Global Policy Forum

US Territorial Expansions

Maps are from The Times Atlas of World History (London: Times Books, 1978) pp220-221, 246-247


The Fate of the Indians: For the indigenous Indians, every American cliché ran in reverse: expansion became contraction, democracy became tyranny, prosperity became poverty, and liberty became confinement. Before 1800, a million Indians lived north of the Rio Grande, speaking 2000 languages and subsisting in small villages on maize, game and fish. The coming of the Europeans caused a flowering of Indian culture. From whites, the Sioux obtained their horses, the Navajo their sheep, the Iroquois, their weapons. But destruction quickly followed. The New England tribes, hard hit by disease, were broken in the Pequot War (1636) and King Phillip’s War (1675-6). In the middle colonies, the great Delaware nation was defeated by the Dutch in the Esopus War (1660), disgraced by the Iroquois (who made all the Delaware into “honorary women�), and cheated by Quakers. The Delaware began a great diaspora; today they are scattered from Canada to Texas. For the southern tribes another fate was in store. Planters, led by Andrew Jackson, obtained a law for their “removal.� Despite the opposition of the Supreme Court, some 50,000 Cherokee were collected in concentration camps and sent on a winter march to Oklahoma in 1836. Many died. The Choctaw, Creek and Chiksaw suffered equally. Only the Seminole resisted for long in the Florida swamps.



America in the Caribbean: Intervention in a Cuban in surrection led to war with Spain (1898) and to a protectorate over Cuba (1903) where chronic domestic upheavals brought a series of ‘American interventions’ (1906-9, 1911-12, 1917-22). Similar interventions occurred in the Dominican Republic (1905, 1916-24), in Haiti (1915-34), and in Nicaragua (1909-33). Under pressure Denmark sold the Virgin Islands to the US in 1917. Meanwhile, friction with Mexico brought two abortive interventions to that country (1914, 1916).


American expansion in the Pacific: Attracted to the Pacific by the explorations of Capitan James Cook, American seafarers began operations in 1784 via Cape Horn. American interests controlled Hawii by 1842 and the Us shared in the concessions extorted from China by Britain. The Navy ‘opened’ Japan in 1854 and Korea in 1882 and obtained Pago Pago Bay, Samoa (1878) and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (1887). Then, in 1898, followed the great annexation which enabled the US to complete its ‘life-line’ to China.



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