ESSENTIAL QUESTION How did global com- petition motivate the United States to be- come a world power? How did the U.S. exer- cise this new power?
FORCES OF UNITY AND DISUNITY 6.14: Students understand the tensions between the forces of unity and those of disunity in various times in their local community, in the United States, and in various locations world wide.
Should the U.S. become an Imperialist Power?
What should our foreign policy (role) consist of to- day?
The United States Becomes a World Power (1890-1920)
By 1890, the United States had by far the world's most productive economy. American industry pro- duced twice as much as its closest competitor--Britain. But the United States was not a great military or diplomatic power. Its army num- bered less than 30,000 troops, and its navy had only about 10,000 men.
Britain's army was five times the size of its American counterpart, and its navy was ten times bigger. The United States' military was small because the country was situated between two large oceans and was surrounded by weak or friendly nations. It faced no serious military threats and had little inter- est in asserting military power overseas.
From the Civil War until the 1890s, most Americans had little interest in territorial expansion. William Seward, the secretary of state under presidents Lincoln and Johnson, did envision American expansion into Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Cen- tral America, the Caribbean, Ice- land, Greenland, Hawaii, and other Pacific islands.
But he witnessed only two small parts of this vision. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $72 million and occupied the Midway Islands in the Pacific.
Americans resisted expansion for two major reasons. One was that imperial rule seemed inconsistent with America's political principles. The other was that the United States was uninterested in acquir- ing people with different cultures, languages,...