Imperialism Argumentative Essay

This essay has a total of 1246 words and 6 pages.


At the turn of the century, America and the views of its people were changing. Many
different ideas were surfacing about issues that affected the country as a whole. The
Republican Party, led by William McKinley, were concentrating on the expansion of the
United States and looking to excel in power and commerce. The Democratic Party at this
time was led by William Jennings Bryan, who was absorbed in a sponge of morality and was
concerned with the rights of man. The nation's self-interest was divided into different
ideas between the two parties. At this time imperialism and anti-imperialism were the
dominant topics regarding America's destiny.

One argument backing U.S. imperialism is by naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan. At this
time, Great Britain had the strongest sea power. Mahan states that America's navy must be
as strong to compete in trade and war. Expansion would aid exports, and more naval power
would grant the ability to overcome obstacles such as a dispute between the U.S. and
another country. Most importantly, Mahan states that the world is in struggle and the U.S.
must protect itself to survive.

Another argument in favor of U.S. imperialism was that of Albert J. Beveridge. Beveridge
argued that it was the duty of Americans to govern others, he felt that if Britain and
Germany could, then why not America as well. In response to the opposition that stated
that people should not govern those who do not wish to be governed Beveridge responded
that, "…applies only to those who are capable of self government," (Beveridge 1898), and
as he and many others saw it, foreign lands were not capable of self- government.
Additionally, Beveridge argued that there was too much in America. He stated that there
are too many employees and not enough jobs, too much capital and not enough investment; he
felt that all the U.S. needed was more circulation. Invading and taking over foreign lands
was just the way to do it.

An additional argument in favor of U.S. imperialism was that of Charles Denby and his
explanation of why we should not give up the ‘foothold' we have in the Philippines.
According to Denby, commerce was the most important factor to a nation's well-being. Denby
felt that by keeping hold in the Philippines China's market was much more easily
accessible. China having a very profitable market and the U.S. being involved was very
beneficial for the country in general. As long as China profited so did the U.S.. In turn
it was just easier and more accessible to the Chinese market if the U.S. had stake in the

All of these articles demonstrate a very high self-interest and also somewhat aggressive
outlook on U.S. imperialism. All three seem to agree that expansion equaled commerce,
which in turn equaled power. The articles chiefly suggest that other nations would be
privileged to have the U.S. control them. They all take basically the same ethnocentric
view that the U.S. is best.

On the reverse was the anti-imperialistic argument. This argument was supported by
Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan and the National Liberty Congress
of Anti-Imperialists. Bryan was a very moral person and was concerned with the freedom of
all men. He believed that expansion was wrong because the U.S. was trying to
constitutionalize lands and people out of its jurisdiction. He felt that people's rights
were being sacrificed for cash flow. In reference to dealing with the Filipino problem, he
proposed that the U.S. merely aid rather than control. The U.S. was able to help Cuba
stabilize a government while protecting them with the Monroe Doctrine. Bryan felt that the
same solution could have been asserted to the Philippines problem. The difference in the
self interest of Anti-imperialists is that they are viewing it from the Filipinos point of

The annexation of the Philippines was justified by President William McKinley in 1898,
with the argument that if the U.S. were only to take control of Manila, the others were
still left in limbo; therefore the whole country must be seized. Furthermore, if the U.S.
were to give back the country to Spain or France, it would look weak. The third reason
that the U.S. was to let the country govern itself, they could not do it because they were
not capable or competent enough. With these facts in mind the U.S. also said that with
keeping the islands they could culture and teach the Filipinos and Christianize them. It
seems that McKinley was in a dilemma of right and wrong. The Monroe Doctrine would have
been a possible solution to the problem, but the U.S. would then lose power and commerce.
McKinley did not want to go against his wealthy and powerful backers and give up the
Philippines. In his view, the nation's self-interest was based on commerce, capital,
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