The Reasons for War in 1898 The roots of the Spanish-American War of 1898 were planted decades earlier in a popular notion known as Manifest Destiny. Though there was not an official policy of expansionism, Americans were acculturated to the idea that it was their right, if not duty, to spread westward and outward. John L OSullivan wrote in 1839, "All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man, -- the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen"1.
Yet, had our only mission been to spread Christianity, freedom, and democracy throughout a world ruled by oppressive monarchies, Americans would have soon lost interest. The flames of American Imperialism were stoked by many diverse interests. Economics, religion, and political vision conspired in the late 19th century to spark the Spanish American War of 1898. 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 Americas 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. 2 Frederick 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 Turners 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 Mahans 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.
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