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The Turbulent Period of 1870 Until 1900: Transcontinental Railroad and Spanish-american War

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From 1870 to 1900, the United States experienced a number of events which led to its economic and political growth, not just in the national level, but also on an international scale. There were many changes that Americans experienced during this time period as they discovered new inventions and became more involved in global politics and economics. The U.S. began to view itself in a new light as it made its rise to greater power leading Americans to become very prideful of their nation. Three important events that greatly impacted the U.S during this time include the creation of the transcontinental railroad, the Spanish-American War, and the annexation of Hawaii.

The building of the transcontinental railroad, connecting the west to the east, was something that sparked economic growth within the United States. In the 1870’s, this railroad, which connected many states, was already bringing value to the U.S. economy and causing American exports to triple in value. The transportation of goods across the nation was made significantly simpler and cheaper and as a result, businesses could sell their products for lower prices while attracting more buyers. This led to a chain reaction of the trading of goods involving dozens of companies, who were all benefitting economically from this one railroad system. All of this also helped in the rising of the nation in that it steered people away from rural areas and into more urban societies. The U.S. had previously seen just how beneficial railroads were during the Civil War, and they had a view of expanding this idea into something that everyone could benefit from, and so the transcontinental railroad was built. Since this idea was something that was heavily supported by both federal and state governments, the nation saw that this would lead to dramatic growth in the U.S. economy. The rise of the industrial leadership class and a new view on managerial roles led Americans to believe that they were becoming a greater power in the world with each passing day, and this was true. As the nation became wealthier altogether, the general public also became wealthy and people had more resources for new inventions and ideas that would help the U.S. become a dominant world power.

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Furthermore, The Spanish-American War in 1898 tied in with America’s rise in economy after projects such as the transcontinental railroad were done. The U.S. forces were also rising during this time into a more powerful and sustained force. As Cubans try to overthrow Spain’s brutal rule, the U.S becomes involved, even if it has little to gain from this conflict. The more Americans learn of the conditions of Cuban concentration camps, the more they want the U.S. to become directly involved, as so they finally do. This was a reflection of what Americans thought of themselves, viewing their country as a powerful nation, which they were, that could settle foreign disputes with whatever method necessary to come out successful. They had previously been involved in many foreign conflicts where the odds were for them and this made them all the more confident that they could reach an agreement with Spain. This war also gave light to the increasing power of the U.S. Navy, shown by Admiral George Dewey’s victory over the Spanish navy, sinking their entire squadron. The Teller Amendment stated that the U.S, did not intervene because they wanted Cuba, but at the same time they did not want to leave the island to fend for themselves or kick out American business from their territory. This directly shows that Americans, specifically the white population, still held themselves superior not only as a nation, but as a more competent race as well. They believed that nonwhites were inferior to govern themselves and so wanted to intervene in the case with Cuba and the Philippines. The assimilation of western culture on these islands including religion and democracy showed that the U.S did in fact want to spread its power and essentially rule over these territories.

In addition to the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Hawaii happened simultaneously in 1898. This would also go to reflect the hunger for power that America had in controlling more land and bringing more economic gain for themselves. The U.S. had seen the economic value of Hawaii for a long time now, and although the issue of annexation became dormant for some years, white Americans, or the sons of missionaries, had already begun buying extensive areas of land on the island. By the 1870’s, sugar growers owned 2/3 of Hawaii, which meant they were basically in control of its outputs and economy. Being hungry for power and land, they faked a revolution and overthrew the Queen. Their prideful feelings led them to accomplish great feats outside their national borders such as gaining control of Hawaii for their own economic gain. American expansionists had known that Hawaii was a “crucial link” in the trade from the Pacific all the way to China, and that these islands would provide the U.S. with a naval base and refueling station on the way to trading valuables with Asia. The United States was no doubt a rising nation that wanted yet even more.

In conclusion, the period from 1870 to 1900 was a time of exponential growth for America and its people. The United States improved its domestic economy and got involved in or created foreign policies that all helped the country grow more powerful on a global scale. The creation of the transcontinental railroad, the war between Spain and America, and Hawaii being annexed all made this a time of discovery and innovation for the rapidly growing nation.


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