Democratic Ideals Abandoned

Hannah Dineen

In the late 19th century, during the age of imperialism, the United States abandoned the democratic ideals of equality, popular sovereignty, and the common good

USa imperialsm

The democratic ideals of equality, popular sovereignty, and the common good, were all abandoned by the United States during the time of imperialism, around the late 19th century. The main source of inequality during this time was the idea of social darwinism, and the white man’s burden. Social darwinism gave the people a reason for the superiority of the whites. The white man’s burden made it seem like the white’s mission in life was to make other ‘inferior’ races better. Popular sovereignty was abandoned when other countries were taken over, because the people of these countries were given no choice but to do what the United States said, and they had no voice. The common good was abandoned when the Congress of the United States declared war against the Spanish in 1898.


Social darwinism is defined as ‘an application of the theory of natural selection to social, political, and economic issues. In its simplest form, Social Darwinism follows the mantra of "the strong survive," including human issues.’ The reason they used, was to protect and help these countries to become better, also referred to as the white man’s burden. This was unfair to the aforementioned countries, who were tricked into thinking that they were in control, when really the US was slowly taking over.

Popular sovereignty

The United States played with countries against their will

This violated the democratic ideal that any US resident or citizen, had a voice and could voice their opinions on what was happening in their country. As soon as the US was controlling another country, this ideal was abandoned in exchange for total control. This is not fair to the countries that were not given the same rights as US citizens.

Common good

It was found that the cause was a submerged mine, and many blame the Spanish for the explosion. In the New York Journal during this time, there was a headline addressing the accident that read ‘DESTRUCTION OF THE WAR SHIP MAINE WAS THE WORK OF AN ENEMY’. This headline made many people in America pro-war, and if the papers had not contributed their ideas, I don’t think there would have been as much support for the war, and it may never have happened. Congress declared war against the Spanish later that year, even though it was avoidable, and it was not the best choice for the entire country as a whole, or for the common good.

THE end

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