Many would commend the United States of America for expanding its power and taking advantage of socioeconomic opportunities in distant lands. America has always exhibited a national drive of identifying potential resources and coming up with ways of tapping on them. According to history the influence of the American dream began a long time ago. In the process of acquiring resources from other nations, Americans left their cultural influences and an imbedded notion that they are superior and exceptional hence the need for annexation (Tyrell, 5). Native lands were transformed and culture disrupted in foreign lands due to invasion. Considering the ultimate wealth that the American government acquired, one would consider that it was all for a good cause. However, the basis of American imperialism is that of exceptionalism, a belief that the nation was inherently different from others hence the right to capture and subjugate other communities in pursuit of their own interests.
The American invasion in the Spanish colonies was initially seen as genuine interest in saving the colonies from Spanish oppression. However, it is questionable to what extent America’s economic interest surpassed their need to eliminate the oppressive Spaniards (Evered, 110). Spanish colonies included the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico and were beginning to face revolt from their subjects before a war broke out. However, focusing on the outcome of the war between Spanish colonialists and America shed light into the real intentions of the American government which was predominantly to benefit from the colonies. After the war between Spain and America ended, America had succeeded in expanding its territory and taking over other places. A review of historical literature reveals that involvement of America in the war was justified because it had an intrinsic duty to spread civilization to other blind communities (Evered, 113). The indigenous people were often portrayed as morally decadent, childlike and backward and who needed saving from the American who was enlightened, superior and clean.
When thinking of America, many have a distorted image that does not feature its involvement in server imperialism. However, History continues to show how the thinking of exceptionalism was partly the force behind annexation of other nations and capturing of their resources. This attitude and mind-set is clearly captured in Cornelius Rhoades epistle to his colleagues back in America after he landed in Puerto Rico. His view of the indigenous people was that of contempt and a questioning of their right to exist. He regarded them as filthy and socially inept hence deserving of being eliminated from the world’s population which he had already began doing. The leniency to which his words and actions was handled by the American government supports that the attitude at that time that the some of the Americans did not consider other ethnicities to be part of the human race.
Despite the derogatory depictions of indigenous cultures in ancient American literature, the Hawaiian community had a wealthy heritage. The Hawaiian kingdom was famous for their production of sugar and sandalwood which was great source of profits for the inhabitants owing to the growing demand especially from the United states of America whose own plantations had been destroyed (Taylor and Borses, 6). Following a common trend, the Hawaiian kingdom began losing its influence due to infiltration of white settlers with a specific interest to weaken the Hawaiian monarchical powers through a new constitution (Taylor & Borses, 7). The American had begun encroaching the Hawaiian’s wealth by eliminating tariffs from imported sugar from Hawaii. Once again, the American government ad leveraged on an odd opportunity to overthrow an indigenous kingdom and establish its own.
The American government exhibited inconsistent and lukewarm attitudes towards imperialism. While it considered itself an engineer of peace and independence, it did not leave opportunities for untapped wealth in perceived inferior communities to go to waste. The antiimperialists in America were key in showing the contradiction of the American values. A section of Americans resolved that the wealth and resources the government constantly acquired did not match with the standards of civility that it prided itself on and imposed on foreign people. The American imperialist community challenged the government’s idea of liberty and clearly pointed out its flaws. For instance, leaders were more focused on material benefits acquired and not the damage their presence was causing. President Theodor Roosevelt even declared that the American government had been the steward of liberty and justice in foreign lands owing to the complacency of their forefathers (Cullinane, 2). The word liberty came to be interpreted differently between imperialists and antiimperialists.
This distorted view of liberty was opposed by antiimperialists who established that operations in a foreign country should be consented by the natives. However, even though the common opinion that imperialism was wrong would liberate natives in captured lands, people pursued different agendas under the same wing (Cullinane, 6). Some actors were more concerned about the threat imperialism posed on America than the mental and physical distress that colonial subjects were exposed to. This does not discredit the sentiments of people were genuinely affected by the oppression and distressed that native people faced in the hands of their own people. According to (Seymour, 53), anti-imperialism was mostly perpetuated by middleclass citizens with average earning power. This shows how experiences shape people’s opinions and perception of outside affairs (.
It is undeniable that imperialism amassed great fortunes for America. under the guise of ideologies of liberty and justice, the American government managed to establish control in foreign lands and become the sole administrator of its wealth. The pattern mostly seen in its operations during the colonial era is the leveraging of crisis to create an empire. From invading the Spanish colonies to declaring that natives in colonies were enjoying the utmost liberty, the American government was either escaping reality or being intentionally hypocritical. It is difficult to decode the advantages of imperialism on former colonies as they were marked with deprivation, scarcity and problematic political ideologies.
Cullinane, Michael. Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism: 1898-1909. Springer, 2012.
Evred, Kyle T. “Forstering Puerto Rico: Representations of Ellpire and Orphaned Territories during the Spanish-American War.” (2006).
Seymour, Richard. American Insurgents: A brief history of Maerican anti-imperialism. Haymarket Books, 2012.
Taylor, Derek, and Dr Daniel Borses. “Historiography on the colonization and annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.” (2015).
Tyrell, Ian. American Exceptionalism: A New History of an Old Idea. University of Chicago Press, 2022.