America's 19th Century Expansion: A Dream Realized - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  987 Words
Date:  2023-02-27


By the end of the 19th century, the United States' economy was the most industrious in the world. American industry's production rate doubled that of Britain, the country's closest competitor. However, the US had neither a successful military, nor was it considered a diplomatic power. It had always been the dream of Americans to expand their nation's size, a vision that came true in the 19th century with the country extending its control toward the Pacific Ocean. As such, the following paper explains the relationship between American Imperialism and Theodore Roosevelt's state of the nation address while discussing the reasons behind America's acquisition of foreign lands and the concept of the "white man's burden."

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Roosevelt's excerpt directly relates to the United States' development as an imperialist world power during the late 19th century in that it addresses a period in which the United States, like other world powers, made efforts to extend their influence and control beyond their boundaries. According to the excerpt, the Unites States "owes no more imperative duty to itself and mankind than the duty of managing the affairs of all the islands under the American flag" (Excerpt, pg. 1). Markedly, the document talks about how the United States exercised control over the islands, which represents the transformation of the US from a country committed to isolationism to one on an imperial mission. The islands under the US included Hawaii, Porto Rico and the Philippines to which the United States gradually introduced order and liberty, as an imperial power (Excerpt, pg. 1). Admittedly, this suggests that unlike other imperialist countries, the United States' imperialism aimed at spreading democracy and liberty. In line with this, the document further states that the US secured justice in the Philippine while providing a police force that helped to significantly suppress robbery, in addition to vital development projects such as the construction of roads and railroads (Excerpt, pg. 1).

Notably, Roosevelt provides several reasons for the United States' involvement in and acquisition of foreign lands. Firstly, he argues that the United States' "action in the Philippines has been abundantly justified by the immense benefit that has come to the people of the Philippine Islands" (Excerpt, pg. 1). In other words, Roosevelt states that America's involvement in and acquisition of a foreign land like the Philippine is justified by the numerous benefits that the citizens of such countries gain including justice, roads, and railroads. Secondly, Roosevelt asserts that engaging in such actions gave the US added dignity "as a nation by proving that the country was capable of honorably and efficiently bearing the international burdens which a mighty people bear" (Excerpt, pg. 1). In essence, Roosevelt stresses that there was a need to increase the United States' prestige on the global stage, hence transforming it into a global power through stronger military presence. Thirdly, in Roosevelt's view, there was the need to create "stability and permanency of prosperous citizenship" in the world's less fortunate countries (Excerpt, pg. 3). In this regard, the United States had the responsibility of ensuring a reorganization of governmental systems in nations without the ability to establish self-government. Also, the trade between the US and the acquired countries would benefit the government economically. Roosevelt maintains that the "annual foreign commerce of the countries amounts to over three billions of dollars, of which the share of the United States is some seven hundred millions of dollars" (Excerpt, pg. 3).

Undeniably, there are similarities between Roosevelt's reasons and the motivations for US imperialism discussed in class and the textbook. For instance, as discussed in class, American imperialism was partially inspired by economic factors whereby the country aimed at maximizing its profits. For example, by controlling the Philippines, the US opened up new markets in East Asia. Also, according to the textbook, "most Americans who looked overseas were interested in expanded trade" (Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History, Brief 5th ed. Vol. 2 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2017), pg. 679. Moreover, in agreement with Roosevelt's argument that America's involvement in and acquisition of foreign lands was justified by the need to increase the country's prestige and dignity on the global stage, the textbook also states that the US is "a great imperial Republic destined to exercise a controlling influence upon the actions of mankind and affect the future of the world" (Foner, pg. 678). Indeed, it is due to the prestige and dignity that the US deserves that Americans believe they are destined to control and influence other countries.

Furthermore, Roosevelt's assertions reflect the concept of the "white man's burden," which focuses on the war between the Philippines and the US that led to the US assuming colonial control over the Philippines. Notably, Roosevelt points out that the United States government faced opposition in the islands of Leyte and Samar (Excerpt, pg. 1). Besides, the Philippines had been fighting against Spain, and they readily welcomed American intervention in efforts to escape Spain's control (Foner, pg. 683). However, Americans were targeting to continue controlling the Philippines which resulted in a rapid change of opinion among locals Consequently, war erupted between the two nations "leading to the death of over 4,200 Americans and 100,000 Filipinos" (Foner, pg. 684). It then follows that Roosevelt's assertions regarding the United States taking colonial power over the Philippines came with a global burden of an empire that the US had to help in achieving order, liberty, justice as well as infrastructure.


Conclusively, as demonstrated herein, Roosevelt's state of the union address relates to the American imperialism during the late 19th century. Some of the reasons for America's involvement in the affairs of foreign countries included the benefits that the action had for the people of the foreign lands, increasing America's dignity and prestige, trade benefits as well as the creation of stable countries for citizens in less fortunate nations. Further, it has been apparent that the white man's burden concept refers to the extra burden of helping colonies, such as the Philippines, solve their national problems.

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America's 19th Century Expansion: A Dream Realized - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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