Why did the USA wish to further expand its interests overseas?

Up until 1890, as the USA was emerging as one of the world’s greatest economic and military powers, they had been pursuing a policy of Isolationism.

Following the War of Independence with Britain, which had lasted from 1775-1783, the US was focusing on developing its own political system and fighting for economic stability.

Furthermore, the USA focused on their internal domestic issues as they faced The American Civil War from 1861-1865.

Following the Civil war, political, social and economic reconstruction took place which occupied US attention.

However, by 1890, many Americans began urging the government to ends its isolationism and look overseas.

Motives behind US international expansion

On the one hand, the causes of this are mostly economic.

  • The Western frontier of America was now completely settled and the US government announced that it was closed. Therefore, Americans began to look abroad for new financial opportunities to exploit, as they had done with the frontier.

  • The Chinese Empire was weakening, and not only offered an easy market to sell American manufactured goods but also appeared to be a useful source of raw materials and imported goods, such as tea, silk and spices.

  • European nations such as Britain and Germany were pursuing economic interests in South America. This competition so close to their border encouraged the US that they needed to explore more diverse markets.

  • The US wished to exploit the new trading opportunities of its westward expansion to the Pacific coast by reaching overseas markets in Asia.

  • American businesses began to pressure the US government to remove protectionist tariffs as they believed it would encourage free trade and allow increased access to overseas markets.

  • American businessmen believed that the rapid economic growth of the USA meant that to maintain the growth and continue to rival European powers, the government would need to open new overseas markets for American goods.

  • American investors began looking for new investment opportunities abroad as, by 1880, Wall Street had become the second-largest stock exchange in the World.

  • As America experienced an economic downturn in 1893, it became clear to American businesses that continued economic growth was dependant on new access to overseas markets.

On the other hand, other motives include.

  • In 1823, the US announced the Monroe doctrine which stated that any interference in the Americas by European powers would be viewed as an act of aggression. This is due to the fact that the USA was concerned that European powers would try to re-conquer their former territories in the Americas.

  • In 1890, an influential book called "The Influence of Sea Power on History" was published by a former US naval officer. It encouraged US presidents to increase the size and strength of the U.S. Navy as it would enable the US to protect and expand its international interests.