8th Grade New York

American Expansion

This inquiry is focused on the compelling question “Was American expansion abroad justified?” In other words, did the expansion of America’s global power justify the means by which lands came under control of the United States? The inquiry calls into question motives and outcomes of imperialism by considering both the positive and negative results of United States expansion abroad. Students will focus on the Age of Imperialism near the turn of the 20th century. The focus of the inquiry is the United States’ involvement in the Spanish-American War. In answering Supporting Question 1, students learn about economic, political, and social conditions in the United States in the latter half of the 19th century that promoted American expansion. As the inquiry continues with Supporting Questions 2 and 3, students explore arguments for and against imperialism with a specific focus on United States involvement in the Spanish-American War. They also explore the role of the media in America’s move toward war and the impact of military involvement in Cuba in 1898. Supporting Question 4 focuses on the results of the Spanish-American War.

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Compelling Question:

Was American Expansion Abroad Justified?

Staging the Question: Discuss a recent military intervention abroad by the United States.
1

Supporting Question What conditions influenced the United States’ expansion abroad?

Formative Task List conditions that influenced US foreign policy in the late 19th century.

Sources Source A: Essay titled “The United States Becomes World Power”
Source B: Excerpts from The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783
Source C: Excerpts from the National Republican Party platform of 1898

2

Supporting Question What arguments were made in favor of imperialism and the Spanish-American War?

Formative Task Begin a T-chart with arguments in favor of imperialism and the Spanish-American War.

Sources Source A: New York Journal front page from February 17, 1898
Source B: Source bank: Spanish atrocities in Cuba
Source C: Senator Albert Beveridge’s campaign speech on war with Spain

3

Supporting Question What arguments were made in opposition to imperialism and the Spanish-American War?

Formative Task Complete the T-chart with arguments in opposition to imperialism and the Spanish-American War.

Sources Source A: Anti-Imperialist League platform
Source B: “Imperialism: Flag of an Empire”
Source C: Excerpts from Mark Twain’s published anti-imperialism critiques
Source D: Expansion

4

Supporting Question What were the results of US involvement in the Spanish-American War?

Formative Task Make a claim and counterclaim that the United States benefited from the Spanish-American War.

Sources Source A: Map of American expansion
Source B: William McKinley's speech on imperialism
Source C: Excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s annual message before Congress

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Stage a debate about the consequences of and justifications for the Spanish-American War, or role-play a debate between William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt about whether American expansion abroad was justified.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Accomplished through the Staging the Compelling Question task
Assess: Determine which people in the local community are affected by a recent military intervention abroad by the United States.
Act: Hold a forum about America’s role in the world and invite local experts, members of the armed forces, and/or representatives of a community organization related to the recent military intervention abroad by the United States.