Was the foreign policy of the United States primarily isolationist or expansionist through 1865-1914? At the turn of the century, and after gaining our independence, the United States land mass more than doubled through the use of purchasing, annexing, and war. However, the foreign policy of our government took a predominately isolationist stand. This was a national policy of abstaining from political or economic relations with other countries. General Washington shaped these values by upholding and encouraging the use of these principles by warning to avoid alliances in his farewell speech. The reasoning behind these actions was that the Republic was a new nation.
We did not have the resources or the means to worry about other countries and foreign affairs; our immediate efforts were internal. Our goals that were of primary importance were setting up a democratic government and jump-starting a nation. The United States foreign policy up to and directly preceding the Civil War was mainly Isolationist. After the war, the government helped bring together a nation torn apart by war, helped improved our industrialization, and helped further populate our continent.
We were isolationist in foreign affairs, while expanding domestically into the west and into the north through the purchase of Alaska. However, around 1890 the expansionism that had taken place was a far cry from what was about to happen. Expansionism is the nations practice or policy of territorial or economic expansion. The United States began dealing with territories that were overseas. They proceeded to expand into foreign markets not only for territorial advantages but also for the economic benefit. At the turn of the century, Isolationism took a back seat to expansionism, which had now arrived in full force.
Throughout 1865 to 1914, the United States foreign policy was primarily expansionism. Through the strong foundation of Isolationism and the policies enacted such as The Monroe Doctrine, the United States played a largely neutral role in foreign affairs. The Monroe Doctrine passed in 1823 was to forbid European nations from colonizing any territory in the Western Hemisphere. Although the United States didn't have the authority or firepower to back this up, it resulted in almost four decades of compulsory US involvement in any foreign affair. After the Civil War, Isolationist ic practices grew stronger as the government had to find a way to re-unite the torn nation.
President Grover Cleveland promised to avoid committing the nation to form any alliances with other countries while also opposed to the acquisition of new land. The climate of post Civil War US prevented us from deep involvement in foreign affairs. Our navy was also weakened by the war. Our natural resources were scarce and our diplomatic relations with other countries had been neglected. With the attention of our government focused solely on our nation, we proceeded to develop our interior. One of the biggest reasons for growth in US land mass was the public idea of Manifest Destiny.
Americans believed that it was the destiny of the United States to populate a huge, vast continent. In the 1890's, the Isolationist movement took a back seat and American foreign policy followed heavy Expansionism. After the total expansion into the west, Americans perceived notion of Manifest Destiny changed. They believed that since they were superior to other nations, their policy needed to change from just territorial acquisition within its borders, to outside. The United States had to think about the development of the national economy and protection of its interests and ideals' considering the American market was overproducing its goods therefore saturating the market.
The United States had to pursue new avenues for economic growth, and also had to protect these interests. The first major conflict was The Spanish-American War. This war was caused by the millions of dollars the United States had invested in Cuba, and its Sugar crop. After the Spanish-American war the United States continued to expand territorially and economically by acquiring new territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Other examples of expansionism included the Venezuelan affair, where President Teddy Roosevelt through his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine declared the United States had "international police power" in Latin America, and the taking of the Panama Canal Zone.
Through the period of 1865-1914, the United States foreign policy was primarily expansionist in action but also in view. The years following the Civil War amounted to what many people consider an Isolationist period for the United States. During the period from 1865 to 1890 our foreign policy was still construed with what the original executive had intended. Although Isolationism was the main idea of our government during this time, the United States had Expansionist tendencies throughout the whole period. They purchased land, declared war over land, and expanded throughout the entire West. On the dawn of the twentieth century, America knew it had to wean itself from the isolationist role it had played in world affairs.
The US expanded even more through new territories to not only protect its entities, but also to enforce and show its power. This period marked an end to our forefather's wishes of neutrality in foreign affairs. Instead, these expansionist actions helped the country grow and prosper, to become the biggest superpower in the world.