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How The American Foreign Policy Changed from that of a Segregationist to Imperialist as a Result of International Trade's Growth

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The growth of international trade displayed American desire to build, innovate and explore new markets, this, along with global competition for control of weak territories resulted in the change of American foreign policy from an isolationist view to an imperialist view.

A reason as to President Roosevelt being an important factor to American imperialism is due to his influence with the Panama Canal and his Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Panama Canal was Roosevelt’s most significant achievement as it fully embodied American imperialism. In other words, it was necessary to intervene the affairs in weaker nations for Roosevelt to have a stable and orderly economy and presence in the world. When the Columbian government proved difficult to negotiate with, Roosevelt sponsored a national uprising of Panamanian separatists and forced Columbia to accept the creation of an independent republic of Panama. This was virtually a ‘puppet state’ under American direction and allowed the canal to e dominated by American regulation. Roosevelt set out the Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the USA has the right to ‘exercise international police power’ in Latin America if there were ‘flagrant cases of wrongdoing or impotence’. This was done to show the world that the USA was a power to be reckoned. This was an important shift in American policy as Roosevelt virtually amended the Monroe Doctrine to justify his interventionalist policy in forcing through the independence of Panama in order to secure American control over the Panama Canal. It also shows America’s influence as they were able to control a state.

Another reason as to the importance of Roosevelt’s imperialism was because of his collaborations with Alfred Thayer Mahan on USA naval bases. Mahan was a close friend of Roosevelt’s, and therefore Roosevelt accepted Mahan’s arguments that by investing in China, USA could build naval bases and therefore America would have a more ‘forward’ foreign policy based on modern sea power. By enlarging the US Navy, America would look more powerful to other countries with a large sea power that would be able to defend against attacks from other powers, especially European powers, and would be able to join the list of world powers.

Along with President Roosevelt, President McKinley was imperialist with his influence over Cuba. When Cuban nationalists began a revolt against Spanish rule in 1895, they received significant backing from American sympathisers. The US government did not want to get involved in Cuba, however, when the Spanish Ambassador criticised McKinley, he felt he had no choice but to go to war. The Teller Amendment was passed in Congress which ensured that Cuba would not become a US colony. American forces invaded Cuba and emerged victorious. After this, however, the Platt Amendment of 1901 replaced the Teller Amendment and allowed the USA to intervene in Cuba to maintain its stability and independence if there was considered to be a ‘threat’. This meant America would decide what did and did not constitute a threat to Cuban ‘independence’. Because of his use of force in Cuba, President McKinley developed American imperialism as this was the defining point of America losing their isolationist title and showing their imperialism.

President Wilson could be said to have been imperialist as shown with Mexico. In 1914 after the Mexican Revolution, Wilson sent American marines to occupy Vera Cruz and restore order, however this actually helped to strengthen the military dictator Victoriano Huerta’s position instead of overthrowing his regime. Wilson was criticised by Roosevelt form to being tough enough yet also criticised by anti-imperialist forced for intervening in the first place. In 1916, Wilson intervened again, sending in a large military force. However, American intervention was unsuccessful and the military force was pulled out in 1917. Although he showed imperialist intentions with sending American marines into Mexico, Wilson was not naturally an imperialist and after the events of Mexico, he returned to his traditional isolationist views.

President Roosevelt was a very important factor contributing to the development of American imperialism in 1900-1914 as he amended the Monroe Doctrine to pursue his imperialist ideologies, taking control of the Panama Canal and developing USA naval bases. Although, President McKinley also had an important part in developing American imperialism in this time period as by using force in Cuba, he was the first President to do this, showing how imperialist his motives were. Even though President Wilson used imperialist tactics to try and intervene in Mexico, he was shown to not be important to American imperialism as this failed and he returned back to his beliefs in American isolationism.

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How the American Foreign policy changed from that of a segregationist to imperialist as a result of international trade’s growth. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from
“How the American Foreign policy changed from that of a segregationist to imperialist as a result of international trade’s growth.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
How the American Foreign policy changed from that of a segregationist to imperialist as a result of international trade’s growth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 Aug. 2022].
How the American Foreign policy changed from that of a segregationist to imperialist as a result of international trade’s growth [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2022 Aug 18]. Available from:
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