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As the ink dried on the Constitution in 1787 the Founding Fathers--having just ended Britains colonial hegemony--would have likely been very surprised to know that a little more than a century later the United States would have colonies of its own From this perspective Americas Gilded Age imperialism is quite a shock It is therefore not surprising that many would later view the period as Samuel Flagg Bemis did a Great Aberration May 4 Was American imperialism really a Great Aberration Or is this view an anachronistic application of a modern idealized image of America to events which are continuations of deeper trends Upon closer inspection the matter becomes quite murky Two historians writing in the 1960s Harvards Ernest May and Cornells Walter LaFeber have approached this issue with the aid of hindsight and historical objectivity Despite similarities of era and professional perspective the two historians developed largely conflicting views But before discussing interpretations a sketch of the events of 1898 is in order Although the United States officially annexed Hawaii in 1898 the defining matter in foreign policy was the Spanish-American War Acting as defender of the Western Hemisphere--and seeking its own colonial gain--the United States moved to intervene in reaction to anti-Spanish insurrections in Cuba After the sinking of the USS Maine the United States declared war on Spain in April of 1898 Within a month Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelts 1897 plan for this contingency came into effect and Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish fleet at Manilla in the Philippines The United States had nearly instantly become embroiled in a two-ocean war against colonial Spain But it was a war the United States was prepared to win Spain quickly surrendered and by December of that year the Treaty of Paris brought the war to a close Spain ceded Cuba Puerto Rico Guam and the Philippines to the United States and received war reparations of 20
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