- An American political and social movement of the late nineteenth century that influenced the spirit of territorial expansionism policy in the two decades before 1914. The most dramatic example of the emergence of the United States as an imperial power was the Spanish-American War in which it eliminated Spanish influence in the Western Hemisphere and also gained possession of the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Samoa.By the late 1890s, the American economy was producing more than it could consume, leading to a search for new markets abroad. At the same time, the economic success enjoyed by the country came at the expense of the industrial working class. The project of domestic reform championed by the Populist and Progressive movements - prodding the administrations of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt to take steps to improve the condition of the working class and to end monopolies and trust corporations - was also felt in its most ebullient moments in the increasingly popular notion that the United States had both moral obligations and a responsibility to humanity more generally. In the case of the war with Spain over Cuba, the older traditions of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine were married in the mind of Progressives to a crusading moralism that clamored for the United Sates to rescue Cubans from the oppression of Spanish rule. Roosevelt referred to it as “militant decency” and observed that America’s chief usefulness to humanity “rest(s) on our combining power with high purpose.” This relationship between American imperialism and progressivism continued into the presidential terms of William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson and stalled with the onslaught of World War I, after which it was rearticulated as liberal internationalism.FURTHER READING:Freidel, Frank. The Splendid Little War . New York: Dell, 1958;McDougall, Walter. Promised Land, Crusader State . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997;McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870–1920 . New York: Free Press.CARL CAVANAGH HODGE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.