- Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London (1818-9) and A Residence at the Court of London, Comparing Incidents, Official and Personal, from 1819 to 1825 by Richard Rush
- Austria in 1848-49: Being a History of the Late Political Movements in Vienna, Milan, Venice, and Prague; with Details of the Campaigns of Lombardy and Novara: A Full Account of the Revolution in Hungary; and Historical Sketches of the Austrian Government and the Princes of the Empire by William H. Stiles
- The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations by Samuel P. Huntington
- Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy by Benjamin F. Tracy
- The Central Gold Region: The Grain, Pastoral and Gold Regions of North America, with Some New Views of its Physical Geography; and Observations of the Pacific Railroad by William Gilpin
- Report on the Reduction of the Army by John C. Calhoun
- Resolutions in Behalf of Hungarian Freedom by Abraham Lincoln
- The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793-1794: Toward the Completion of the American Founding edited with an introduction by Morton J. Frisch
- U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic by Walter Lippmann
- The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant
- Jay’s Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy by Samuel Flagg
- Common Sense by Thomas Paine
- America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power by Nicholas John Spykman
Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London (1818-9), first published 1833; and A Residence at the Court of London, Comparing Incidents, Official and Personal, from 1819 to 1825, first published 1845
With the exception of his friend, John Quincy Adams, Richard Rush had the most distinguished public career of any son of the Founders (his father, Benjamin, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence). He served as Comptroller of the Treasury, Attorney General, acting Secretary of State (he negotiated the Rush-Bagot Agreement, which demilitarized the Great Lakes), Minister to Great Britain, Secretary of the Treasury, Vice Presidential candidate, commissioner to receive the bequest of James Smithson, and Minister to France. Rush’s political loyalties wandered from the Jeffersonians to the National Republicans, Anti-Masonry, and finally (on the issue of the Second Bank of the United States) to the Jacksonian Democrats. But his abilities as a statesman and diplomat were unquestioned.
While serving as Minister to England from 1817-1825, Rush kept a journal that became the basis for his diplomatic memoirs, Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London (covering the years 1818-9; originally published in 1833); and the less comprehensive second volume, A Residence at the Court of London, Comprising Incidents, Official and Personal, from 1819 to 1825, published in 1845. A third edition, edited by his son, Benjamin, which included an account of his time as Minister to France during the Revolutions of 1848, was issued in 1872 (for a summary of that account, see this). In part to avoid diplomatic complications that might result from his unvarnished views, Rush edited the journals to smooth out the rough edges and added explanatory material to bring the narrative context up to date.
Rush and his son made it clear that one of the principal purposes in publishing these memoirs was to improve Anglo-American relations. Rush, in his Jeffersonian phase, had been staunchly anti-English. As Madison’s Attorney General, Rush delivered a public address on July 4, 1812, which was widely regarded as the Madison administration's best public case for its decision to go to war against Britain, even more so than the President’s own War Message to Congress. But as Minister in London, Rush, like many American visitors to the former mother country, found much about England and English society to admire. “No language can express the emotion which almost every American feels when he first touches the shores of Europe. This feeling must have a special increase, if it be the case of a citizen of the United States going to England. Her fame is constantly before him. He is accustomed to hear of her statesmen, her orators, her scholars, her philosophers, her divines, her patriots. In the nursery he learns her ballads. Her poets train his imagination. Her language is his, with its whole intellectual riches, past, and forever newly flowing; a tie, to use Burke's figure, light as air, and unseen; but stronger than links of iron. In spite of political differences, her glory allures him. In spite of hostile collision, he clings to her lineage.”
Rush wanted to break down the mutual distrust and recriminations that existed after the War of 1812. As he noted in his introduction to the first volume (1833):
I have written in the spirit of good feeling towards Britain, which may be cherished by every American compatibly with his superior love for his own country, and which I believe few Americans fail to cherish who stay there as long as I did. A residence of nearly eight years corrected many erroneous impressions I had previously taken up; as a residence of like time in this country by Britons almost invariably imbues them with totally different feelings and opinions respecting the United States from those adopted by their hasty, and too often uninformed and uncandid travelers who come among us. Enough has been written and said on both sides to irritate. My desire is, and such my effort, to soothe. President Jackson, in his last annual message to Congress, has spoken of the value of a good understanding between two countries "cemented by a community of language, manners, and social habits, and by the high obligations we owe to our British ancestors for many of our most valuable institutions, and for that system of representative government which has enabled us to preserve and improve them."
Such sentiments had not been common during the tenure in London (1815-1817) of Rush’s immediate predecessor, the intensely nationalistic John Quincy Adams. But Rush believed that opportunities for transatlantic cooperation existed during the early part of his assignment, when Lord Castlereagh held the Foreign Office. But his memoirs also indicated the reasons why things had not gone further, particularly under Castlereagh’s rival and successor, George Canning.
These difficulties would unfold over time. The decisive world-historical fact for Rush was the refutation of “the prophecies at the close of the American revolution, made by master minds in both hemispheres, that the independence of the United States could not last, and that the downfall of Britain would date from that memorable dismemberment of her own empire.” In fact, “their severance seems to have been the signal for unequalled progress, and boundless prospects to each; not more in material dominion than in the solid and durable glory of widening the empire of rational freedom throughout the world.”
But that which was most calculated to occupy the thoughts of an American Minister when George III died, was… an increase in resources and power far transcending that of any other two nations of the globe during the same period. Their increase in population, throwing into the scale the Colonial and Oriental subjects of Britain, seems to stagger belief. Their aggregate increase in all ways has given earnest that Britain and the United States are destined to become, to an extent not easy to estimate, the predominating nations of Christendom; as already their joint commerce and tonnage, those fruitful causes and sure evidences of power in modern times, overmatches that of all Christendom. The demonstrations are in steady progress, and the death of George III naturally recalled them, that the Anglo-Saxon race is to rule in the Western hemisphere, as the spirit of the same race rules in Asia. From east to west, the language, laws, commerce, and freedom of that great race are extending with resistless force, and must overspread, in primary activity and in civilizing power and influence, the face of the globe.
Rush went to great lengths to refute the opinion, common among many Americans for decades, that England was on the verge of social or financial collapse because of the debts incurred as a result of American Revolution and the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon. Despite the parliamentary reforms of 1832, many Americans still felt that way, but for Rush, writing the introduction to his memoirs in the following year, “the opinions in which I feel most confidence, and which are most important, are those which refer to the wealth and power of England, and their steady augmentation.… I am aware that great political changes have taken place since; but I do not, at my distance, believe that any essential changes will yet have been produced by them, bearing upon the character or habits of the nation. These, when the growth of ages, alter slowly in any country. In England, they will come about more slowly than in most countries.”
Rush spent considerable time studying and documenting the factors, including those of national character, which had led to England's undeniable commercial and naval supremacy – factors that might also serve to guide the younger branch of the Anglo-Saxon race. Rush was fond of quoting Sir Walter Raleigh: “The nation that commands the trade of the world, commands its riches, and consequently the world itself.” The laws and conduct of the English, attested to the fact that they never forget that maxim. Remarkably, Britain was able to expand its economy and trade during wartime. “What cripples the resources of other nations, multiplies her's.… War, by creating new markets, gives a stimulus to industry, calls out capital, and may increase not merely the fictitious but positive wealth of the country carrying it on, where the country is powerful and not the seat of war. Moscow may be burned; Vienna, Berlin, Paris sacked; but it is always, said Franklin, peace in London. The British moralist may be slow to think, that it is during war the riches and power of Britain are most advanced; but it is the law of her insular situation and maritime ascendency. The political economist may strive to reason it down, but facts confound him.” Rush believed that the United States was morally superior to England but that that the latter had much to teach – not so much as to the profitability of war as to the advantages of national planning, the encouragement of arts and sciences. "A wise nation," he wrote to a fellow diplomat, “like a wise man, seeing how an adversary has got upon the vantage ground, will first imitate that he may surpass him."
Rush’s memoirs are a mixture of his public career and the private life, a distinction which in any event could not be made even for a republican diplomat in aristocratic times. Dinner conversations and country excursions with men like Jeremy Bentham, the Duke of Wellington, and William Wilberforce were in their own way as important as official conferences with Castlereagh.
I might have thrown into separate works the parts official and parts personal. But I preferred their junction. No public man, whatever the extent or magnitude of his duties, leads a purely official life, detached from personal scenes and feelings interwoven with it. Some view of these may even serve on occasion to elucidate better the true movement of official acts, by exhibiting the latter in a broader connection. I have also thought, that it might not be wholly unacceptable to the American community to know something of the personal reception of their Minister in England in virtue of the trust he bears; not simply that which awaits him in the common forms when he first arrives, but more generally afterwards. The same motive will open to his countrymen some views, imperfect indeed and few, but still some views, of the social tone prevailing in classes amongst which his public trust necessarily, and, if his residence be protracted, largely, throws him.
