American Expansionism


Americans in the late 1800’s agreed most strongly with the imperialist views of Albert Beverage and Josiah Strong. America had expanded, from the small east coast thirteen-state-country it had been in the late 1700’s, until reaching the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the west. There was infrastructure, like railroads, connecting the entire country. The most recent census taken at the time said that there were no more undeveloped lands on which new immigrants could settle. This began the U.S. looking toward expansion in a whole new light. New inventions, like the light bulb and sewing machine, were increasing worker productivity. Industrialization had taken hold and America produced more goods than the population could use. Surpluses existed in corn, wheat, cotton, and many manufactured goods. The country needed new markets to fill the order sheets of its progress. At much the same time the United States was growing in international prestige throughout the world. A victory in Cuba over the Spanish had elevated the military status of the country. The growth of the U. S. had fascinated many social scientists of the time. They explained the rapid successful growth of America to the Darwinian model of survival of the fittest. Having opportunities not found in the home country, millions of immigrants came to the U. S. in hope of a better life. The arrival of all the new labor drove the wage down and productivity up. There were many jobs that used this labor pool to the best of their abilities. In this way the railroads, Erie Canal, and telegraph wires were constructed and maintained. America had run low on large projects that used massive amounts of labor and settled new lands along the way. A new view of expansion was needed. Never before had the U. S. faced a question such as this and many conflicting views were voiced. Expansionists argued on three fronts. These included expanded trade and new markets with their raw materials, bringing a superior form of government with all of its liberties to new people, and lastly, most importantly were bringing Christianity with them.


There were many reasons given by both Josiah Strong and Albert Beverage as to why expansion was necessary. The underlying theme to all of these arguments is religious. These men felt that it was not only the God-given right and responsibility of America to expand, but her sacred duty to God. They argued that there was no way that all of the god-given gifts bestowed upon the U. S. should not be shared with the rest of the world. Why else would God have chosen America unless He wanted her to give these gifts to the rest of the world? (Beveridge) “It is a mighty people that He has planted on this soil; a people sprung from the most masterful blood of history; a people perpetually revitalized by the virile, man –producing working folk of all the earth; a people imperial by virtue of their power, by the right of their institutions, by authority of their Heaven- directed purposes- the propagandists and not the misers of liberty”. He goes on to say, “Has God endowed us with gifts beyond our deserts and marked us as the people of His peculiar favor, merely to rot in our own selfishness?” This stance is confirmed by Strong when he says, “ It is not necessary to argue to those for whom I write that the two great needs of mankind, that all men may be lifted up into the light of the highest Christian civilization, are, first, a pure, spiritual Christianity, and , second, civil liberty.” In this way both authors demonstrated the responsibility the U. S. had to make the world a better place with their superiority. Americans felt that their system of government was greater than any other, the economic system was superior also, but most importantly our Anglo- Saxon religion-namely Protestantism- was the best.


The introduction of trade was important at the time for Americans. Farmers were now producing more crops than ever before. The vast resources in the United States in land, labor, and raw materials were being turned into goods which surpassed the need for them. New buyers for these goods were being sought. If