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Emerging World Power Page 1

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    "Every nation should be judged by the best it has been able to produce, not by the worst."

    - James Weldon Johnson


    The United States emerged as a world power in the later 1800s and early 1900s. Much of this was a result of the Spanish-American War. This war enabled the United States to expand its military bases beyond the country's borders. It was a time that the Americans looked outward and not just inward. The country emerged as a world power.


    During George Washington's farewell address in 1796, Washington said:

    "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

    This foreign policy* to avoid events outside the United States did not change much even once the Civil War ended many, many years later. It was not until the 1890s that the United States moved toward expansionism beyond its borders.

    At one point in time, Spain was a major world power. At the end of the 1800s, Spain controlled some key spots around the world. Two of these important spots were Cuba, just off the coast of the United States, and the Philippines in South Asia. Cuba and the Philippines were striving to become independent from Spain, but in order to hold on to these places, Spain created concentration camps in Cuba to contain those individuals revolting against Spanish control. In addition, the Spanish became very harsh and cruel against the Cubans.

    Media War

    At the time all this was going on in Cuba and the Philippines, two American newspaperme, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were fighting for readers. A term called yellow journalism formed during this time. Stories about the atrocities occurring in Cuba were either exaggerated or even made up. Stories were dramatized to attract readers. And it worked!

    As the stories continued in the media, a major event took place in Cuba's Havana Harbor on February 16, 1898. The American battleship, The Maine, exploded. Over 250 American soldiers died in the tragedy.

    The media, especially Hearst, sensationalized this mysterious event and blamed the Spanish without any evidence. Headlines like "Spanish Treachery" convinced the American people that the Spanish were to blame for the explosion. Even today, the reasonThe Maine exploded is still a mystery. This mystery did not keep the United States of America from entering war with Spain. The media hype created a pro-war feeling throughout the country.

    * Bold terms are defined below

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