In his official capacity, Rush did not accomplish the long-standing American objective in Britain: a general treaty with London that would resolve the major outstanding issues between the two nations, particularly (from the American perspective) the removal of unfair trade restrictions to the British West Indies and the end Britain’s insistence on the right of impressment. The British Ministry, in turn, pressed Rush unsuccessfully for American support for suppressing the slave trade. The Monroe administration supported cooperative action in principle but was suspicious that Britain intended to use such an agreement to gain general American acquiescence to the right of the Royal Navy to inspect American ships.
That said, Rush developed an excellent working relationship with the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, whose policies Rush, unlike Adams, believed were guided by a sincere effort to establish good will between the two nations. Rush found Castlereagh to be frank but friendly, interested in clarity rather than diplomatic obfuscation and more willing to commit Britain on particular issues than Rush generally expected. The two sides agreed on the Convention of 1818, building on the interim Convention of 1815, which resolved some commercial issues and fishing rights; agreed to the use of the Russian Tsar to mediate a dispute over the disposition of American slaves taken by the British during the War of 1812; and adjusted certain boundary issues.
Rush was greatly encouraged by Castlereagh's surprisingly moderate reaction to then-General Andrew Jackson's summary execution in 1818 of two British citizens whom Jackson accused of fomenting Indian attacks from Spanish Florida. Afterwards, “Lord Castlereagh said to me, that a war might have been produced on this occasion, ‘if the ministry had but held up a finger.’ On so slender a thread do public affairs sometimes hang. Plato says, that the complaisance which produces popularity, is the source of the greatest operations in government. The firmness of one man, is perhaps the pivot on which great events more frequently turn. I adopted and retain the belief, that the firmness of Lord Castlereagh under this emergency, sustained by that of his colleagues in the cabinet, was the main cause of preventing a rupture between the two nations.”
These words made their impression upon me. I thought them memorable at the time: I think so still. They were calmly but deliberately spoken. Lord Castlereagh was not a man to speak hastily. Always self-possessed, always firm and fearless, his judgment was the guide of his opinions, and his opinions of his conduct, undaunted by opposition in Parliament or out of it. Political foes conceded to him these qualities. What he said to me on this occasion, I have reasons for knowing he said to others in effect, if not in words; and I wrote his words to my Government. The lapse of a quarter of a century ought not to diminish the feeling properly due to a British Ministry which, by its single will, resisting the nearly universal feeling of the two great parties of the kingdom, in all probability prevented a war; a war into which passion might have rushed, but for the preponderating calmness and reason in those who wielded at that epoch the executive power of England.
Rush also believed that if the timing of European diplomatic events been different, Castlereagh would have been willing to settle the question of impressments. Castlereagh was one of the few British statesmen who did not regard international relations in general, and Anglo-American relations in particular, as a zero-sum game. “And may I not, in this connection, be allowed to recall the declarations made to [U.S. Minister to France] Gallatin and me by Lord Castlereagh, when opening an important negotiation between the two countries at North Cray? Upon that occasion, amongst other sentiments which he uttered, he said, ‘Let us, in short, strive so to regulate our intercourse in all respects, as that each nation may be able to do its utmost towards making the other rich and happy.’ A liberal sentiment, and wise as liberal – one in unison with the spirit of an age which seeks to lessen the causes of national dissension and war – a sentiment, than which no better motto could be chosen by all nations entering upon negotiation, and most especially suited to the United States and England, as having common interests and sympathies perhaps beyond all others existing.”
Not all Englishmen felt the same way. Rush found himself and his nation under attack by British journals, including those of a Whiggish and reformist cast. And Castlereagh, whatever his interest in improved Anglo-American relations, was not at all sympathetic towards democracy or self-determination, whether on the Continent or in Spanish America. He also objected to further American territorial expansion. He warned Rush that the resulting turmoil would cause a falling-out among the great powers. "Europe requires repose," he told Rush; each state has had enough of war, and enough of glory and ought to be content.… You, too, YOU of America, Mr. Rush, ought also to be satisfied; you left off very well, and ought to wish for nothing but a continuation of peace."
America did wish for peace, but through an independent path resulting from insulating the New World strategically and politically from the Old, a policy that Rush endorsed enthusiastically.
Let me here give brief expression to a feeling I often had during my mission – one which is common, I suppose, to every Minister of the United States abroad. It is, his feeling of entire independence of the combinations and movements going on among the other Powers, no matter what may be their nature. Properly improved, this makes his personal position agreeable, as well with the Court where he may be residing, as with the entire Diplomatic Corps. For his country, he has only to be just and fear not. The smaller Powers cannot have this calm assurance; and the representatives of the great Powers naturally respect the office of American Minister, from a knowledge of the resources, and growing power of the nation that sends him; and also (some of them) from dreaming of contingencies which may make the friendship of the United States desirable, though their maxim be, "peace and commerce with all nations, entangling alliances with none." One of the members of the Corps, who witnessed the salutations passing between Lord Castlereagh and me, said to me a few minutes afterwards, "How happy you must feel in these times, when none of us know what is to happen in Europe: you belong to us," (meaning to the Corps) "yet are independent."
As time went on, and particularly with the accession of George Canning to the Foreign Office, the near term limits of Anglo-American cooperation became clear. This was the implicit theme of Rush’s second volume, which contained far less detail that the first. Perhaps the most famous part of Rush's tenure in England came in the second half of 1823, when he was approached by Canning to develop a joint approach to warn off France and the Holy Alliance from attempting to restore Spanish rule in the Americas. Rush had no guidance from Washington on the matter but he correctly anticipated the outcome of the Monroe administration’s deliberations. He told Canning that he would be guided by the thrust of his existing instructions: any formal cooperation with London depended on Britain's prior recognition of those South American states that clearly achieved their independence.
This Canning would not do; he turned instead to the French to reach an understanding (the Polignac Memorandum). This confirmed Rush’s judgment that Canning, unlike Castlereagh, operated according to its narrow national interest and not that of enlarged views.
With all our admiration of the mental powers of Mr. Canning, whether as inherited from nature, or carried to their highest pitch by culture and discipline; whether we marked their efforts when brought to the most momentous trials, or only gazed at them when they dazzled in lighter ones, truth compels us to state, that he was never the political friend of this country. He was a Briton, through and through – British in his feelings, British in his aims, British in all his policy and projects. It made no difference whether the lever that was to raise them was fixed at home or abroad: for he was always and equally British. The influence, the grandeur, the dominion, of Britain, were the dream of his boyhood. To establish these all over the globe, even in the remote region where the waters of the Columbia flow in solitude, formed the intense efforts of his riper years. For this he valued power; for this he used it.… For Britain's sake, exclusively, he took the determination to counteract France, and the Continent, in Spanish America. So, for Britain's sake, he invariably watched, and was as invariably for counteracting, the United States.
Rush could not blame Canning for looking out for his own country’s interests, but Canning failed to realize that “true liberality in the intercourse of nations is, in the end, apt to prove true wisdom.” He also failed to grasp the point that Anglo-American cooperation had the potential to guide the course of world politics. That cooperation, in Rush's opinion, could not be achieved on the narrow basis of joint action on South America, but only through genuine progress across the full range of issues that divided the two nations: trade, borders, the fisheries and impressment. Rush believed that genuine progress would eventually occur and that his memoirs would contribute to that process.
— Patrick J. Garrity
Austria in 1848-49: Being a History of the Late Political Movements in Vienna, Milan, Venice, and Prague; with Details of the Campaigns of Lombardy and Novara: A Full Account of the Revolution in Hungary; and Historical Sketches of the Austrian Government and the Princes of the Empire
William H. Stiles
London: Sampson, Low, 1852.
When the European revolutions of 1848 spread to Austria and the Habsburg lands, William H. Stiles, the American chargé d'affaires in Vienna, became both a participant and a chronicler of these watershed events. Stiles, an attorney from Savannah, Georgia, had been a one-term Democratic Congressman before being appointed to his diplomatic position in April 1845 by newly-elected President James K. Polk. Stiles held the post until October 1849, when he returned to the United States and resumed his law practice and activities in the Democratic Party. He would later serve as a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. For our purposes, his most notable achievement was the publication of a history of the Revolutions of 1848, which remains an important and balanced source of information for contemporary scholars. Stiles, in his own words, "embraced the means which his official residence in Vienna afforded to collect materials from all sources to illustrate the general history of the times. By constant reference to official documents, some of which were only to be found in the imperial archives, as well as to more public authorities, and by means of his own personal observation, he has endeavored to present a faithful picture of the eventful struggles in Vienna, in Milan, in Venice, and in Prague, as well as full details of the campaigns in Lombardy, in Piedmont, and in Hungary."
