The end of the frontier in 1890 coincided with, but only partly caused, a growing attention by the US government to foreign policy. Before the 1890s the US had no distinct foreign policy other than an adherence to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine (that pronounced all of the Americas to be within the US sphere of interest) and a wish to support US economic investment abroad. The latter point combined with westward expansion in the late nineteenth century to produce a growing US interest in the Pacific. There was territorial expansion (Alaska and Midway) but growing economic domination of independent states such as Hawaii was more typical of US activity. This was accompanied by a Christian missionary zeal and a wish to bring civilised US attitudes to less enlightened parts of the world. As a result, US visitors, traders and settlers were to be found all over the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America. While the government had no specific foreign policy to regulate this, in the 1880s it began to build a modern navy to protect US interests. The 1880s and 1890s saw European powers seeking to build up huge colonial empires, most notably in the ‘scramble for Africa’, where the interior was hurriedly carved up between the colonial powers, but also in the Far East, where a weak and disunited China was forced to accept European trade interests. The US was not willing to allow a potential major trading partner fall under complete European domination, and declared itself hostile to European-style colonial expansion (having formerly been a set of British colonies itself). Presidents Harrison (1889-93) and Cleveland (1893-7) contrasted US tolerance and freedom to European empire-building. It was in the Caribbean, however, that US world power status, and its own colonial empire, was established in the 1890s. Cuba had long been a Spanish colony but had been open to US trade. However, a native uprising led to brutal Spanish suppression and commitment of troops to the island. US sympathy was with the uprising and a chain of provocative events in early 1898 led to President McKinley declaring war on Spain. The war itself was brief and showed the limits of US military might. However, Spain was unable to maintain the war and agreed to a peace deal that made Cuba independent and thus likely to fall even more under US influence. More significantly, the US received the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. When added to existing territorial possessions and the US annexation

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The expansion of US control and influence brought with it new responsibilities and problems. In 1900 US soldiers were fighting in both the Philippines, to crush a nationalist uprising there, and in China, where the ‘Boxer’ rebellion by Chinese nationalists attacked US and European interests there. These were some of the issues faced by Theodore Roosevelt, who served as President 1901-9. His aggressive manner and favourite foreign policy saying ‘speak softly and carry a ‘big stick’ have given him an image as a forceful, expansionist maker of foreign policy. In reality he was more conservative and cautious than this image suggests, and did not lead his country into any new wars. However the US asserted itself more in foreign policy under Roosevelt than it had done before. Roosevelt added his own ‘Corollary’ to the Monroe Doctrine, justifying pre-emptive action in the name of good government, but in effect to protect US interests in the Americas. He also built up and paraded the modern US navy. The showpiece achievement of the Roosevelt Presidency, the Panama Canal, was begun in controversial circumstances, with the US backing a Panamanian secession from Colombia in order to secure permission to build the canal. Roosevelt also intervened in Cuba when a 1906 rebellion there threatened US interests, in the Dominican Republic when it was threatened by European powers trying to collect debts, and he refereed a dispute between Venezuela and Britain. Elsewhere Roosevelt built a reputation as peacemaker, helping Japan and Russia to reach a

Roosevelt’s successor, William Taft (President 1909-13), was a product of Roosevelt’s foreign policy, serving first as governor of the Philippines and then as Secretary of War. Taft was less inclined to intervene directly in world affairs than Roosevelt had been, preferring a ‘dollar diplomacy’ approach that encouraged US business investment abroad. However, he still intervened militarily in Nicaragua when a rebellion there threatened US business interests. This deepened anti-US feeling in Central America and left problems for his successor, Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) to deal with. Wilson is best known for his decision to enter the First World War and his work at the Paris Peace Conference after the war. In Central America, however, he took an interventionist approach, establishing US protectorates over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and opposing the new dictator of Mexico, General Huerta. This led to the destabilisation of Mexico and attacks on US citizens, resulting in over 10,000 US troops operating in Mexico by 1916. Wilson’s desire to ‘teach the South American republics to elect good men’ reflected the overbearing and interventionist approach of US foreign policy in the Americas at this time.