Gami 1 Imperialism, a commonplace practice at the end of the 19th century, involves gaining new territories and establishing a nation’s political and economic dominance of another territory or country. The main aim of imperialistic countries was an expansion of their territorial possessions. This period was marked by a series of American accomplishments, as well as bloodshed and chaos.
The United States’ had a strong presence in China and wished to install an Open Door in China’s trade, which led to the Boxer Rebellion. Moreover, American involvement in Cuban affairs during the Spanish-American war was unnecessary and primarily caused by the usage of yellow journalism. Although the United States’ practice of imperialism in the late 1800s appealed to many Americans, it had a negative impact on other countries as it led to the Boxer Rebellion, yellow journalism, and the Spanish-American War.
Although many argue that American involvement in other countries during the 19th century was a necessity, it caused a multitude of problems including the Boxer Rebellion, where Chinese rebels from the Society of the Righteous Harmonious Fists, nicknamed “Boxers” committed violent attacks aimed at foreigners. The Boxers were a group of religious Chinese citizens that originally rebelled against the imperial government in 1898. They practiced rituals that were believed to make them invulnerable to pain. The Boxers believed that the expulsion of foreigners would renew their society and start an age of prosperity (Unger 231).
The rebellion’s sole purpose was to liberate China from foreign influences. During the 1890s, the Chinese people felt that foreigners not only had brought commercial and territorial demands but corroded their culture. Educated Chinese felt that foreigners humiliated China (Smith 122). With the United States’ recent acquisition of the Philippines, they too were now an Asian power, and were 400 miles away from the China. Secretary of State John Hay sent letters to all foreign powers in the region which called for an “open door” policy that would grant equal trading rights with China (Unger 236).
Moreover, this resulted in American businesses hoping to take advantage of China’s immense and varied supply of resources. While Empress Hsi and Chinese citizens were determined to rid their country of foreign influences, America was looking for a way in (“Boxer Rebellion”). The Boxers attempted to drive American, Russian, British, French, and Japanese foreigners out. However, they were defeated by regiments from these countries. As a result, thousands of Chinese Boxers were killed (“Imperialism”). The Boxer Rebellion indisputably shows that American imperialism in China led to warfare and destruction.
Additionally, newspapers published stories that were often exaggerated to gain more customers during the late 1800s. In the late 19th century, it was one of many factors that coerced the United States into an ongoing war between Cuba and Spain, and the procurement of overseas territory by the United States. The term yellow journalism originated in the competition over the New York City newspaper business between major newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst (Hastedt 3). The sensationalist style of yellow journalism drove coverage of developments in Cuba.
As a result, yellow journalism turned Americans against Spain and pressured Congress to declare war. Many in the United States wished for Spain to withdraw from Cuba, and some even gave material support to the Cuban revolutionaries (Smith 43). Hearst and Pulitzer devoted more and more attention to the Cuban struggle for independence, while emphasizing the brutality of the Spanish rule (“Imperialism and Yellow Journalism” 2). The large involvement of yellow journalism in the start of the war shows the war was not fought out of necessity, and contributes to the unjustified nature of American imperialism.
In a speech entitled “The Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism,” William Jennings Bryan reflects the viewpoint of the large number of anti-imperialists who protested American activism abroad. His commercial argument states that “war can be rightly waged for pecuniary advantages and that it is profitable to purchase trade by force and violence” (Bryan 1). In his speech, Bryan claims that imperialism directly violates the Constitution. It tarnishes the image of the United States’ encouragement to other nations such as the Philippines, whose citizens are denied a voice in their government.
Furthermore, the United States is a nation in liberty and those who believed in imperialism tried to silence those who were fighting for individual freedoms. All in all, imperialism was unsanctioned since one of its main causes was sensational articles published by newspapers which were known as yellow journalism. The United States did not want to get involved in the Spanish-American War, but was dragged into it due to yellow journalism, which ultimately led to many Americans wanting complete control over Cuba. The causes given for the Spanish-American war are completely irrelevant, and do not justify imperialism at all.
For instance, Spain was accused of causing an explosion aboard an American battleship called the U. S. S. Maine. Several investigations at the time were conducted, showing the explosion was most likely caused by a fire on the ship (Unger 233). The excuse for entering the war was the rebellion by the Cubans against Spanish rule and the explosion of the U. S. S. Maine. Additionally, when Congress passed the Fifty Million Dollar bill, which granted the president 50 million dollars to prepare for a war before it was declared, it made more and more people become proponents of a war with Spain.
The Spanish colonies gained independence in the early 1800s, but both Cuba and Puerto Rico remained Spanish territory. Many Americans sympathized with Cuba, after seeing their plight for independence. Furthermore, Americans collectively owned nearly 50 million dollars worth of real estate and industry in Cuba. William McKinley became President of the United States in 1897, and later that year the Spanish Prime Minister, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, was assassinated (Golay 2). People saw these as reasons for America to become involved in the war.
The Spanish-American war lasted only nine weeks, and was considered a “splendid little war. ” However, it led to 379 battle deaths and 5,000 American servicemen dying of disease (Hastedt 2). The Spanish-American war was a tragedy marked by a superfluous fight between two warring nations. Furthermore, President McKinley was not in favor of the war, going as far to say that “War should never be entered on until every agency of peace has failed; peace is preferable to war in almost every contingency” (Golay 3).
Evidently, McKinley was not in favor of going into war with Spain and preferred a peaceful approach. In “The New Policy of Corruption,” social theorist Morrison Isaac Swift comments on the injustices of imperialism. In his speech, he states “We are after the greatest markets in the world, we do not care what we do to get them: we will cheerfully rob and kill, we will wretch their fatherland from the weak and call it ours, we will admit it in cold blood, but like the praying professional murder, we piously declare that God and humanity will bless us in it” (Swift 241).
This means that the high diplomacy meant to make America a respected nation glorified in corruption. Swift argues that imperialism is inhumane and cruel to citizens living in other countries. It is clear that newspaper articles from yellow journalism put more tension on Congress to declare war against Spain, although both President McKinley and Congress were reluctant to do so. It is evident that American imperialism and involvement in other countries was unjustified.
The United States’ decision to go through with imperialism manifested itself into several problems. The United States went against the very ideals it established in the Constitution, including life and liberty, when entering China. It led to the Boxer Rebellion, which needlessly took many lives. Secondly, the large involvement of yellow journalism in the start of the war created by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst shows the Spanish-American war was fought out of panic from over exaggerated headlines.
American expansion was not needed but was used as a display of power. Lastly, journalists who exploited America’s desire for new territory made Americans become supportive of Cuba’s fight for independence against Spain. Ultimately, this led to the SpanishAmerican war which claimed many lives as well. In conclusion, American imperialism in the late 1880s was unjustified since it led to the grueling Boxer Rebellion, frivolous yellow journalism, and egregious involvement in the Spanish-American War.