Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles W. Royster


The Spanish-American War changed the course of American history. In a few months the United States acquired a colonial empire and adopted a policy of overseas involvement that greatly altered future world events. The political victory of a few military reformers and politicians, who endorsed Social Darwinism, over those who upheld the ideas of Jefferson and Jackson, destroyed the international isolation of the American republic. No matter what successive political administrations claimed, they inherited substantial overseas commitments. The group that engineered this profound change in American foreign and defence policy were led by Elihu Root, John Hay, Leonard Wood, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt. These men were convinced that American economic prosperity and political independence depended upon exerting influence overseas. The creation of English-speaking democracies world-wide, which endorsed free trade, would guarantee American prosperity and peace. Josiah Strong's evangelism, which claimed advanced nations had a duty to help the less fortunate, provided American imperialists with moral legitimacy. American expansion required both allies and an efficient military. During the late nineteenth century top-ranking British officials decided that Britain could not maintain its industrial and naval preeminence. An informal alliance between the United States and Great Britain became increasingly attractive to key decision-makers in both countries. This decision led to poorer relations with Germany and Japan because these states resented Anglo-American imperialism and its industrial power. The American army highlighted these changes. The Spanish-American War had displayed deficiencies of command, training, and equipment that proved unacceptable to politicians wishing to influence the world. Army reform provoked political debate. Supporters of local control, volunteerism, and the ideologies of Jefferson and Jackson opposed military reform. Led by William Jennings Bryan, they challenged the view that national efficiency required a professional civil service, army, and navy responsible to federal authority. Ideas from Germany, Britain, France, and Switzerland were used to construct the new army. American business organisation, partly responsible for unparalleled economic growth, influenced the rhetoric of reform and new command structure of the army. The reforms included a General Staff structure, War College, and closer national guard-regular army cooperation; creating the basis for today's American army.