American Imperialism

Historical content: 
American Imperialism
Historical skills: 
Corroboration, Sourcing



Use the document and your knowledge of history to answer the questions that follow. 


This is an excerpt from an article published on December 8, 1898, in The Conservative, a newspaper in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Source text: 

“The country has begun to show signs of antagonism to expansion. The glamour of adding foreign colonies to our home territory dazzled the people, highly strung by brilliant victories over Spain: and at first the imperialistic idea took possession of them. But, since they have had time to meditate on the matter, the glamour has, to a large extent, died away; and, having begun to weigh the disadvantages of the acquisition of such territory as the Philippines against the glory of the possession, they are inclining to change their minds and to believe that we’d be better without the encumbrance of these Pacific isles, with their hordes of semi-savages.”

Question 1: Explain why a historian might not think that this passage reflects the mood of the American public at the time about overseas expansion.

Question 2: Three documents are described below. Explain whether each document could be used to support this newspaper’s account of American public opinion about overseas expansion. If the document could not be used to support the newspaper’s account, explain why not.  

a. A letter to the U.S. President in December 1898 from a prominent political figure in the Philippines criticizing the U.S. occupation of his country.

b. An 1898 New York newspaper article celebrating the U.S. victory over Spain.

c. An 1898 letter to the editor of a Washington, D.C. newspaper opposing the war in the Philippines from an anti-imperialist organization whose membership included hundreds of prominent Americans.  

About the Assessment

Like Morale After Fredericksburg, this assessment asks students to source and corroborate an editorial from a Nebraska newspaper about overseas expansion.  Question 1 asks students to evaluate whether the passage provides enough evidence to draw conclusions about American attitudes about overseas expansion at the time. To answer this question, students must source the document to determine whether the editorial can be thought of as conclusive evidence.  Question 2 asks students to evaluate whether additional documents could be used to corroborate the document.