Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parrini, Carl P.||Schneider, Robert W.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Security; International; United States--Relations


The two decades prior to World War I witnessed great economic and political turbulence in the United States. Recurring economic crises culminated in 1893 in the worst depression yet in the nation's history. American industry and agriculture, which had grown so enormously since 1860, finally outstripped the consumptive capacity of the domestic market. Unemployment and relief lines lengthened. Populists, socialists, anarchists, and, later, Progressives debated the causes of, and proposed remedies for, the nation's ills. Most intellectuals, government officials, and politically conscious citizens believed that a main solution to the economic crisis was to find new markets and fields of investment abroad. One group, centering around Brooks Adams, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Henry Cabot Lodge, focused their attention on this solution. They proposed that the United States aggressively extend its commerce and foreign investments. Working from Adams' theories they envisioned "cutthroat competition" in the world marketplace. Roosevelt, Lodge, and Mahan, from their respective seats of power, advocated enlarging the military to open up and protect the increased trade, as well as to augment the power and prestige of the United States. Although they often repeated that a large army and navy discourages war, they offered war, and the threat of war, as a primary means to their objectives. A far more diverse group, including such apparently opposite figures as Grover Cleveland and Jane Addams, Carl Schurz and Lucia Ames Mead, and William Howard Taft and William James contested the means that the Adams Mahan Roosevelt school advocated. This second circle maintained that only through peaceful methods could the United States expand its commerce and provide the stability necessary for trade and overseas investments. One faction, represented by Cleveland and Taft, while not pacifist, argued that war, with its accompanying high taxes and destruction, saps the productive capacity of the economy and thus hinders commerce. The other wing of this activist peace group, including such figures as Schurz, James, Addams, Mead, and John Bates Clark, also advocated acquiring new markets, but they were more insistent that this be done without assuming the burden of colonies. This group opposed war and preparation for war on moral and economic grounds and also because it diverts the society from urgent domestic needs. These people believed that not all of America’s economic problems were external. This faction said that many of the nation's own citizens could not consume the product of American industry because of high taxes coupled with inadequate education and training resulting, in part, from funds being diverted to bullets and battleships. This thesis assumes that, as Gunnar Myrdal wrote in An American Dilemma, "History is not the result of a predetermined Fate. Nothing is irredeemable until it is past." In short, it was not inevitable that the dream of Theodore Roosevelt and Alfred Thayer Mahan would become reality for twentieth century America. Why did the American people and their elected officials seemingly accept the Adams-Roosevelt-Mahan thinking and reject that of their opponents? This study examines personal correspondence, State Department documents, Presidential messages, minutes of national and International conferences, books, and periodical articles to understand the arguments of the participants in this great debate.


Includes bibliographical references.


105 pages, 9 unnumbered pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type