A New Foreign Policy

 

Overview After the Spanish American War, the United States had become a major colonial power. This was because American needs and interests changed. This changed the United States' relations with the rest of the world. The United States began to use its power in world affairs because of the ideas of two presidents. Both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft played major roles in shaping American foreign policy.

 

An Open Door in China. American interest in trade with China began in the late 1700's. This interest increased during the late 1800's. In part, this was because American industry was growing, and factory owners were looking for new places to sell their goods. China had a large population. Therefore many people thought it would be a rich market. Also, American farmers were interested in selling their products to China.

However, during the 1800's, America's trade with China began to decline. To a large extent, this was because England, France, Germany, and Russia had gained control of much of the trade with China. These countries did this by forcing the weak Chinese government to grant them exclusive trade rights in certain areas of China. Then in the late 1800's, some of these countries set up colonies in parts of China. At this point, many Americans began to fear that these European countries would soon control all trade with China.

Following the Spanish American War, many business leaders felt that the United States should increase trade with China. Now that America controlled Guam, the Philippine Is­lands, and Hawaii, trade with China was more practical and easier. Therefore the government was asked to take a strong stand against the European control of trade with China.

Secretary of State John Hay agreed that the United States should have trading rights in China. Hay, in turn, convinced President McKinley that the United States should act. Therefore, in 1899, Secretary Hay sent notes to the leaders of England, France, Germany, and Russia. His message stated that the United States wanted an open-door policy in China. This meant that all countries would have equal rights to trade anywhere in China. When none of the European countries objected, Hay announced that the open-door policy would be followed. However, the open-door policy was threatened just one year later.
 

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In 1900, a group of Chinese, called the Boxers, tried to force all foreign powers out of China. The United States, England, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia sent soldiers to China to oppose the Boxers. But the United States thought that the other countries might try to take over a greater part of China. For this reason, Secretary of State Hay wrote an addition to the open-door policy. The addition stated that the United States would protect free trade in China and all of China's borders. In this way, the United States sought to protect its interests in a foreign land. And by offering this protection, the United States built good relations with China.

 

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The Big-Stick Policy. When President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley's Vice-President, became President. President Roosevelt was interested in building the country's power in the world. President Roosevelt also believed that the United States should be firm in dealing with other countries. He said that the country must be prepared to protect its overseas lands and its worldwide trade. Roosevelt was fond of the West African saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." Roosevelt's firmness in foreign affairs is why many historians refer to his foreign policy as big-stick diplomacy.

 



 

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Theodore Roosevelt had fought in Cuba during the Spanish American War. He had also worked in the Navy Department. Because of his military experience, he knew that American ships must be able to reach distant lands rapidly. But, for American ships to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, they had to go around South America. Obviously, a more direct route was needed. President Roosevelt decided that the United States must build a canal across Central America. He wanted it built across the Isthmus of Panama. This land was owned by Colombia. In 1903, President Roosevelt of­fered the Colombian government 10 million dollars and a yearly rental fee in return for the right to build the canal. Colombia refused the offer. Several months later-in November 1903-a revolt against the Colombian gov­ernment broke out in Panama. This revolt gave President Roosevelt a chance to act.


During the revolt, the United States stopped Colombian ships from reaching the Isthmus. As a result, the revolt succeeded; and Panama became a new, separate country. Immediately, the United States made a treaty with the new government of Panama to build the canal.

 

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Building the canal was only one of President Roosevelt's goals. He also wanted to make sure that it would always be safe for American ships to use the canal. Roosevelt thought that to do this, the United States must guard the peace in Latin America.

At that time, many countries in Latin America had problems. And some of them owed large sums of money to European coun­tries. President Roosevelt did not want any European country to send soldiers to collect this money. To avoid this possibility, President Roosevelt added a new part to the Monroe Doctrine. The president said that if any Latin American country was unable to keep order or to pay its debts, the United States would step in and manage that country's affairs. This is called the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.

 

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President Taft and Dollar Diplomacy. By 1908, President Roosevelt had decided not to run for reelection. In his place the Republicans nominated William Howard Taft. Taft had been Secretary of War in Roosevelt's administration. His Democratic opponent in the election was William Jennings Bryan. When the ballots were counted, Taft won the election with 7,675,320 popular votes. Bryan received 6,412,294 votes.

President Taft agreed with Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on maintaining America's strength and role in the world. He also agreed that the United States should protect the Panama Canal. President Taft wanted to make sure that the countries near the Panama Canal remained friendly to the United States.

President Taft also wanted to lessen Europe's power in these countries. However, many Latin American countries still depended on loans from Europe. Because of this, President Taft asked American bankers and business leaders to make loans and invest­ments in Latin America. In this way, American dollars would help these countries. This policy, which was called dollar diplomacy, was intended to increase trade and friendly relations between the United States and Latin America.

But there were some problems with dollar diplomacy. Many people in Latin America did not want American businesses in their country. And when the United States sent soldiers to protect American property in Latin America, many people in Latin America came to dislike the United States.

 

 

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Ask Mr. Van Duyne for the Activity 5 Information Organizer. You  may download and print a copy if he is not available.

 

 

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