American Expansionism in the 1890s
As a response to Britain’s growing influence, the expansion ideas of former Lincoln and Johnson administration Secretary of State William Seward began to develop more traction. Alfred Thayer Mahan, a Navel Strategist, and author of the book “Influence of Sea and Power Upon History” started advancing the notion that the political and economic security of a nation was tied up in both its abilities to militarily control the shipping routes to and from its borders and to culturally influence other parts of the world. These ideas contributed to a change in attitude among the American public about expansionism. The previous aversion to imperial aspirations that resulted from being a former colony began to be replaced by a growing belief that America’s best interests were served through expansion. As a result, missionary work designed to influence the “backward” people of Africa and Asia saw significant growth during this period. From 1889 to 1900 thousands of missions were established in those parts of the world in an effort to spread U.S. cultural influence around the world. In 1895, President William McKinley responded to public pressure by advocating and facilitating direct U.S. involvement in Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain. Mckinley was not interested in engaging in a war effort against Spain, but he was persuaded to understand that it was in the best interest of the U.S. to eliminate the presence of a European colonial power in the Western Hemisphere.