The United States of America has never been content with stagnation. The landmass of the Thirteen Colonies was enough to rival that of the Mother country from which they separated. The forefathers believed that it was the manifest destiny of this nation to eventually claim the expansion from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. By 1890, nearly a hundred years following the original claim of Manifest Destiny, the land that was once open, was now under American control. But no sooner was the Great American Frontier closed, than was the door to East Asian expansion opened with the great gold key of American diplomacy. In a world where imperialism was contagious, and cartographers had to work around the clock to keep up with an ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the United States seized the opportunity to establish herself as a significant world power.
With great expansionist minds at her helm, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft the United States began to grow beyond her border to claim stake in this wide-open world. This new expansionism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a different institution than its early to mid nineteenth century counterpart. Still, the drive to exercise the sovereignty of the United State and to propel itself over the world's stage was the same then as it was in the time of Thomas Jefferson. In order to understand this assertion, attention must be given to three levels of analysis. First, the similarities that exist between the drive and purpose of old and new expansion must be taken into account. Second, the differences in the global political scene must be considered.
Finally, there exits differences in the means by which expansion occurred. One common theme, which stretched the American spirit beyond its borders and into the soil of foreign territory during both old and new expansionism, is the belief that the U.S. was destined by providence, power, and its own intrinsic worth to expand beyond her boundaries. Senator Albert J. Beveridge revealed this mindset in his 1900 address to the 56th congress when he outlined his faith that God almighty had chosen the United States of America to act as keeper and leader in his volatile time in world politics. Having this belief that the United States was divinely appointed to be a superpower was of similar proportion to the desire of policy makers in the nineteenth century to follow the providence of God as He led America from the shores of Jamestown to the coast of San Francisco. This was the ultimate continuation that can be witnessed in the expansionism of early America and of later dates.
Another great catalyst for expansion early on and then again in the late nineteenth century was a heightened sense of nationalism. This was a prevalent idea when the nation was young and a worldwide norm during the era of Taft and Roosevelt. In 1885, Josiah Strong penned the words, which were at the very heart of this sense of American power and intrinsic worth in his work Our Country: Its Possible Future and Potential Crisis. His thoughts concluded that the United States was a people of unequalled majesty and energy. His belief was that the United States was a people destined for nothing short of unsurpassed greatness. Those early expansionist philosophers of the United States would also share this sentiment.
Though the two periods of expansionism shared some very similar motives, there were undeniable differences, most specifically with regards to the world at the time of these two crusades. Thomas Nast illustrates beautifully the world of Taft and Roosevelt expansionism in "The World's Plunders". Illustrating the pillaging of the eastern hemisphere by the three dominate powers of Germany, Britain and Russia, inferences can be made to the fact that the world was literally being overrun by a healthy appetite for expansion. The United States of America was in the turmoil of Civil War at about the time when the superpowers of Europe were reshaping the borders of Asia and Africa.
The question remained, how would the U.S., who obviously had the drive to spread its imperialistic wings, compete? The answer would involve focus in two separate political arenas. The first was in Central America and the Caribbean. The second was in the Pacific. Theodore Roosevelt addressed Congress on December 6, 1904, regarding the issue of foreign relations in the Western Hemisphere. His address boldly published his belief that the U.S. had a right to enforce and intervene in the affairs of these nations and to exercise foreign policy, which would further the progression of the political scene in the early Twentieth century.
This was a major departure from the expansionism of old. Where as Jefferson and his policy engine was concerned with exercising control over virgin territory and practicing the idea of isolationism, Theodore Roosevelt made clear that isolationism was to be replaced with interventionism. In the Pacific, control was gained over key areas and islands beyond the coast of California. Beveridge furthered his point with the exclamation that the possession of the Philippines marked a great state in which control of the Pacific Ocean was achieved, ultimately leading to control of Asian trade routes and in that respect, the world. The picture of Uncle Sam, holding the key of American diplomacy, which unlocked the door to china, showed the importance of American expansionism to the world scene. Where as old expansionism paid an entirely domestic dividend, new expansionism brought wealth to the world.
Clearly, these were two different political pictures painted by the two schools of American expansionism. Finally, the means by which expansionism occurred was different and a definite departure took place in the early twentieth century from traditional expansionist tactics. Alfred T. Mahan wrote in his definitive work, The Interest of America in Sea Power, that the United States would expand in the Pacific on the back of a powerful navy. He outlined the need for harbors and docks in key fortifications, an exceptionally powerful offensive navy, and a dominance of the American west coast. In the time of old expansionism, the chief concerns were Native Americans and mountain ranges. Clearly the differences were undeniable.
The Manifest Destiny that was painted on the fabric of this nation in red, white and blue was finished before the dawn of the twentieth century. With the nature of politics and the temperament of political leadership, the ink from that painting spread its pigment across the Western Hemisphere and well into the blue waters and pulsing tides of the Pacific Rim. The stars and stripes would expand from the earth to the moon in the latter half of the twentieth century, they will continue to expand until that day when providence my sign his name to the master piece titled, "Destiny, Manifested.".