Why didn't the USA try to push out towards building it's own empire?

For a country which liked to model itself on the Roman empire (what with it's senate, architectural style) and outgoing style of governing I always wondered what if America had tried to build it's own empire. Earlier on it's history for instance what if there was an American East India company, or try to build bases in southeast asia/china?
And would this prevent or exacerbate the lead up the the civil war?
 
The US did build it's own Empire, look at a map of the US in the 18th century compared to one in the late 19th century - that's an empire being built.
 
As has been said, the Americans did absolutely engage in Empire making; as with most everybody, they went along the route of least resistance, out on the West and through Native and Mexican-held areas. Those were seized, colonized, and an accompanying imperialist creed emerged in the form of Manifest Destiny.
By the time that was resolved and the USA could start looking outwards for non-contiguous gains, however, the problem of Slavery became central and made any further attempt (the Golden Circle idea, the Liberian outlet) a poisoned apple - because they would have given the slavers more power. So they mostly stayed moot, as the Civil War developed, erupted, had consequences.
By the time the USA had resolved internal problems well enough to return caring outwards, most of the world was either recognized as independent or colonized by European powers.
With Eastern opportunities reduced to zero, the Americans moved towards estabilishing themselves in LatAm; which could not easily be directly invaded and controlled, not to mention inhabited by most unwelcome (for the WASP ruling class) Latino Catholics. Thus, plans for economic control were enacted; territorial acquisition opportunities remained in the Pacific, but even then, they were mostly island bases, with the only major exception - the Philippines - happening through a combination of factors rather than deliberate intent to obtain a large colony.
The USA's early expansion gave them such a plenty of surplus land and resources, it satisfied industrial and demographic needs that instead forced the European to fight, sail and colonize for a whole century.
 
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Part of what early Americans liked about the Romans was Cincinnati. A person is given great power during and emergency, uses it, then retires when things are done and goes back home to farm. Civic nationalism and everyone having their own home and plot of land. Their god of war was also a god of agriculture, the city boundaries, etc. Mars was rather different from the Greek Ares (and honestly, I think until recently people mostly thought about the Roman gods (with Greek stories cemented and covering a lot up) rather than the purity Greek versions. And that the Athenians might have tried to make Ares seem less competent so Athena would be flawless in war. Even she had a lot of stuff with arts and crafts though. But yah, perhaps we can consider the Americans a lot like Romans in how they expanded. A big thing was they did not start out as being an empire dedicated to a single city, which then gave representation to areas that had enough Romans in it or had some ancient civilization a thousand or three older than the Romans. The federal government had enough times where a mob threatened Congress so built their own city. Also, going by some of the excuses or explanations given for why the Us did not try getting more of Mexico was that they wanted areas they could digest and actually get a majority of people in. Annexing largely populated areas is a hassle.
 
American Empire, being de jure and de facto, was (and still is) one of the most aggressive and confident.

It was said the British Empire was built "in a fit of absence mind", the same cannot be said of the US. Government and society actively decided to conquer the continent and after that started to increase their political and military control over the entire world.
 
Americans built their empires. Compare US power in 1790 to its power in 2022. It has expanded fom 13 colonies located on Eastern Coast as nation expanding from Atlantic to Pacific and beyond. It has bought, conquered and even expelling natives expanded greatly. USA has too enforced many Latin American nations to its economic power. Ever heard about United Fruit Company or what kind of relations USA and Cuba had before Castro? And if USA didn't like someone president of Latin America, speciality if he was against their economic intrest, he faced quickly coup supported by CIA. And USA has too great cultural influence. The country is too one of most important economic and military powers.

And OP says that it is not some kind of empire? Yes, it is democratic republic but it is still hard to argue that it has not many imperialistic habits.
 
Americans built their empires. Compare US power in 1790 to its power in 2022. It has expanded fom 13 colonies located on Eastern Coast as nation expanding from Atlantic to Pacific and beyond. It has bought, conquered and even expelling natives expanded greatly. USA has too enforced many Latin American nations to its economic power. Ever heard about United Fruit Company or what kind of relations USA and Cuba had before Castro? And if USA didn't like someone president of Latin America, speciality if he was against their economic intrest, he faced quickly coup supported by CIA. And USA has too great cultural influence. The country is too one of most important economic and military powers.

