7. 7 America Becomes a World Power
Till the 1890s, the U.S pursued an Isolationist
policy as George Washington put it in 1796: "...it is our
policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of
the foreign world...Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable
establishments, on a respectable defensive posture..."
This Isolationist policy suited the needs of America
then. The Americans were busy with issues closer home - like the
Westward expansion, the Civil War and the Reconstruction. This tradition
of Isolationism got into trouble later in the 19th
century as the American interests in trade required it to actively
protect American rights in the world. In fact, several Americans
began to realize that the U.S could never remain completely neutral.
In this context, the 1890s proved to be an important period
for the U.S. Industrial production during these years had grown
steadily. The growth of American industry and finance was indeed
spectacular. By 1898 the U.S was exporting $600 million manufactured
goods more than it imported from Europe. Speaking of the effects
of this impressive industrial growth, historian Richard Hofstadter
says: "More than any decade following the Civil War, the
1890s was one of upheaval and discontent for the American people.
Domestically, this crisis led to reform movements. In her foreign
policy, it gave rise to aggressive nationalism."
The strongest advocate of an aggressive foreign policy in the government was the Secretary of State - James Blain. He wanted to enhance the sphere of American influence to include all of the Americas. Keeping this goal in mind, he organized the First Pan-American Congress on October 2 1889, at Washington. The result of this Congress was the formation of the Pan-American Union, a Union aiming to promote good relations between the two continents of America.