire, in contrast, refers to a more indirect
arrangement, whereby a foreign state works
through local intermediaries to manage a distant
society. (Encyclopedia of American History)
Why did the US embrace imperialism?
• Wanted new places to sell American goods
• Wanted access to raw materials
• Wanted new areas for US businesses to operate
• Wanted naval bases
• Felt pressure to keep up with Europe
• Saw imperialism as justified because the US
was superior to those it ruled
Examples of US Imperialism
• Latin America
• In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay with
hopes of opening Japan to western trade. He was directed to
another port, but refused to leave and demanded permission to
present a letter from President Millard Fillmore, threatening force if
he was denied. The Japanese military forces could not resist Perry's
modern weaponry; the "Black Ships" would then become, in Japan,
a threatening symbol of Western technology and colonialism.
• The Japanese government let Perry come ashore to avoid a naval
bombardment. Perry presented the letter to delegates present, and
left promising to return for a reply.
• Commodore Perry's fleet returned for his second visit to Japan in
1854 with twice as many ships, finding that the delegates had
prepared a treaty embodying virtually all the demands in Fillmore's
• In the mid-1800s, American businessmen began
to move to Hawaii (an independent country) and
came to dominate its economy.
• By the late 1800s, the local Hawaiians tried to
limit American influence.
• Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani was determined to
eliminate American influence in the government.
She tried to create a new constitution that would
strengthen the traditional monarchy.
• The American residents were outraged. They
organized the Committee of Safety. On the
morning of January 17, 1893, armed members
of the committee took over the government
office building. From its steps they read a
proclamation abolishing the monarchy and
establishing a provisional government. The
provisional government "would exist until terms
of union with the United States of America have
been negotiated and agreed upon." Sanford B.
Dole, an elderly judge with a flowing, white
beard, became its president.
• Hawaiians who were loyal to their queen tried to come to
her defense and stop the revolution. When they arrived
in Honolulu, however, American troops confronted them.
The United States' minister, John L. Stevens, had sent
for a battalion of marines and an artillery company. They
were ordered to protect the provisional government. For
the Hawaiians, resistance was hopeless.
• Queen Liliuokalani sadly surrendered her throne. She
wrote a document in which she "yielded to the superior
forces of the United States." She pleaded with the U.S.
government to "undo the actions of its representatives
and reinstate me in the authority I claim as the
Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands."
• The Provisional Government sent five representatives to
Washington to apply for annexation. They quickly drew up
a treaty, and President Harrison signed it and submitted it
• Before the Senate could approve the treaty, however, a
new president took office. This president, Grover
Cleveland, had reservations about taking over an
independent country. He withdrew the treaty.
• In 1896, however, the election of a Republican, William
McKinley, as president of the United States, rekindled
Hawaiian hopes for annexation. President McKinley, like
many Republicans, favored expansionism, and he
welcomed the new annexation treaty. A joint resolution of
Congress annexing Hawaii passed both houses, and the
islands became American possessions in 1898.
• The US freed Cuba from Spanish control, but did
not grant it true independence.
• The Platt amendment, which was added to the
Cuban constitution of 1901, affected Cuba's
rights to negotiate treaties and permitted the
U.S. to maintain its naval base at Guantánamo
Bay and to intervene in Cuban affairs “for the
preservation of Cuban independence.”
• The US frequently intervened in Cuba until Fidel
Castro came to power in 1959.
• The US acquired the Philippines from
Spain as a result of the Spanish American
• Instead of granting the Philippines its
independence, the US took control (after a
lengthy debate in the US Senate)
• Filipino insurgents, led by Emilio
Aguinaldo, fought against the American
A History of Facing Insurgencies
Philippines, Part II
• The US eventually put down the rebellion
led by Aguinaldo.
• Over 4,000 Americans died. Up to
600,000 Filipinos died.
• The Philippines gained their full
independence in 1946
• The US sought an Open Door Policy-- the
concept that all nations should have equal
trade rights in China.
• In 1900, Secretary of State John Hay
announced that the great powers had
agreed to the open door.
• Why is this imperialism?
The Boxer Rebellion
• The Boxer Uprising was a Chinese rebellion
from November 1899 to September 7, 1901
against foreign influence in areas such as trade,
politics, and religion. By August 1901, over 230
foreigners, tens of thousands of Chinese
Christians, an unknown number of rebels had
been killed in the ensuing chaos. The uprising
crumbled on August 14, 1900 when 20,000
foreign troops entered the Chinese capital,
• The Chinese government was powerless to stop
the foreign intervention and was forced to agree
to western demands.
The Boxer Rebellion
Chinese forces takes European enemy generals prisoner in this
Chinese print of the Boxer Rebellion.
• The US wanted to build a canal through Panama, which
was part of the nation of Colombia. By the middle of
1903, though, the Colombian government in Bogotá had
balked at the prospect of a U.S. controlled canal under
the terms that Roosevelt's administration was offering.
The U.S. was unwilling to alter its terms and quickly
changed tactics, encouraging a handful of Panamanian
landholding families to demand a Panama independent
from Colombia. The USS Nashville was dispatched to
deter any resistance from Bogotà and so with United
States' encouragement, Panama proclaimed its
independence. Less than three weeks later, the Hay-
Bunau Varilla Treaty which allowed for the construction
of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land 10
miles wide and 50 miles long on either side of the
Panama Canal Zone. In that zone, the U.S. would build a
canal, then administer, fortify, and defend it "in
perpetuity." In 1999, the control of the Panama Canal
was turned over the Panama.
• While the US did not seek to take over any
Latin American nations. However, we
sought to control governments so they
were friendly to US businesses.
• Between 1898 and 1930, the US sent
troops to Latin-American nations 32 times.
• How did we justify such intervention?
(to the Monroe Doctrine)
• Roosevelt Corollary:
• President Theodore Roosevelt's assertive approach to
Latin America and the Caribbean has often been
characterized as the "Big Stick," and his policy came to
be know as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe
Doctrine. Although the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was
essentially passive (it asked that Europeans not increase
their influence or re-colonize any part of the Western
Hemisphere), by the 20th century a more confident
United States was willing to take on the role of regional
Roosevelt Corollary Part II
• In the early 1900s Roosevelt grew concerned that a crisis
between the Dominican Republic and its creditors could spark
an invasion of that nation by European powers. The
Roosevelt Corollary of 1904 stated that the United States
would intervene as a last resort to ensure that other nations in
the Western Hemisphere fulfilled their obligations to
international creditors, and did not violate the rights of the
United States or invite "foreign aggression to the detriment of
the entire body of American nations." As the corollary worked
out in practice, the United States increasingly used military
force to restore internal stability to nations in the region.
Roosevelt declared that the United States might "exercise
international police power in 'flagrant cases of such
wrongdoing or impotence.'" Over the long term the corollary
had little to do with relations between the Western
Hemisphere and Europe, but it did serve as justification for
U.S. intervention in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the
Dominican Republic. [From the US State Department]
The Spanish-American War
• Spanish control of Cuba • US acquires Philippines,
and American sympathies Guam, and Puerto Rico
for the Cuban rebels. • US gains influence in
• Yellow journalism Cuba
• USS Maine explodes • In the four months of
• Thirst for empire fighting, Americans had
lost a total of 460 soldiers
in battle in the “Splendid
• Teddy Roosevelt became
a war hero