Arguments surrounding American Imperialism focus heavily on the 1890s and after, but preceding actions by the United States in the process of continental expansion present an image of imperialism in the first half of the nineteenth century. This paper examines the annexation of Florida, Texas, and the rest of the American Southwest through the lens of Mexican-American relations and international imperial competition to determine whether the United States was exercising an imperial agenda between 1803 and 1848. It then reapplies pre-existing arguments on American imperialism by Frank Ninkovich, Thomas McCormick, Dane Kennedy, and others to the same 1803-1848 timeline as an additional test for the presence of imperialism. Both processes find that the American ambition to expand southward and westward constituted imperialism because of the methods employed and circumstances surrounding these ambitions and their resultant actions. The strongest aspect of imperialism was the employment of relative power advantages by the United States to compel Mexican acquiescence to American demands for territory in lieu of monetary debts. This conclusion signifies that imperialism was present and active in American history much earlier than the 1890s, and the American expansion westward, including the concept of Manifest Destiny, were ambitions and actions colored with an imperial hue. The acknowledgement of an American Empire provides for increased understanding of American actions and motivations throughout the nation’s history, and the recognition of imperialism this much earlier than most arguments suggest opens that understanding to the early Republic in its continental expansion.
Welk, Jon A.. "Texas, War, and Empire: The American Empire in the Conquest and Annexation of the Floridas and the American Southwest." The Purdue Historian 8, 1 (2017). https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/puhistorian/vol8/iss1/8