Stiles' Austria in 1848-49 constitutes an American classic because of the light it sheds on the principles and practice of the United States towards foreign revolutions, national self-determination, and the European balance of power, at a time when Americans were fighting a controversial war with Mexico and nearing a showdown over slavery. In this summary of Stiles' Austria in 1848-49, I do not intend to provide a full digest of the history or assess the accuracy of his account but to give the reader a sense of his perspective and line of argument. For more detail on the U.S. response to the Revolutions of 1848, see this.
Stiles divided the protagonists into three distinct groups: the government party, or Monarchists; the Radicals, or reckless agitators; and the intelligent or moderate reformers. Stiles identified with the third group, although he insisted that he treated the views and actions of all three camps fairly. He was initially optimistic that the Austrian monarchy might be substantially liberalized as a result of the revolution. He believed, however, that a republican government was beyond the capabilities of the mass of the peoples of the empire and the leadership, typically radical, of those who promoted republicanism.
The European revolutions of 1848 failed across the board in Stiles opinion, because the movement for change, moderate and radical, was barren of great men. "Individuals of talent, of courage, and of enthusiasm it undoubtedly produced; but no great social convulsion has ever before failed to evoke one or more master spirits, who to talent, courage, and enthusiasm have added the keen perception of character and resolute purpose which are indispensable to the character of a great leader." This included the man who was best positioned to make a difference, Louis (Lajos) Kossuth, the leader of the Hungarian (Magyar) cause for autonomy and later independence from the Austrian Empire.
In Stiles' view, Kossuth's critical mistake, and that of his fellow revolutionaries in the Hungarian lands, was the failure to declare independence in the summer of 1848 and to come to the aid of the moderate reformers in Austria, who were caught between the reactionaries and the radicals. As Stiles reported, the conflict over the future of the Hapsburg Empire was many-sided: it included the Croatian, Serbian, and Romanian ethnic groups. These groups, particularly the Croatians, resisted what they regarded as threats to their cultural and linguistic identity by the Magyars. According to Stiles, the government in Vienna had revoked the concessions that it had granted to the Hungarians in April 1848 and "instead of assuming, as was her duty, the province of mediator between Hungary and Croatia, she publicly announced her determination to become a partisan, and to enter the lists against the former and in favor of the latter."
That action, in Stiles' view, was amply sufficient to justify Hungary in throwing off her allegiance. The government of Austria had "become destructive of those ends for which it had been instituted," viz.," their safety and happiness," and "it was the right of the people" of Hungary" to alter or to abolish it." Besides, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it was their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."
Had the Hungarians declared their independence in the summer or fall of 1848, they would not, a few weeks later, when on the frontiers of Austria, have been deterred by any scruples of duty, or fears of the traitor's doom, from obeying the call of the Viennese, and marching upon the capital to their relief.
Had the Hungarian army of twenty-two thousand men, as soon as they appeared on the frontiers of Austria, instead of delaying there, marched immediately on Vienna, Prince Windischgrätz, with his immense army, not having yet appeared, there was no force to obstruct their passage. The hundred and forty thousand fighting men in Vienna, properly organized and officered by Hungarians, with the Magyar army as a nucleus, would have been invincible before any force which Windischgrätz and [Croatian leader] Jela?i? combined could have brought against them, and the emperor would gladly have relieved his capital at so slight a cost as the acknowledgment of Hungarian independence.
Even if the Hungarians had not marched on Vienna then, they later had a second chance when they defeated the Imperial Army in Hungary proper, and once again faced no organized resistance between themselves and the capital.
Had she but declared her independence previously, the noble manner in which she subsequently achieved it with the sword was all that would have been requisite for the full accomplishment of her wishes. The moral force which such a course would inevitably have brought to her cause would have been more effectual than all the bayonets which could be enlisted in her behalf. In that event, the Austrians would never have ventured to seek or Russia to yield the assistance of her myrmidons against a nation which had so gallantly, both by word and deed, established her claims to freedom. There is not a civilized government that would not have cheerfully volunteered to recognize her independence, and even Ferdinand of Austria might have imitated the magnanimity of George the Third of England, and been, as the latter was in the case of the United States, the first to acknowledge an independence which he had found himself unable to prevent.
Why did Kossuth hesitate and thus "spare a dynasty whose cruelty and perjury, as he states, were of centuries' duration? Was it humanity, was it fear of consequences, or was it want of nerve that impeded the exercise of his power? In the spring of 1848 he might have thought the public mind unprepared for extreme measures; but if so, why did he lend his sanction to the use of Hungarian troops in Italy, and why, above all, did he, in the fall of that eventful year, permit Windischgrätz, unopposed, to subdue Vienna, and at a blow to place the house of Habsburg in a position of impregnable authority?" Stiles concluded either that Kossuth lacked "that resolute and unflinching purpose so indispensable to revolutionary leaders" or, perhaps better put, that he was a reluctant and tardy revolutionary, who too late recognized that parliamentary and constitutional opposition would prove to be insufficient.
He had used every effort to conciliate the cabinet of Vienna; he had forborne to use the power of injury he possessed; he had permitted the Hungarian arms to be employed for the subjugation of Italy; he had looked on while the watch-fires of Windischgrätz and Jela?i? encircled Vienna with the girdle of destruction; he had reached the utmost limit of forbearance, and perhaps, indeed, hesitated too long, before he threw down the gauntlet and defied the imperial power.
Stiles, inter alia, rejects another argument made against Kossuth by his conservative opponents – that he was a mere demagogue driven by unscrupulous ambition. "His voice, his pen, his indefatigable industry, his mastership of detail, his vivid imagination, his lofty aspirations, all were employed. A highly sensitive and poetic temperament, a peculiarly active and laborious mind, exhibited themselves in his efforts in rare and striking union; he aroused and armed the people, and, thus aroused and armed, his spirit led them into conflict. It is absurd to deny, as it is impossible to underrate, his efforts during this period; and those who criticize and decry him, would find it difficult to show higher instances of genius, enthusiasm, and devotion to the cause of liberty." Once Hungary finally declared its independence in April 1849, Kossuth, in Stiles view, justifiably assumed emergency powers and sought major social as well as political changes – despite the criticism that Kossuth was violating his own stated republican ideals, and that he was suppressing the culture of the non-Magyar ethnic minorities.
But after that decisive act [independence], all the others became a necessary consequence. It was the dictate of the clearest policy and of inevitable necessity to abolish the distinctions of rank and race, and to give to the movement a direction absolutely popular. It was natural that the supreme power should be vested in the hands of the most able and active of the revolutionary leaders; and, if he looked forward to the chief magistracy of the state by the universal suffrage of free and independent Hungary, it was the dream of an honorable and laudable ambition – and, alas! it was but a dream.… These efforts were vain: the struggles of the leader and his brave followers were fruitless; and, after proving what heroism, constancy, and skill could effect, after defeating the power of Austria, they were destined to fall before the overwhelming legions of Russia.
Stiles conclude that the failure of the Hungarian component of the European-wide revolutions of 1848 was a historical watershed.
…the die was cast, and the struggle – more pregnant in consequences to Europe than any that has taken place since the fall of the Roman empire – commenced. Had Hungary established her independence, Austria must inevitably have sunk into a third or fourth rate power. Had she been able to establish a free Constitution, and, absorbing Croatia, opened to herself the ports of the Mediterranean, the future consequences to the freedom of Europe can not be overrated. The struggle, when once commenced, was one worthy of the utmost effort; and this was not wanting. The labors of Kossuth were Herculean; and, assisted by the most gallant people of Europe, no contest more worthy of the poet and the historian has ever been waged between the opposing spirits of freedom and tyranny, of good and evil, that have immemorially divided the world.
Stiles, along with the other American diplomats in Europe, had to walk a fine line between his sympathies and official duties, as he records in the text and appendices of Austria in 1848-49. He was forced to counter the claims of a delegation that purported to bear official American promises of financial and military aid to the Viennese revolutionaries. In December 1848, when a friend of Kossuth, approached Stiles and asked him to intervene diplomatically "for the settlement of the differences now existing between the imperial government and the Kingdom of Hungary," Stiles demurred. "I frankly stated, on that occasion, the difficulties which such a step suggested to my mind, arising from the fact that it was a domestic quarrel between the government of the Austrian empire and one of its dependencies, and with which no foreign power could properly have any concern."
Stiles (as he reported to Secretary of State Buchanan) told the Hungarian intermediary "that it was a subject which the United States had ever regarded with peculiar jealousy, and that I could not, therefore, reconcile it to myself to be in any manner instrumental in committing her; that, besides, so extensive, as I understood, had been the preparations made by the imperial government for the subjugation of Hungary, that it was scarcely to be expected that it would, at this eleventh hour, listen to any proposals of settlement short of the unconditional submission to imperial authority."
Stiles' interlocutor responded that Kossuth and the Hungarian government had been unable to communicate its desire for a settlement and reconciliation to the imperial authorizes in Vienna. He pleaded for the United States to serve as a conduit of such a communication to avoid the immense bloodshed that would be result if the conflict escalated.
