Discussion Why was this event called the “opening” of Japan?

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  • Why was this event called the “opening” of Japan?

  • U.S. actions forced Japan to open its country to trade.

  • Why does the image from the Japanese point of view depict ships as monsters?

  • The Japanese fear or dislike the foreigners.

  • Who are the people in the image called “heathens,” from the U.S. point of view?

  • the Japanese

Opening of Japan

  • The word heathen at that time referred to people or cultures that were not Christian. The word carries the negative connotation “uncivilized.” 

  • The reasons for portraying the “opening” of Japan as a religious mission rather than an economic foray to Asia.

Motives for Expansion

  • European Expansion In the late 1800s, European nations established colonies overseas to acquire the raw materials needed to feed their factories. The United States began to develop similar interests.

  • Social Darwinism To justify expansion, some Americans promoted the Social Darwinist idea that only the strongest, most competitive nations survive.

  • Anglo-Saxonism Many Americans insisted that English-speaking (Anglo-Saxon) nations had superior societies. Linked with the concept of Manifest Destiny, this Anglo-Saxonism gave the United States the “right” to expand overseas.

  • Defending U.S. Interests Overseas To defend the nation’s growing interests abroad and to retain access to foreign markets, some Americans urged a buildup of the navy and the acquisition of naval bases overseas.

  • Captain Alfred T. Mahan Mahan, a navy officer, wrote an influential book that argued in favor of a large navy to protect U.S. merchant ships. Powerful senators and government officials strongly supported Mahan’s ideas.

  • Congressional Authorization Congress approved the building of a new navy based in part on Mahan’s ideas, in part on business demand for new markets, and in part on the rising notion that the United States was destined to dominate the world.

  • Why did Americans wish to expand beyond their borders?

  • Some people believed that the United States had a right to expand overseas due to Anglo-Saxonism, and that only the strongest societies would survive under Social Darwinism. Others were attracted by the economic resources and markets available overseas, and wished to have access to those resources through direct control or trade.

U.S. Expansion in the Pacific

  • Navy Sent to Japan Fearful of cultural contamination, Japan restricted trade to the Chinese and Dutch. In 1852 President Millard Fillmore decided to force Japan to trade with the United States by sending a naval expedition to negotiate a trade treaty.

  • Perry Opens Japan In July 1853, Perry’s four U.S. warships sailed into Edo Bay. Their firepower impressed and alarmed the Japanese, who soon signed the Treaty of Kanagawa, which opened Japan to trade with the United States.

  • Refueling Port at Pago Pago To facilitate trade across the Pacific, the United States sought ports at which ships could refuel and resupply. In 1878 the United States obtained permission to build a base on the Samoan island of Pago Pago, whose harbor was one of the best in the South Pacific. Pago Pago became the U.S. protectorate, American Samoa.


  • The Treaty of Kanagawa also called for peace between the two countries; promised help for any Americans shipwrecked off the Japanese coast; and gave U.S. ships permission to buy supplies in two designated Japanese ports. Forcing Japan to open trade played an important role in Japanese history. Japanese leaders concluded that it was time to remake their society. They adopted Western technology and launched their own industrial revolution. By the 1890s, the Japanese had a powerful navy and had begun building their own empire in Asia.

Annexing Hawaii

  • Sugar Industry Born For many years, Hawaii had been a resupply stop for whalers and merchant ships. In 1819 missionaries from New England arrived in Hawaii, where the climate and soil proved perfect for growing sugarcane. By the mid-1800s, settlers from the United States had established many plantations on the islands.

  • Navy Base at Pearl Harbor In return for exempting Hawaiian sugar from tariffs, Hawaii granted the United States the right to build a naval base at Pearl Harbor.

  • Monarchy Overthrown The Hawaiian sugar industry brought great wealth to the American plantation owners. In 1887 they pressured the Hawaiian king into accepting a constitution that restricted his authority. In 1893 they overthrew Queen Liliuokalani, with the help of U.S. marines.

  • Annexation Delayed President Cleveland strongly opposed imperialism. He refused to annex Hawaii and tried to return Liliuokalani to power. Hawaii’s new leaders declined to restore the queen and decided to wait until Cleveland left office. Then, in 1898, President McKinley signed a bill allowing the United States to annex Hawaii.

  • How did the search for new markets in East Asia push the United States to become a world power?

  • U.S. ships needed ports at which they could refuel and resupply while crossing the Pacific Ocean, and the United States acquired ports in places such as American Samoa and Hawaii.

  • How did the nation’s actions reflect the policy of imperialism? 

  • Imperialists wished to expand the U.S. economy by accessing overseas resources and markets, and that establishing holdings overseas eased trade to support that goal.

Diplomacy in Latin America

  • Economic and Political Motives In the 1800s, the United States sought to open up markets in Latin America for its manufactured goods. Americans also hoped to make it clear to Europeans that the United States was the dominant power in the region.

  • Pan-Americanism The idea that nations throughout the entire Western Hemisphere should work together was conceived by Secretary of State James G. Blaine in the 1880s. He hoped that cooperation would help prevent wars and increase trade, while at the same time strengthen U.S. influence in Latin America in part by reinforcing the Monroe Doctrine.

  • Monroe Doctrine This policy, introduced in 1823 by President James Monroe, closed off the Americas to further colonization, especially by Europeans eager to take economic advantage of newly independent nations of Latin America. In effect, it set aside Latin America as a sphere of influence of the United States.

  • Why did the United States want to reduce European influence in the Western Hemisphere?

  • U.S. business leaders and government officials wanted Latin Americans to buy manufacture goods from the United States, not Europe. They also feared that European powers might try to dominate Latin America.

  • How did Secretary of State Blaine attempt to increase U.S. influence in Latin America?

  • He pushed for Pan-Americanism, which called for the United States and Latin America to work together to resolve disputes and to cooperate in trade.

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