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Imperialism in the United States: The Factors

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An Imperialist United States

At the beginning of the 19th century, the race to industrialize began. Once the United States made its mark, it became a protectorate to many neighboring countries. Since many of these countries were fairly unestablished the U.S. progressively became more and more imperialistic. This was their drive to acquire new colonies. Increase in population, wealth, and industrial production demanded more resources. Some americans feared existing resources in the United States might eventually dry up. Overseas markets became a possible safety valve for U.S. internal pressures. Then the desire or power and prestige grew. Three of the main countries the U.S. became an imperial power to were Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama. Cuba served many militaristic advantages while Puerto Rico and Panama held more political and economic benefits for the U.S. When these benefits became apparent, the U.S. stopped at nothing to acquire these regions.

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One factor that brought on imperialistic ideas is the military. Cuba still had many struggles after their victory against Spain. Spain gave up all claim in Cuba and ceded guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. Once Spain gave up control of the Philippines for 20 million dollar, the U.S. became the most imperialist world power and President Mckinley setup military governments to restore order in Cuba. When Leonard Wood was appointed governor he oversaw the cuban constitution. Cuba became an independent nation but gave the U.S the right to intervene as it sees fit. The Platt amendment was set in order to get the us military to leave. It limited what countries Cuba can make treaties with and gave the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuban affairs in return for American protection. They had to sell or lease land to the U.S. and allow construction of a naval base too. Thus the creation of the Guantanamo Bay naval base. Cuba rapidly industrialized with the help of U.S. imports. These events began the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

The U.S. became a protectorate of Cuba for militaristic reasoning, but the United States became a protectorate of Puerto Rico for a number of Political reasons. The U.S. treated Puerto Rico like a territory, similar to how they treated the Philippines. That was due to the Foraker Act. It gave the U.S. the right to appoint their governor and upper house, and puerto ricans could elect the lower house. Puerto Rico became U.S. first unincorporated territory. The new government had an American governor, with 5 Puerto Rican Cabinet members. The first civil governor, Charles Allen, of the island under the Foraker Act was inaugurated on May 1, in San Juan. On March 2, 1917, Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, under which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship, meaning that citizenship was granted by an act of Congress and not by the Constitution. Thus it was not guaranteed by the Constitution. In 1952 Puerto Ricans became a self governing commonwealth.

The Monroe doctrine gave the U.S. the right to intervene in countries on the Western hemisphere in order to protect the Americas and preserve interests in the region. President Roosevelt believed that building a canal through Panama was crucial to U.S. security and trade. Since this region was Colombian controlled, Roosevelt offered the government of Colombia 10 million dollars up front and $250,000 a year in rent for a portion of land in Panama. Since Colombia did not accept this offer, Panama proposed that the U.S supported their new found independence and their revolution leader (Philippe Banu-Vanilla), in return Panama would give the U.S. a 10 mile wide stretch of land through the center of their country. The French had once attempted to construct a canal but failed due to the spread of yellow fever. The U.S however, made eliminating the disease the first goal of the canal project. Dr. William Georgas used an army of sanitation workers to rid the country of the illness. After the use of more than 43,000 workers and massive steam shovels, the canal opened on August 15, 1940. Since its opening, the U.S continued to reap the economic benefits of the canal.

After the U.S. mad all the efforts to acquire these colonies, it all proved to be worth it. Cuba provided the U.S. with a naval base (Guantanamo bay) in a convenient and strategic location. Puerto Rico gave the U.S. the right to appoint their governor and Panama gave the U.S. land to construct a canal. All of these unestablished regions proved to contain militaristic, political, and economic benefits for the U.S.. During this time the United States was truly one of the most imperialistic and powerful countries in the world.

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