I then inquired whether the object for which the interposition was sought was the separation of Hungary from Austria; or, if not, whether it was to gain time in order to make a more successful resistance; that if either of these objects were in contemplation, I could not listen for one moment to the application. On being solemnly assured to the contrary, and that no other end was in view but an amicable adjustment of the impending difficulties, I stated that the only ground upon which I could consent to interfere was that of humanity, and to save the useless effusion of blood; that such an appeal I should not consider myself justified in resisting; but that even in that event, my interference, if approved by the imperial government, would simply go to the extent of opening the door of reconciliation between the opposing parties, and by which the unhappy differences which distract the two countries might be, between themselves and through the instrumentality of their respective authorities, peaceably and satisfactorily arranged.
Stiles immediately contacted Prince Schwartzenberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stressing that "I had no disposition to interfere between the Austrian government and one of its provinces, and that I would only take such action or pursue such a course in the matter as might be agreeable to the imperial government." Schwartzenberg responded that "matters had progressed too far – that they could enter into no negotiation with rebels, and that nothing short of unconditional surrender could now be submitted to by the government."
A week later, Stiles received an official written plea from Kossuth himself, asking the United States to initiate a negotiation with the imperial government for a military armistice during the winter. Stiles decided again to approach the Austrian authorities, including Field Marshal Windischgrätz, while warning Kossuth:
… in the mean time, as the matter is attended with great difficulties arising from the facts, first, that the controversy is a domestic one, and Austria may, consequently, be unwilling to permit of any foreign interference; and, second, that as the preparations for the attack of Hungary on the part of the imperial government are said to be very extensive, and any delay in their operations they may conceive detrimental to their interests, I can hold out to you but little hopes of success in obtaining the desired armistice. For the cause of humanity, however, and to prevent the useless effusion of blood, the only ground upon which I can consent to take any step toward opening the door of reconciliation between Austria and Hungary, and by which the difficulties which now unhappily distract the two countries may be adjusted between themselves, you may rest assured that no exertion on my part shall be spared which may be calculated to effect so desirable an object.
Windischgrätz, as Stiles predicted, would have none of it. "I can do nothing in the matter." "I must obey the orders of the emperor." "Hungary must submit." "I will occupy Pesth with my troops, and then the emperor will decide what is to be done." "I have received orders to occupy Hungary, and I hope to accomplish this end – I cannot, therefore, enter into any negotiations." "I can not consent to treat with those who are in a state of rebellion."
Stiles was naturally concerned that his diplomatic activism, however limited, might meet with the disapproval of his superiors in the Polk administration. "Before closing this communication, I have only to add, sir, that as in this (to me) entirely novel situation, I have endeavored to act with all the circumspection which the delicate nature of the subject so imperiously required; as I have studiously avoided the least step which I thought could in any manner compromise my country," he wrote to the Secretary of State, "and as, if any error has been committed, it has been done for the sake and in the cause of humanity, I trust that the course which, without time for special instruction, I have thought proper to pursue in this matter, will not meet the disapprobation of my government."
As Stiles documents in Austria in 1848-49, Secretary of State Buchanan approved Stiles' actions but offered no encouragement for taking any more ambitious steps in the future.
…I am gratified that your prudence and ability were equal to the occasion. In our foreign policy, we must ever be governed by the wise maxim not to interfere with the domestic concerns of foreign nations; and from this you have not departed. You have done no more, in your own language, than to attempt to open the door of reconciliation between the opposing parties, leaving them to adjust their differences without your intervention. Considering there was reason to believe that the previous offers of the Hungarian government for a reconciliation had never reached the imperial government, and that no other practicable mode of communicating these offers existed, except through your agency, you acted wisely in becoming an intermediary for this purpose alone. Had you refused thus to act upon the request of Mr. Kossuth, you might have been charged with a want of humanity, and been held, in some degree, responsible for the blood which has since been so profusely shed in the war. The president entirely approves your conduct.
For a summary of Abraham Lincoln's classic formulation of the proper American position on Kossuth and foreign revolutions, see this.
— Patrick J. Garrity
The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations
Samuel P. Huntington
Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957
While the average political scientist is lucky to make a name for himself in one area of the field, Samuel Huntington has made major contributions to three: civil-military relations, democratic theory, and international relations. And while most people think of The Clash of Civilizations when they hear his name today, his most influential book—for better or worse—remains one that he wrote exactly a half-century ago: The Soldier and the State. Here, Huntington advances an institutional theory of civil-military relations, one that "focuses on the interaction of political actors played out in the specific institutional setting of government."
A good theory possesses three elements: a descriptive or empirical element that accounts for and explains relevant phenomena; a predictive element that enables its adherents successfully to argue that, under such-and-such conditions, a certain outcome can be expected to occur; and a prescriptive or normative element that provides a guide to policy based on the descriptive and predictive qualities of the theory.
Huntington’s main descriptive or empirical claim in The Soldier and the State was that American civil-military relations have been shaped by three variables: the external threat, which he called the functional imperative, and two components of what he called the societal imperative, "the social forces, ideologies and institutions dominant within the society."
The first component of the social imperative is the constitutional structure of the United States, the legal-institutional framework that guides political affairs generally and civil-military affairs specifically. The second is ideology, the prevailing worldview of a state. Huntington identified four ideologies—conservative pro-military, fascist pro-military, Marxist antimilitary, and liberal antimilitary—and argued that the fourth was the dominant ideology of the United States.
Huntington also argued that both components of the social imperative—the constitutional structure and the American ideology of antimilitary liberalism—had remained constant throughout U.S. history. Accordingly, the entire burden of explaining any change in civilian control or level of military armament would have to rest with the functional imperative; that is, the external threat.
He further contended that liberalism was "the gravest domestic threat to American military security. The tension between the demands of military security and the values of American liberalism can, in the long run, be relieved only by the weakening of the security threat or the weakening of liberalism." The requisite for military security is a shift in basic American values from liberalism to conservatism. Only an environment which is sympathetically conservative will permit American military leaders to combine the political power which society thrusts upon them with the military professionalism without which society cannot endure.
According to Huntington, America’s antimilitary liberal ideology produces "extirpation"—the virtual elimination of military forces—when the external threat is low and "transmutation,"—the refashioning of the military in accordance with liberalism, which leads to the loss of "peculiarly military characteristics"—when the external threat is high. The problem for the United States in a protracted contest such as the Cold War (or the war against radical Islam) is that, while transmutation may work for short periods of time during which concentrated military effort is required (a world war, for example), it will not assure adequate military capability over the long term.
In the context of the Cold War, Huntington argued that the ideological component of America’s societal imperative—liberal antimilitary ideology—would make it impossible to build the forces necessary to confront the functional imperative in the form of the Soviet threat to the United States and to permit military leaders to take the steps necessary to provide national security. The predictive element of Huntington’s theory held that, without a change in the societal imperative, the United States would never be able to build the necessary military forces necessary to confront the Soviet Union.
The prescriptive or normative element of Huntington’s theory was to suggest a way for the United States to deal with the dilemma raised by what Peter Feaver has called civil-military problématique: How to address the tension between the desire for civilian control and the need for military security, or how to minimize the power of the military and make civilian control more certain without sacrificing protection against external enemies.
In particular, Huntington argued that he was prescribing a means for enabling the liberal United States to effectively meet the Soviet threat without forfeiting civilian control. His prescription, which he called "objective civilian control," has the virtue of simultaneously maximizing military subordination and military fighting power. Objective control guarantees the protection of civilian society from external enemies and from the military themselves.
In Huntington’s prescriptive or normative theory, the key to objective control is "the recognition of autonomous military professionalism," respect for the independent military sphere of action. Interference or meddling in military affairs undermines military professionalism and so undermines objective control.
This constitutes a bargain between civilians and soldiers. On the one hand, civilian authorities grant a professional officer corps autonomy in the realm of military affairs. On the other, "a highly professional officer corps stands ready to carry out the wishes of any civilian group which secures legitimate authority within the state."
In other words, if the military is granted autonomy in its sphere, the result is a professional military that is politically neutral and voluntarily subordinate to civilian control. Of course, autonomy is not absolute: Huntington argued that while the military has responsibility for operational and tactical decisions, civilians must decide matters of policy and grand strategy.
While objective control weakens the military politically, rendering it politically sterile or neutral, it actually strengthens the military’s ability to defend society. A professional military obeys civilian authority; a military that does not obey is not professional.
At the opposite pole from objective control lay Huntington’s worst case situation—"subjective control"—which constituted a systematic violation of the autonomy necessary for a professional military and produced transmutation. He argued that subjective control was detrimental to military effectiveness and would lead to failure on the battlefield by forcing the military to defer to civilians in the military realm.
The key to objective control of the military is professionalism. According to Huntington’s reading of American history, the origin of American military professionalism is to be found during the period following the Civil War. During this period, Huntington claimed, the military was isolated—not only physically, but also socially, politically, and intellectually—from the mainstream of American life.
