I suppose a nice chat with Hamilton would probably muddy the waters a bit.
DemSoc, consider the fact that the United States at the time was pretty weak to deal with "foreign" adventures (out of its reach), but held plenty appetite within the same continent. Nefarious activities were not too taboo to American leaders in the time period you're mentioning. We loved to make promises to one foreign entity (or a domestic....forced labor source) so as to eliminate our geopolitical foes. We were down and dirty in it since the French-Indian Wars, after all. Such dealings only increased once our own independence was on the line.
The American empire has always rested upon economic thrust. The "empire of liberty" was trade. Traditional colonial matters were just too damned dirty, costly, and "mean." Economic influence was practically endorsed by most of the leadership, and had merely been more explicitly followed as the generations passed. Why go through all the bother of colonialism when you can get much of what you want through economic ties. It's less direct oversight, makes the others think they are benefiting to a great proportion as the U.S., and doesn't put the same imagery as the Brits in India or the Belgians in the Congo.