And OP says that it is not some kind of empire? Yes, it is democratic republic but it is still hard to argue that it has not many imperialistic habits.
The odd thing about American empire is we tried to convince ourselves that “manifest destiny” and western expansion wasn’t empire building. Maybe because it wasn’t overseas? Even then the US was early in force projecting over the Pacific with the Asiatic Squadron and the Guano Islands. Eventually this ruse fell apart with the Spanish-American War and had to account for what we were really doing.
 
The Native Americans, French Creoles in Louisiana, Mexicans, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Venezuelans, Chinese, Japanese, Colombians, Panamanians, Dominicans in the 19th century: Are we a joke to you?
 
Is like conquering Hawaii?

And the Philippines not count.

Like they caused deaths directly and indirectly like 200k to 1.5- 2M people like in a country that has a population of 5M at the low end- and at 9 M. They placed like people into concentration camps in the Philippines. Which caused that nightmare.

Technically that's the only US colony that became independent if I'm right so they did have an empire yes
 
For a country which liked to model itself on the Roman empire (what with it's senate, architectural style) and outgoing style of governing I always wondered what if America had tried to build it's own empire.
I would say on the contrary that the way the US expanded was a lot like how the Roman Republic expanded, building a contiguous state over a large area.
 
For a country which liked to model itself on the Roman empire (what with it's senate, architectural style) and outgoing style of governing I always wondered what if America had tried to build it's own empire. Earlier on it's history for instance what if there was an American East India company, or try to build bases in southeast asia/china?
And would this prevent or exacerbate the lead up the the civil war?

In a word, the Philippines. The bloody oppression they had to use to enforce their will upon non-white peoples here, like Vietnam half a century after, showed most Americans that it wasn't worth it to build a direct overseas empire.

So they stuck with genociding the natives in their own backyard and keeping the blacks under practical serfdom. I mean, what did they need foreign outposts for, TBH?

The odd thing about American empire is we tried to convince ourselves that “manifest destiny” and western expansion wasn’t empire building. Maybe because it wasn’t overseas? Even then the US was early in force projecting over the Pacific with the Asiatic Squadron and the Guano Islands. Eventually this ruse fell apart with the Spanish-American War and had to account for what we were really doing.
I mean, it was empire building. Let's not try to escape that fact. America genocided the natives and maintained a population of practical slaves over the course of its history.

That said, yes, it took using the same methods on an ostensibly 'civilized' population to wake them up to that.
 
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There’s no doubt that US was engaging in imperialistic pursuits by the late 19th century. There are plenty of irrefutable examples. Hawaii. the Philippines. Panama. And more. As others have pointed out, the roots of American imperialism go deeper, back to the Antebellum period when slave holders looked towards Latin America and saw fertile ground of expanding slavery. However the US simply wasn’t in a position to entertain those ideas. Not only was it still a middling power on the world stage, but politically it was far too preoccupied with maintaining the balance between slave and free states.

That said, I think it’s a bit strange to characterize the early growth of the United States, primarily through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican American War, as imperialistic. Those were essentially consequences of the decolonization of North America, ironically one of the earliest examples of imperialism being rolled back. As the Europeans abandoned the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries, their patchwork of claims and arbitrary borders fell apart, not terribly dissimilar to what has happened in other parts of the world. That the US benefited from it is more a matter opportunism than imperialism, the US being demographically and geographically well positioned to fill the power vacuum as it emerged.
 
The odd thing about American empire is we tried to convince ourselves that “manifest destiny” and western expansion wasn’t empire building. Maybe because it wasn’t overseas? Even then the US was early in force projecting over the Pacific with the Asiatic Squadron and the Guano Islands. Eventually this ruse fell apart with the Spanish-American War and had to account for what we were really doing.
I'd argue that the bold bit isn't really accurate. The US over the last century or so has preferred to maintain plausible (or not-so-plausible) deniability in its empire-building. So instead of outright annexing other countries or forcing them to accept vassal status and pay tribute, like past empires have done, the US generally operated by either backing coups by pro-American elements, or by setting and managing up international institutions in such a way as to benefit them (e.g., using NATO as a source of foreign auxiliaries for its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria).
That said, I think it’s a bit strange to characterize the early growth of the United States, primarily through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican American War, as imperialistic. Those were essentially consequences of the decolonization of North America, ironically one of the earliest examples of imperialism being rolled back. As the Europeans abandoned the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries, their patchwork of claims and arbitrary borders fell apart, not terribly dissimilar to what has happened in other parts of the world. That the US benefited from it is more a matter opportunism than imperialism, the US being demographically and geographically well positioned to fill the power vacuum as it emerged.
Firstly, opportunistic imperialism is still imperialism. Secondly, the US did have an ideological drive to its expansion -- that's the whole point of manifest destiny, after all.
 