Huntington writes that this period constituted the "dark ages" of the Army and the "period of stagnation" for the Navy. He quotes one officer to the effect that, in America, the United States Army had become "an alien army" existing in "practically complete separation from the lives of the people from which it [was] drawn." Huntington contends that the physical isolation of the armed services during this period was mirrored by its intellectual isolation: "The military were also divorced from the prevailing tides of intellectual opinion. West Point, for example, gradually lost contact with the rest of American education to which it has made such significant contributions, and went on its own way."
But although these years may have been the dark ages of the military, there was a positive outcome. The "isolation and rejection" of the military "made those years the most fertile, creative, and formative in the history of the American armed forces." This is because "the withdrawal of the military from civilian society produced the high standards of professional excellence essential to national success in the struggles of the twentieth century."
In other words, isolation acted as a crucible for the creation of a professional military.
As Peter Feaver has argued in his formidable challenge to Huntington, Armed Servants, Huntington’s theory has survived numerous challenges over the decades. His core claims—that there is a meaningful difference between civilian and military roles; that the key to civilian control is military professionalism; and that the key to military professionalism is military autonomy—have been contested on numerous occasions. But Huntington perseveres "while the challengers drift into obscurity."
Why? To begin with, Huntington grounded his theory in a "deductive logic derived from democratic theory while his critics did not," writes Feaver. And despite the claims of many of those who look at civil-military relations through the lens of sociology, analytically distinct military and civilian spheres do appear to exist. Moreover, Huntington’s theory is the source of what Eliot Cohen has called the "normal" theory of civil-military relations, which holds that, during wartime, civilians determine the goals of the war, then stand aside to let the military run the actual war.
The Soldier and the State has had a great and lasting effect within our uniformed military. Indeed, the military has come to endorse many of Huntington’s general conclusions and has made it central to its civil-military relations education. But there are a number of flaws in Huntington’s theory.
First, as Feaver points out, elegant as it may be, his theory doesn’t fit the evidence of the Cold War. For instance, one of Huntington’s testable hypotheses was that a liberal society (such as ours) would not produce sufficient military might to survive the Cold War. But the United States did prevail during the Cold War despite the fact that the country did not abandon liberalism. Indeed, "the evidence shows that American society as a whole almost certainly became even more individualistic and more anti-statist than when Huntington warned of the dangers of liberalism in 1957."
The same problems affect Huntington’s prescriptive theory. During the Cold War, the military became more "civilianized," the officer corps more politicized, and civilians habitually intruded into the military realm: "According to many of the indicators Huntington cited as critical," writes Feaver, "civilians did not adopt the objective control mechanism he claimed was the crucial causal mechanism between the explanatory variable of ideology and the dependent variable of adequate national security."
Huntington’s historical generalizations concerning the alleged isolation of the military during the late 19th century are also at odds with the evidence. For example, in a 1980 article for the journal of the Army War College, John Gates pointed out that Huntington had vastly overstated the physical isolation of the Army officer corps during the decades following the Civil War. Gates found that a significant number of officers served in or near large urban areas during this period and that there was much greater civil-military social intercourse than the conventional wisdom would suggest.
Using reports of the Army’s adjutant general during 1867-97, Gates discovered that anywhere from "17 to 44 percent of all officers present for duty in established army command… were serving in the Department of the East or its equivalent, living in the most settled region of the United States, often on the Atlantic seaboard." Of those not serving in the East, a substantial proportion were serving in urban areas of significant size, including such cities as Chicago, Omaha, St. Paul, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Francisco: "In a nation that numbered only 100 cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants in the 1880 census, many of the western cities in which officers found themselves were of significant size. One should not consider individuals posted to such locations isolated."
Gates went on to note that there were also a large number of officers on detached duty, which often included assignments that brought them into close contact with civilians, and that there was a great deal of social contact between officers and civilians. This contact between officers and civilians, including powerful and prestigious individuals, was a part of military life in both urban and frontier assignments. This is not surprising, given the middle-class origins of the officer corps. Huntington claimed that, because they were middle-class, officers were affiliated with no social group. On the contrary, argues Gates: They "had more in common with the ruling elite than with any other societal group in the nation."
Finally, the line of demarcation mandated by Huntington’s theory is not as clear as some would have it. As Eliot Cohen has shown in Supreme Command, democratic war leaders such as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln impinged upon the military’s turf as a matter of course, influencing not only operations but also tactics. The reason that civilian leaders cannot leave the military to its own devices during war is that war is an iterative process involving the interplay of active wills. What appears to be the case at the outset of a war may change as the war continues, modifying the relationship between political goals and military means. Wars are not fought for their own purposes but to achieve policy goals set by the political leadership of the state.
There is also a practical problem arising from the military’s reading of Huntington’s theory. Contrary to the real conduct of war, officers often infer that military autonomy means they should be advocates of particular policies rather than simply serving in their traditional advisory role—indeed, that they have the right to insist that their advice be heeded by civilian authorities. Such an attitude among uniformed officers is hardly a recipe for healthy, balanced civil-military relations.
And yet, despite its flaws, The Soldier and the State continues to provide useful insights into the nature of civil-military relations, especially our own. Huntington’s theoretical framework consists of a few tightly reasoned, deductive propositions. It addresses the central problem of civil-military relations: the relation of the military as an institution to civilian society. And its best empirical insights—the civilian-military distinction, the idea of military subordination, essential to democratic theory, the importance of military professionalism—do not depend on the problematic parts of Huntington’s model.
Huntington was the first to attempt a systematic analysis of the civil-military problématique: the paradox arising from the fact that, out of fear of others, a society creates "an institution of violence" intended to protect it, but then fears that the institution will turn on society itself. That was very much on the minds of the Founding generation, which had to strike a balance between vigilance and responsibility. It is still on our minds.
— Mackubin T. Owens
Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 2 volumes.
Benjamin F. Tracy
In March 1889, a hurricane destroyed or disabled three American warships in the Samoan harbor of Apia, where they had been deployed to support the United States in a political dispute with Britain and Germany over the status of the islands. The accident left the United States without any effective naval force in the Pacific and revealed the weaknesses of the existing fleet, as the old warships had been unable to get to sea and ride out the storm. Advocates of a more assertive American foreign policy, to be underwritten by an expanded modern navy, seized upon the incident. A perfect political storm did seem to favor their cause. The new President, Benjamin Harrison, was a big-navy advocate and for the first time since 1875, the Republican Party enjoyed clear majorities in both Houses of Congress. U.S. Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was completing his landmark book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783, and his arguments were already circulating among such influential and would-be influential figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Harrison’s Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Franklin Tracy.
Tracy, a decorated brigadier general during the Civil War, was an able politician and administrator who laid out the blueprint for a new American Navy in his Annual Report of 1889. Tracy’s official statement placed the Harrison administration squarely behind Mahan and the naval expansionist school. Although defense, not conquest, was the object of American national security and naval policy, Tracy argued that defense required a fighting force capable of engaging the fleets of potentially hostile powers. He evaluated the U.S. Navy as being inferior not only to such major powers as Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany, but also to the fleets of Holland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, China, Sweden-Norway, and Austria-Hungary. The Secretary recommended abandoning the past strategy of building commerce-raiding cruisers and coastal monitors in favor of creating a force of capital ships. Isolated successes against the merchant fleet of an enemy would not protect the American coast from bombardment by the enemy’s main battle fleet. According to Tracy, the United States must be able “to raise blockades” and to “beat off the enemy’s fleet on its approach;” and to operate in the enemy’s own waters and threaten its coast because “a war, although defensive in principle, may be conducted most effectively by being offensive in its operations.”
This strategy would require the development of a balance naval forced eventually centered on twenty sea-going battleships. These capital ships would be divided into two fleets, one of which would be assigned to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts (twelve) and the other to the Pacific (eight). These battleships should be world-class in terms of “armament, armor, structural strength and speed.” Speed was especially important because it allowed ships to determine when and where to engage the enemy. In addition, in a nod to conservative elements in the Navy and Congress, Tracy called for the construction of sixty fast armored cruisers, a large number of torpedo boats, and “at least twenty vessels for coast and harbor defense.” To support the fleets, Tracy proposed to acquire overseas bases.
In the fall of 1889, the Secretary also appointed a six-member Naval Policy Board to advise him on strategic and technical matters. The Board’s findings, submitted to Tracy in January 1890, were leaked and generated a storm of controversy. The Board recommended a fleet of ten first-class, extended-range battleships (15,000 miles) capable of operations against the enemy and for attacking “points on the other side of the Atlantic;” as well as twenty-five battleships with lesser range; and a total of over two hundred warships of various types.
Tracy disavowed the findings of the Policy Board, as did Congressional supporters of a large navy. This was a bridge too far for public opinion.
The Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, Representative Charles Boutelle, drafted a bill which authorized the construction of three battleships, rather than the eight that Tracy proposed as the first step in his plan. At the suggestion of Representative Henry Cabot Lodge, these were described as “sea-going coast-line battleships” to emphasize their limited range (5,000 nautical miles). Boutelle described his intentions: “By building such ships, we should avoid the popular apprehension of jingoism in naval matters, while we can develop the full offensive and defensive powers of construction as completely as in the foreign cruising battleships in all but speed and fuel capacity.” The 1890 naval appropriations would be an installment toward a much more ambitious program down the road, when public opinion had been properly prepared.
Opponents of Tracy’s plan argued that land fortifications and light cruisers remained the most effective instruments of defense for the United States in the event of war. To the extent that offensive operations were indicated, the U.S. Navy should adopt a counter-commerce strategy rather than a counter-force approach. They pointed out that the logic of Tracy’s position required the United States to build a battleship force at least as large as that of its most likely opponents, Great Britain and France, which called for something like the Policy Board’s program rather than the half-way measures of the Navy Secretary. The expense of such a program was unwise in its own right and by building a power-projection navy the United States would soon find reason to use it. Contrary to Mahan, there was no such thing as a decisive naval action. Battleships themselves would soon become obsolete, due to advances in gun and projectile technology over that of armor.
Lodge and the naval expansionists defended Tracy’s position. If the United States was to claim its place as a world power and to defend the Monroe Doctrine against future European encroachment, then it must begin to act appropriately and build up a first-class navy.
In the end, Congress approved three sea-going coast-line battleships – as they were described, per Lodge – in what became the Oregon class, which included the Indiana and the Massachusetts. The House vote was 131 to 105; the Senate, 33-18. These battleships displaced ten thousand tons and mounted four 13-inch and eight 8-inch rifled guns. Their secondary armament included four torpedo tubes and many rapid-fire guns. Their speeds varied from 15.5 to nearly 17 knots, and their cost averaged $6 million per ship. This did not represent the great naval revolution that Tracy, much less the Policy Board, had envisioned. But the 1889 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, and the 1890 Naval Appropriations Bill, represented important signs that the United States, as Mahan put it, was indeed looking outward.
— Patrick Garrity
The Central Gold Region: The Grain, Pastoral and Gold Regions of North America, with Some New Views of its Physical Geography; and Observations of the Pacific Railroad
William Gilpin, sometime U.S. Army officer, Western explorer, Mexican War veteran, friend of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Hart Benton, land speculator, and governor of the Colorado Territory (1861-1862), is sometimes accorded the title of America’s first geopolitician. In a series of articles and speeches, which were summarized in his best known publication, The Central Gold Region: The Grain, Pastoral and Gold Regions of North America (1860), Gilpin argued that the development of the interior of the continent, made possible in large part by a properly-sited transcontinental railroad, would create a new and dominant commercial line of communication between Europe and Asia. This would inaugurate a new era in human affairs focused around what would become the greatest civilization in history, the Republican Empire of North America.
Gilpin adopted the familiar theory of a succession of empires arising along a "hereditary line of progress" from east to west, each one superior to its predecessors. From the geographer Alexander von Humboldt, Gilpin derived the idea of the "Isothermal Zodiac," approximately thirty degrees in width across the Northern Hemisphere, whose axis "alternates above and below the 40th degree of latitude, as the neighborhood or remoteness of the oceans modifies the climates of the continents." Through it ran the "Axis of Intensity," whose average temperature was 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The Isothermal Zodiac contained the conditions most favorable to civilization. The overwhelming majority of the white population lived within it. The great empires had formed and migrated along this axis, from China and India to Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, and Britain. Most of North America, the next and final destination of this progression, lay within the Isothermal Zodiac and was bisected by the Axis of Intensity. The American pioneers were now the instrument of progress for the emerging North American Empire, as they were in the process of rapidly populating the trans-Mississippi region.
The center of the North American continent was uniquely configured to support the world-historic empire of the future. "This mission of civic empire," Gilpin proclaimed, "has for its oracular principle the physical characteristics and configuration of our continent, wherein the Basin of the Mississippi predominates as supremely as the sun among the planets." The Mississippi Valley was bounded on both sides by mountain rims so that the continent had a generally concave structure. The vast interior was connected by a coherent network of rivers, which resulted in a natural system of communication that facilitated trade, transportation, governance, and a common language and culture. By contrast, Asia and Europe were dissected by central mountain chains and plateaus, and unconnected river systems, which resulted in discrete civilizations constantly at war with one another. The topography of North America, however, was such that if the character of society developed properly, there would be a naturally integrated union, with a population and resources equal to that of the rest of the entire world. Gilpin waxed especially eloquently about what he called the Plateau of North America, part of the Great Table Land, the area between the main Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, whose prime city was Denver. These lands, even more so than the Mississippi Basin proper, had the most favorable climate, soil, and mineral resources to support an almost unlimited population.
Although nature pointed to the creation of the American Empire, human agency had an essential role to play. The material means for bringing about this Empire was a Pacific, or transcontinental, railway, which would link the agricultural heartland of North America with the huge, untapped markets of Asia. Among the competing routes, Gilpin was certain that the line must be built along a central route, from Independence, Missouri through the Rocky Mountains by way of South Pass, and terminating at the mouth of the Columbia River. Gilpin argued that this port, rather than San Francisco, would be the natural transit point for Pacific oceanic commerce. Once the American transcontinental railway was completed, it would unify the global economy in an unprecedented fashion. By developing the interior and connecting it with the coast, the United States would become the center of a new pattern of international commerce. America’s "intermediate geographical position between Asia and Europe … invests her with the powers and duties of arbiter between them. Our continent is at once a barrier which separates the other two, yet fuses and harmonizes their intercourse in all relations from which force is absent." The great cities of the world, aligned roughly along the line of 40 degrees north, would be linked by a Cosmopolitan Railway that would cross the three principle continents, including a line (or car ferry) over the Bering Strait connecting North America and Asia. The value of sea power would decline and land transportation would take on much greater importance. The commercial and transportation revolution, in turn, would diminish the old cycle of wars among disparate peoples.
Gilpin argued that Russia, although less favorably situated than North America, was nevertheless in the best position of all other powers to take advantage of the railroad/transportation revolution. Unlike Tocqueville, Gilpin saw a commonality of interests between the Bear and the Eagle, who would have a joint interest in constructing the global rail route:
Probably there are fewer opportunities for disagreements and jealousies than may be found among any other of the first class power. … Both are among the largest and strongest among the civilized powers, both in territory and population, and both are growing larger and stronger while the other powers of Christendom are falling into decay. Build this railway between them, and America and Russia may join hand against all the rest of the world on any issue, military, commercial, and industrial. Then indeed this back way to India of which Columbus had dreamed … will become the chief highway of the nations, the front and finishing line of progress, circling round the warm and hospitable Pacific, whose shores are pregnant with limitless undeveloped resources, leaving the cold Atlantic to those who choose to navigate it…
By contrast, Gilpin regarded Britain—the naval power that currently dominated the cold Atlantic—to be the great geopolitical and commercial loser when the North American transcontinental railroad (re)unified the Isothermal Zodiac. The British were the natural enemy of American civilization and were then trying, ineffectually Gilpin believed, to keep the United States from developing its Pacific and Asiatic commerce. But the greatest threat to the American Union was internal—not the division over slavery (which Gilpin was convinced would be overcome naturally by the process of continental growth); but rather the purveyors of what he called a "maritime policy," which had held sway since the Monroe administration. "The maritime policy blends the double object of blocking up the interior, and extending the seaboard in a shell around the continent. For this the navy is enormously increased and the army emasculated. Enterprises in the central states are marred, but those of the seaboard are sustained directly from the National Treasury." Under the maritime policy, the heroic and instinctual march of the "pioneer army" had been scoffed at, burdened by government, and distracted by various "scientific men" who put forward obstacles to the development of the one true rail route across the continent. "To bridle PROGRESS has been the policy of thirty years. To keep the people out of the wilderness. To refuse Territorial governments, and prevent Territories from becoming States." Americans should unite in supporting the "central domestic work" instead of "dissipating the national energies upon circuitous routes, running near the equator, through foreign countries beyond our control, and certain to involve us in the competitions, the jealousies, and the hostile interests of foreigners and rivals."
The historian of the American West, Bernard DeVoto, concluded that Gilpin’s claim of objective, scientific analysis "was early nineteenth century, which is to say that much of it was a priori, deduced, generalized, falsely systematized, and therefore wrong. Much of his extrapolation, though based on persuasive data and worked out with rigorous logic, was sheer fantasy." The relationship between sea and land power, for instance, evolved in different ways than anticipated by Gilpin. His assumption that commercial unification and globalization pointed in a pacific and Pacific direction was, at the very least, premature. Nevertheless, DeVoto argued, "his system contains also remarkable intuitions and anticipation — In it one sees America learning to think continentally." Gilpin’s perspective influenced, or reflected in part, the policies of American statesmen as divergent as Young Democrat Stephen Douglas and progressive Whig William Seward; and Gilpin foreshadowed the argument of Halford Mackinder about the end of the Columbian Age.
