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The Reasons for War in 1898 - Essay Example

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This essay will discuss the historical events during the 19th century, which most likely led to the beginning of the Spanish-American War of 1898. A special attention is paid to the United States' of America economic and political positioning before the war…
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The Reasons for War in 1898
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Download file to see previous pages The vision of the United States as an Asian power originated in the post colonial period. The U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838 described three great island nations in the Pacific. These ports, Pago Pago, Manilla, and Pearl Harbor initiated the vision of America's quest for a presence in the Pacific. In 1878 the United States acquired a naval base in Pago Pago through an agreement with Great Britain and Germany, and by the end of 1898 the U.S. government controlled all the above mentioned harbors.2Frederick Jackson Turner‘s analysis that liberty and individualism had depended on the existence of a moving frontier into contiguous land. Turner believed that an ever-expanding frontier was necessary for the growth of the nation. Stromberg contends that, "With the disappearance of the frontier in the 1890s, a substitute frontier had become necessary to preserve the American way of life"3. Foreign markets became the frontier that had been exhausted on the mainland. Using Turner's arguments, proponents advocated looking beyond our shores for new frontiers and expanding markets.The vehicle to make large scale saltwater imperialism possible began with the publication of Alfred Thayer Mahan's 1890 book "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783". Mahan proposed the theory that great nations rode upon great naval power. As Mahan laid out in his book, "The motive, if any there be, which will give the United States a navy, is probably now quickening in the Central American Isthmus. Let us hope it will not come to the birth too late"4. Mahan's book was greeted with great acceptance and resulted in an appropriations bill to build a strong naval fleet in the 1890s. The naval appropriations act of 1890 was a strong endorsement of Mahan's philosophy and changed our naval approach from defensive to offensive. According to Musicant, "The battleships were a giant stride, as Tracy and his allies frankly admitted, toward creating a fighting fleet to seize command offensively of the open sea and destroy the enemy in blue water"5. The new naval strategy would enable the coming decade to foment the beginnings of war and enable the interested factions to make a case for imperial expansion.
By 1898, Cuba was central to our nation's attention and was the jumping off point to the war with Spain. Cuban rebels had been fighting for independence from Spain for 30 years. The main impetus for the rebellion was the unacceptable conditions in Cuba. In 1868, Cuban Nationalists fought a ten-year war that left the insurgents exhausted. Spain promised reforms, but most were never materialized and in 1895 the rebels staged a more concentrated effort for Cuban independence. The war from 1895-1898 would devastate Cuba, its economy, and its people. As Offner describes the devastation, "They sought to turn Cuba into an economic desert, thereby making the island unprofitable and convincing Spain to leave. Insurgents burned sugar cane fields and mills and destroyed railroads, telegraph lines, and other property"6. These atrocities would capture the attention ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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