That the US benefited from it is more a matter opportunism than imperialism, the US being demographically and geographically well positioned to fill the power vacuum as it emerged.

What power vacuum? Power imbalance, certainly, but that's true of any imperial expansion (otherwise the expansion would be going the other way). Certainly there wasn't enough of a power vacuum to stop the US Army getting Isandlwana'd two and a half years before Isandlwana.
 
I'd argue that the bold bit isn't really accurate. The US over the last century or so has preferred to maintain plausible (or not-so-plausible) deniability in its empire-building. So instead of outright annexing other countries or forcing them to accept vassal status and pay tribute, like past empires have done, the US generally operated by either backing coups by pro-American elements, or by setting and managing up international institutions in such a way as to benefit them (e.g., using NATO as a source of foreign auxiliaries for its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria).
That's fair. My argument is that America was an empire-building country before the Spanish-American War, but the outright annexing caused a backlash, like the American Anti-Imperialist League, and the US gave up on European-style territorial expansion and turned to the tactics you have highlighted. There were exceptions to this, the Panama Canal Zone and Virgin Island purchase, but that they were comparatively smaller than say the Berlin Conference or Indochina. The US continued to project power internationally, but after such blatant annexations, a certain segment of the population would always say that our military actions were never explicitly 'wars of conquest'. This, for some, excused the wars since we weren't trying to make Vietnam or Iraq U.S. states...

It comes in generations it seems, where the US has to re-argue whether or not it has/is engaging in imperial endeavors.
 
Is like conquering Hawaii?

And the Philippines not count.

Like they caused deaths directly and indirectly like 200k to 1.5- 2M people like in a country that has a population of 5M at the low end- and at 9 M. They placed like people into concentration camps in the Philippines. Which caused that nightmare.

Technically that's the only US colony that became independent if I'm right so they did have an empire yes
Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands are also former US colonies that gained independence.
 
When, and why? Outright annexation had been the US modus operandi for well over a century before the Spanish-American War.
There seems to be this weird idea floating around in the American collective psyche that imperialism is only really imperialistic if done overseas, I guess as a result of their early history as part of the British Empire. So conquering the natives out west didn't count as "real" imperialism, but conquering Cuba or the Philippines did (even though Havana is over 1000 miles closer to DC than California is).
 
In a way, it did with Manifest destiny and westward expansion. Beyond the desire for new states, there was only a limited desire to take colonies farther afield as early on militarization was discouraged in the United States but was a prerequisite for empire building, and, as 1898 showed, constitutionality and race were factors a well.
 
Firstly, opportunistic imperialism is still imperialism. Secondly, the US did have an ideological drive to its expansion -- that's the whole point of manifest destiny, after all.
What power vacuum? Power imbalance, certainly, but that's true of any imperial expansion (otherwise the expansion would be going the other way). Certainly there wasn't enough of a power vacuum to stop the US Army getting Isandlwana'd two and a half years before Isandlwana.
Equating imperialism with expansionism stretches the definition to the point of being inscrutable. Prior to their incorporation into the United States, these territories were sparsely populated and barely administer by Britain, France, and Spain (later Mexico). Unlike those nations, the US had geographic and demographic contiguity with these areas. It wasn’t some distant metropole conquering a foreign population. Americans already lived in these areas and in some cases governed them as well. There’s a reason France was eager to sell off Louisiana, Spain handed over Florida and its northwest claims, Britain compromised on Oregon, and Mexico’s northern territories didn’t resist the US. I’m not taking any moral stance on this. If you think these events were good or bad, I don’t particularly care. Personally I see such moral judgements as largely irrelevant when talking about history. But the moment we start loosely applying definitions to fit a narrative, we’ve lost objectivity.
 
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