— Patrick Garrity
Report on the Reduction of the Army
John C. Calhoun
December 12, 1820
American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. 2: 188-98.
John C. Calhoun has gone down in American history as the great theorist of state rights, with the associated doctrines of nullification and the concurrent majority, qualifying him as the intellectual grandfather of secession and the Confederacy. But in his early public career, Calhoun was a staunch nationalist, a supporter of the War of 1812, and one of the Republic’s most distinguished Secretaries of War. Among his significant contributions to American statecraft was a Report on the Reduction of the Army, dated December 12, 1820. The Report, written with the assistance of Generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott, was prepared in response to a call by the House of Representatives for a plan “for the reduction of the army to six thousand non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates, and preserving such parts of the corps of engineers, as, in his opinion, without regard to that number, it may be for the public interest to retain; and, also, what saving of the public revenue will be produced by such an arrangement of the army as he may propose in conformity with this resolution.” Since the end of the War of 1812, Congress had pressed continually for substantial cuts in the nation’s armed forces (the U.S. Army’s authorized strength had been placed at 12,000 troops in 1815). The need for military economy and the threat posed to liberty by a standing army and blue-water navy were long-standing themes of the old-line Jeffersonians. The nation’s finances had also been seriously disrupted by the Panic of 1819, which added to the political pressure for cuts in the military budget.
In his Report, Calhoun sought to make lemonade out of a lemon by setting out the principles of an “expansible army” that should guide the administration and Congress. To decide how that army ought to be properly configured, Calhoun observed, it was necessary first to establish “the general principles on which it is conceived our military peace establishment ought to be organized.” (The core of this position, although it would have been impolitic for Calhoun to remind Congress of this fact, came from the old Federalist Party after the experience of the American Revolution and its aftermath.)
The objects for which a standing army in time of peace ought to be maintained may be comprised under two classes: those which, though they have reference to a state of war, yet are more immediately connected with its duties in peace; and those which relate immediately and solely to war. Under the first class may be enumerated, as the leading objects, the garrisoning of the forts along our Atlantic frontier in order to preserve them, and to cause the sovereignty of the United States to be respected in their immediate neighborhood, and the occupying of certain commanding posts on our inland frontier, to keep in check our savage neighbors, and to protect our newly formed and feeble settlements in that quarter.
These are, doubtless, important objects; but are by no means so essential as those which relate immediately and solely to a state of war; and, though not to be neglected wholly, ought not to have any decided influence in the organization of our peace establishment. Without, therefore, making any further remark on this point of the inquiry, I will proceed to consider the other class, on which, as it comprises the great and leading inducement to maintain in this country a regular army in peace, the prominent features of its organization ought to depend.
For Calhoun, the war for which the United States ought to be preparing was a great-power war, not conflict purely against Indian tribes. “However remote our situation from the great powers of the world, and however pacific our policy, we are, notwithstanding, liable to be involved in war; and, to resist, with success, its calamities and dangers, a standing army in peace in the present improved state of the military science, is an indispensable preparation. The opposite opinion cannot be adopted, without putting to hazard the independence and safety of the country.” For reasons of ideology and economy, many Congressmen still considered the militia to be “the great national force,” but for the militia to be effective, “every experienced officer must acknowledge, that they require the aid of regular troops. Supported by a suitable corps of trained artillerists, and by a small but well-disciplined body of infantry, they may be safely relied on to garrison our forts, and to act in field as light troops. In these services, their zeal, courage, and habit of using fire-arms, would be of great importance, and would have their full effect. To rely on them beyond this, to suppose our militia capable of meeting in the open field the regular troops of Europe, would be to resist the most obvious truth, and the whole of our experience as a nation.”
War is an art, to attain perfection in which, much time and experience, particularly for the officers, are necessary. It is true, that men of great military genius occasionally appear, who, though without experience, may, when an army is already organized and disciplined, lead it to victory; yet I know of no instance, under circumstances nearly equal, in which the greatest talents have been able, with irregular and undisciplined troops, to meet with success those regularly trained. Genius, without much experience, may command, but it cannot go much further. It cannot at once organize or discipline an army, and give it that military tone and habit which only, in the midst of imminent danger, can enable it to perform the most complex evolutions with precision and promptitude. Those qualities which essentially distinguish an army from an equal assemblage of untrained individuals, can only be acquired by the instruction of experienced officers. If they, particularly the company and regimental officers, are inexperienced, the army must remain undisciplined; in which case, the genius, and even experience of the commander, will be of little avail.
The great and leading objects, then, of a military establishment in peace, ought to be to create and perpetuate military skill and experience; so that, at all times, the country may have at its command a body of officers, sufficiently numerous, and well instructed in every branch of duty, both of the line and staff; and the organization of the army ought to be such as to enable the Government, at the commencement of hostilities, to obtain a regular force, adequate to the emergencies of the country, properly organized and prepared for actual service. It is thus only that we can be in the condition to meet the first shocks of hostilities with unyielding firmness, and to press on an enemy, while our resources are yet unexhausted.
If the country disregarded “the sound dictates of reason and experience” and neglected in peace its military establishment, it must expect a replay of the dark days of 1812-1814, when the nation nearly succumbed to Britain (although again, Calhoun was too politic to say so).
We must, with a powerful and skilful enemy, be exposed to the most distressing calamities. Not all the zeal, courage, and patriotism of our militia, unsupported by regularly trained and disciplined troops, can avert them. Without such troops, the two or three first campaigns would be worse than lost. The honor of our arms would be tarnished, and the resources of the country uselessly lavished; for, in proportion to the want of efficiency, and a proper organization, must, in actual service, be our military expenditures.
When taught by sad experience, we would be compelled to make redoubled efforts, with exhausted means, to regain those very advantages which were lost for the want of experience and skill. In addition to the immense expenditure which would then be necessary, exceeding manifold what would have been sufficient to put our peace establishment on a respectable footing, a crisis would be thus brought on of the most dangerous character. If our liberty should ever be endangered by the military power gaining the ascendency, it will be from the necessity of making those mighty and irregular efforts to retrieve our affairs, after a series of disasters, caused by the want of adequate military knowledge; just as, in our physical system, a state of the most dangerous excitement and paroxysm follows that of greatest debility and prostration. To avoid these dangerous consequences, and to prepare the country to meet a state of war, particularly at its commencement, with honor and safety, much must depend on the organization of our military peace establishment.…
Economy is certainly a very high political virtue,—intimately connected with the power and the public virtue of the community. In military operations,—which, under the best management, are so expensive, it is of the utmost importance; but, by no propriety of language, can that arrangement be called economical, which, in order that our military establishment in peace should be rather less expensive, would, regardless of the purposes for which it ought to be maintained, render it unfit to meet the dangers incident to a state of war.
The American military establishment, albeit reduced in size, should be postured so “that at the commencement of hostilities, there should be nothing either to new model or to create. The only difference, consequently, between the peace and the war formation of the army, ought to be in the increased magnitude of the latter; and the only change in passing from the former to the latter, should consist in giving to it the augmentation which will then be necessary. It is thus, and thus only, the dangerous transition from peace to war may be made without confusion or disorder; and the weakness and danger, which otherwise would be inevitable, be avoided.”
Two consequences result from this principle. First, the organization of the staff in a peace establishment ought to be such, that every branch of it should be completely formed, with such extension as the number of troops and posts occupied may render necessary; and, secondly, that the organization of the line ought, so far as practicable, to be such that, in passing from the peace to the war formation, the force may be sufficiently augmented, without adding new regiments or battalions; thus raising the war on the basis of the peace establishment, instead of creating a new army to be added to the old, as at the commencement of the late war. The next principle to be observed is, that the organization ought to be such as to induce, in time of peace, citizens of adequate talents and respectability of character to enter and remain in the military service of the country, so that the Government may have officers at its command, who, to the requisite experience, would add the public confidence. The correctness of this principle can hardly be doubted, for, surely, if it is worth having an army at all, it is worth having it well commanded.
Calhoun, then, proposed to retain the army’s staff at full strength and make no change in the number of regiments, battalions or companies. The reduction would be carried out simply by reducing the enlisted personnel of each company to half strength. The strength of the Army could be doubled by adding privates to the existing companies, and could be still further augmented by splitting the expanded companies into two, doubling the number of officers and adding new recruits. Given this approach, Calhoun calculated that the proper size of the reduced force was 6,316 NCOs, musicians, and privates, rather than the Congressional target of 6,000; which would be expansible to 11,588 without adding a single officer or company. With only 288 additional officers, the Army could expand to more than 19,000.
