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Imperialism Versus Emancipation Proclamation: Analytical Essay

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Imperialism is somewhat slavery under another name.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation after no Confederate states accepted his preliminary proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves in the United States. Rather, it declared free only those living in Confederate states. The Proclamation allowed black soldiers to fight for the Union—soldiers who were vital for Union victory. It also tied the issue of slavery directly to the war. Therefore, it is partially responsible for the New Age of Imperialism.

Imperialism refers to the practice of domination of one country by another in order to expand territory, power and influence. There are a multitude of reasons for imperialism, including, but not limited to the Emancipation Proclamation, such as reasons, military and political reasons, and humanitarian and religious reasons. By 1870, it became necessary for industrialised nations to expand their markets globally in order to sell products that they could not sell domestically on the continent. The need for cheap labour and a steady supply of raw materials, such as oil, rubber, and manganese for steel, required that the industrial nations maintain firm control over these unexplored areas. The imperialists believed that the industrial economy could only work effectively by directly controlling these regions, which meant setting up colonies under their direct control. Leading nations felt that colonies were crucial to military power, national security, and nationalism. Colonies guaranteed the growing British and American navies safe harbours and coaling stations, which they needed in times of war. Many Westerners believed that world powers should civilise ‘their little brothers’ beyond the seas. Non-whites would receive the blessings of Western civilisation, including medicine, law, and Christianity. This was true for the African country, Egypt, and the Asian country, the Philippines. Britain and America both wanted cheap labour and raw materials, which ultimately led to the mistreatment of people within colonies, and the political and economic manipulation of Egypt, Sudan, Japan, and the Philippines. Therefore, it is clear that imperialism is/ is somewhat/ is not slavery under another name.

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British imperialism in Egypt and Sudan, and American imperialism in Japan and the Philippines are prominent when researching these two world powers’ involvements in imperialism.

Egypt experienced extreme hardship and a loss of freedom while under British imperialism, which began in 1882. The British military took control of existing political structures and economies after Egypt had borrowed money to the point of bankruptcy. A debt repayment agency called the ‘Caisse de la Dette’ was established, with British and French controllers monitoring Egypt’s revenue and expenditures. The British reduced the size of the Egyptian army and placed British officers in command. They appointed British ministers to control all parts of the Egyptian government and imposed new laws on the Egyptian people. Anti-British, nationalist independence parties were created due to the increased spirit of nationalism among the Egyptians, which was fuelled by the increasing presence and power of the British in Egypt. Egypt’s Prime Minister in 1954, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser dispelled British influence in the country permanently, and they formally withdrew the last of their troops from the Suez Canal by signing the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement. While the British did take away the freedom of the Egyptians and controlled all aspects of Egyptian life, politics and economy the evidence presented does not explicitly state that the British treated the Egyptian people like slaves. Essentially, the British took control of, but didn’t ‘own’ the Egyptians, thus, this type of imperialism isn’t slavery, however it is exploitation of Egypt’s freedom, politics and economy.

The United States’ motivation for Imperialism in the Philippines can be classified as economic, ideological, religious, political, and strategic motivation. The economic motivation was opening new markets and trade possibilities, they wanted favorable balance of trade, they needed to make exports exceed imports, and they sought to expand foreign markets. The ideological motivation was the belief that they were racially superior to others, and there was a strong sense of nationalism during the era known as the Race of empire. The religious motivation was they sought to spread Christianity. And the political motivation was the urge to fulfill their destiny as a world power by colonising and looking for fresh land to conquer. After its defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain ceded its longstanding colony of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The United States helped the Philippines win independence from Spain, however, they then annexed the Philippines, resulting in feelings of betrayal and bitterness among the revolutionaries. Filipinos were forced to live in designated areas where many died. On February 4, 1899, just two days before the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, fighting broke out between American forces and Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo who sought independence rather than being given to another country for imperialist rule. The Americans felt that the Filipinos were too uncivilised to govern themselves, the U.S. kept them under their control. This led to the Philippine-American War which lasted three years and resulted in the death of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants. As many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease. The Philippine bourgeoise prospered under forty years of American rule, while the peasants and workers lived in starvation, illness, and oppression. Claude Buss, a former ranking member of the U.S. Commission in the Philippines, says in the December 1944 Fortune, “At the outbreak of the war the very rich in the Philippines lived on the scale of aristocrats in Spain or in the United States. They had fabulous homes, automobiles, racing stables, fantastic parties, and the virtues and vices of luxury… At the opposite end of the Social scale were the Taos or peasants. They lived in one or two room huts and ate fish and rice. They worked in fields for 30 or 40 cents a day and paid over a good share of their wages to the landlord or usurer.” This shows the difference between the rich and the poor, and how they were treated by those above them. The wealthy Philippine ruling class were protected to aid U.S. domination, and the lowest class lived in squalor and poverty-stricken areas. Photos taken show the mistreatment and misbehaviour of the Filipino people caused by the American troops. They were forced to take photos for ‘exotic entertainment’ while in a distressing situation of chaos, war, and colonisation, which they just got over with the Spanish and now find themselves going through it again under the Americans.

Imperialism in the Philippines was not the same slavery as seen in America during the 1900s. Rather, it was a different type of slavery that was characterised by the restriction of free movement, forced labour, and the exploitation of the poor.

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Imperialism Versus Emancipation Proclamation: Analytical Essay. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from
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