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The American Myth and Imperialism The American Myth and Imperialism

In his "First Inaugural Address" (1801) Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) offered a "unity-building speech" (Jefferson 203) and in his "Farewell Address" (1796) George Washington (1732-1797) delivered an address which was meant "to build unity" even as he sought to return to private life (Washington 187). These two early speeches by famous Americans center upon the country's need to define itself in terms of its boundaries. According to their vision, America could only acquire and maintain status if it decided to unify its diverse colonies and continue expanding. In The American Styles of Foreign Policy Robert Dallek asserts that these founding principles of America destined it to be imperialist. Dallek brilliantly argues that the "impulse to fight, the war itself, and colonial expansion" surfaced as three parts of a "short-lived answer to domestic difficulties" (Dallek 30). He also observes that the imperial outburst of 1898-99 surfaced as "more the product of troubles at home than of oppor-tunities abroad" (Dallek 4). Crucial to Dallek's argument is the contention that this imperial outburst of 1898-99 helped to trigger a series of modern episodes in which "foreign affairs had greater symbolic" significance than "substantive importance" (Dallek 4-5). In seeking to prove itself as a supreme nation America pronounced a policy of Manifest Destiny where it willed itself to expand from shore to shore. In developing this policy of Social Darwinism founded upon the survival of the fittest, America was living out its imperialist encodings. Although broken off from England, it mimicked her colonialist operations.

The progressive political styles of Theodore Roosevelt (1859-1919) and Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) are consonant with the discourse of America's founders. Like Washington and Jefferson, the charismatic quality of Roosevelt's personality was ingrained within his style of politics. Foreign observers commented that Roosevelt w...

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The American Myth and Imperialism The American Myth and Imperialism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:34, March 20, 2019, from