At the end of the Civil War, America was becoming increasingly outward looking as exports of both manufactured goods and agricultural goods shot up. Many Americans believed that United States had to expand or explore after the close of the western frontier. The U.S. was bursting with a new sense of power and nationalism, generated by the booming increase in population, wealth, and industrial production. Many Americans thought that overseas markets might provide a safety valve to relieve such pressures as: labor violence and agrarian unrest.
Other forces also stimulated overseas expansion. The Yellow Press of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst wetted the Americans taste for excitement aboard. Missionaries, inspired by books like the Reverend Josiah Strongs Our Country. Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, looked overseas for new fields to till. Americans wanted to spread their religion and their civilization to the backward peoples. At the same time aggressive Americans like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge were interpreting Darwinism to mean that the earth belonged to the strong and fit.
If America was to survive in the competition of modern nation-states, perhaps it too, would have to become an imperial power. The development of a new steel navy would eventually help America become an imperial power. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahans book, argued that the control of the sea was the key to world dominance, Americans joined in the demand for a mightier Navy and for an American built isthmian canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. (Panama Canal).
After looking back, the United States of America turned to a policy of imperialsm because of economic expansion at home, the amazing industrialization of America in the half century following the Civil War, the nations sudden emergence of being a world power, and national pride. Also, industrial output required more raw materials, especially from overseas markets. To meet these needs, America adopted a strategy of informal empire, shunning formal territorial possessions, with the exception of the Philippines, but seeking economic dominance over foreign markets, materials, and investment outlets.
While America was going through its imperialistic growth, exciting events had been taking place in China. After its defeat by Japan in 1894-1895, the imperialistic European powers of Russia and Germany moved in. They began to tear away valuable leaseholds and economic spheres of influence from the Manchu government.
A growing number of Americans viewed the dissection of China with alarm. Churches were worried about their missionary strongholds. Manufacturers and exporters feared that the Chinese markets would be monopolized by Europeans. An alarmed American public prodded by the Press and certain free trade Britons, demanded that Washington do something. Secretary of State John Hay finally decided on a dramatic move.
In the summer of 1899, Hay dispatched to all the great powers of the world a communication soon to be known as the Open Door Note. He urged all the powers to announce that in their leaseholds or spheres of influence they would respect certain Chinese rights and the ideal of fair competition. Hays proposal caused much squirming in the leading world capitals, but all the great powers eventually accepted. In 1900 Secretary Hay let another paper fly, this one anouncing that henceforth the Open Door would embrace the territorial integrity of China.
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