In other Reports and plans during his tenure, Calhoun did not neglect the “first class” of objects for a peacetime military establishment: “the garrisoning of the forts along our Atlantic frontier in order to preserve them, and to cause the sovereignty of the United States to be respected in their immediate neighborhood, and the occupying of certain commanding posts on our inland frontier, to keep in check our savage neighbors, and to protect our newly formed and feeble settlements in that quarter.” He offered plans for the fortification of strategic points along the Great Lakes, the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. These forts were to be connected with each other and with other important industrial and agricultural centers by a network of roads and canals, to push the military frontier—and secure settlement—hundreds of miles further to the West.
To supplement harbor defenses planned in the wake of the War of 1812, Calhoun proposed a complete system of interior land and water communications. (This system, to be built in the name of national security, would have finessed the disputed constitutionality of such “internal improvements” by the Federal Government.) This system was to include a canal joining Lake Michigan with the Illinois River, providing for north and south traffic by way of the Mississippi, the mouth of which would be protected by permanent fortifications. The existing Atlantic coast highway would become a “durable and well-finished road” linking Maine and Louisiana. Rivers and bays were to be connected to form an inland waterway between Boston and Savannah. Cities along the Atlantic and in the West would be connected by strategic routes between Albany and the Great Lakes, where the Erie Canal was under construction; between the Chesapeake Bay area and the Ohio River; and between the Charleston-Augusta region and the Tennessee. These routes were already being developed piecemeal by the states and local communities, but Calhoun urged federal expenditures to complete and connect them. For the northern frontier, he additionally favored waterways to link Albany with Lake George and Lake Ontario, and a similar water connection between Pittsburgh and Lake Erie. Farther to the west he favored the road then under construction from Detroit to Ohio. In the South a military highway would connect New Orleans with the Tennessee River, while inland water channels would link the former with Mobile Bay.
Calhoun’s grand design was never implemented in its full extent, due to ideological opposition, territorial changes (the Transcontinental Treaty), and cost constraints. Congress essentially ignored his Report on Reductions and simply cut its authorizations and reduced the Army’s strength to 6,183 by eliminating regiments and reducing the number of officers. Congress also dramatically slashed funding for fortifications. But the idea of an expansible army, and the strategic logic behind it, lived on, to be given form early in the 20th century.
— Patrick Garrity
Resolutions in Behalf of Hungarian Freedom
January 9, 1852.
In the pantheon of significant presidential statements of American foreign policy—such as Washington's Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, Wilson's Fourteen Points, the Truman Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine—we lack an equivalent pronouncement by Abraham Lincoln. The Civil War was not without its foreign policy challenges but Lincoln's statecraft was naturally focused on bringing about a new birth of freedom at home. A decade earlier, however, as a private citizen, Lincoln endorsed a set of propositions about the proper American attitude towards the efforts of other peoples to claim their own births, or rebirths, of freedom.
Americans were naturally interested in the course and outcome of the European Revolutions of 1848, which included the overthrow of the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe in France, the deposition of Metternich in Austria, the establishment of the Frankfurt Parliament in Germany, the creation of republics in Venice and Rome, and an uprising in Poland against the Prussian occupation. The American imagination was particularly captivated by the revolution in the Hungarian lands of the Habsburg Empire and the subsequent struggle of the Magyars, the main ethnic group in those lands, to achieve independence from Austria. When Russian forces invaded the newly-constituted Hungarian Republic to assist Austria in suppressing the independence movement, many of the Magyar leaders, including the colorful and controversial Lajos (Louis) Kossuth, fled to Turkey. The administration of Zachary Taylor had already dispatched an envoy to central Europe, with instructions to recognize the Hungarian Republic if it proved to be viable. The envoy never traveled beyond Vienna but when the instructions became known, Secretary of State Daniel Webster engaged in a heated public battle with the Austrian chargé d'affaires, Johann Georg Hülsemann. In 1851, with Congressional authorization, Taylor's successor, Millard Fillmore, offered asylum to Kossuth and his revolutionary colleagues and dispatched the frigate U.S.S. Mississippi to escort them to the United States. Kossuth's American sponsors assumed that he and his followers would take permanent asylum in the United States, as had thousands of other refugees, particularly Germans, from the failed European revolutions.
Kossuth's appearance in the United States in December 1851 created a public sensation (his name was typically pronounced kos-ooth by Americans; the Hungarian, kaw-shoot). Kossuth was feted in New York and Washington and later toured the country. He had no intention of settling down quietly in the United States, however. He sought to raise private funds in support of renewed revolutionary activity. He also advocated direct and official American action in support of Hungarian independence—a policy of "intervention for non-intervention," which he proposed as an explicit replacement for the doctrine of neutrality and non-interference in European affairs set out in Washington's Farewell Address. Kossuth proposed that the U.S. government recognize Hungarian independence and officially warn Russia not to intervene on the side of Austria once the fighting was renewed. The United States would form an alliance with England and send an American fleet to the eastern Mediterranean to give credibility to that ultimatum. Whigs and Democrats were then scrambling to position themselves for the election of 1852 and for a time it appeared that "Kossuth mania" might prove to be a winning issue for whichever Presidential candidate could best associate with the Hungarian cause. "Young Americans," northern and western Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas, responded favorably to calls for a policy of "intervention for non-intervention," as part of a more aggressive and expansionist American foreign policy. German immigrants, a key voting bloc, were strongly pro-Kossuth. Meanwhile, progressive Whigs like William Seward, an ally of Presidential candidate General Winfield Scott, were publicly supportive of Kossuth, although Seward refrained from threatening the use of U.S. force on the Hungarians' behalf.
But Kossuth had his critics. Southern and conservative Whigs, including President Fillmore, defended Washington's Farewell Address and the Monroe Doctrine, with their weighty insistence on neutrality and non-intervention in European affairs. Kossuth's critics argued that Hungarian independence actually meant the assertion of Magyar supremacy over other ethnic groups, particularly the Slavs, and not the establishment of republican government as it was understood in America. They also accused Kossuth of cowardice in abandoning his men and fleeing the country. Many abolitionists turned away from Kossuth because he refused to condemn American slavery. Most southerners opposed him because any unqualified endorsement of human liberty, coupled with the precedent of government intervention, had obvious implications for their region and the peculiar institution. Irish Catholics rejected his appeal for an Anglo-American alliance and his alleged hostility to the established church in Hungary (Kossuth was a Lutheran). Kossuth rapidly became the most controversial foreign visitor since Citizen Genet in the 1790s.
That brings us to Abraham Lincoln. In April 1848, during his single term as a Congressman, Lincoln had voted for a joint resolution offering congratulations to the French people on their new republic. Lincoln attended a meeting in Springfield in September 1849, where he aided a committee in drawing up resolutions of support for the Hungarian revolutionaries. These resolutions included a call to recognize the Hungarian Republic (this meeting was held before the outcome of the Russian invasion was known). In January 1852, Lincoln joined a group of leading citizens to issue a call for a gathering in Springfield to honor Kossuth. Lincoln addressed that meeting on January 8. After considerable debate, a committee of seven, including Lincoln, a leading Whig, and Lyman Trumbull, then a Democrat, was appointed to report its recommendations. Lincoln announced the resolutions the next evening.
Resolutions in Behalf of Hungarian Freedom
January 9, 1852
Whereas, in the opinion of this meeting, the arrival of Kossuth in our country, in connection with the recent events in Hungary, and with the appeal he is now making in behalf of his country, presents an occasion upon which we, the American people, cannot remain silent, without justifying an inference against our continued devotion to the principles of our free institutions, therefore,
Resolved, 1. That it is the right of any people, sufficiently numerous for national independence, to throw off, to revolutionize, their existing form of government, and to establish such other in its stead as they may choose.
2. That it is the duty of our government to neither foment, nor assist, such revolutions in other governments.
3. That, as we may not legally or warrantably interfere abroad, to aid, so no other government may interfere abroad, to suppress such revolutions; and that we should at once, announce to the world, our determinations to insist upon this mutuality of non-intervention, as a sacred principle of the international law.
4. That the late interference of Russia in the Hungarian struggle was, in our opinion, such illegal and unwarrantable interference.
5. That to have resisted Russia in that case, or to resist any power in a like case, would be no violation of our own cherished principles of non-intervention, but, on the contrary, would be ever meritorious, in us, or any independent nation.
6. That whether we will, in fact, interfere in such case, is purely a question of policy, to be decided when the exigency arrives.
7. That we recognize in Governor Kossuth of Hungary the most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe. A cause for which he and his nation struggled until they were overwhelmed by the armed intervention of a foreign despot, in violation of the more sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations—principles held dear by the friends of freedom everywhere, and more especially by the people of these United States.
8. That the sympathies of this country, and the benefits of its position, should be exerted in favor of the people of every nation struggling to be free; and whilst we meet to do honor to Kossuth and Hungary, we should not fail to pour out the tribute of our praise and approbation to the patriotic efforts of the Irish, the Germans and the French, who have unsuccessfully fought to establish in their several governments the supremacy of the people.
9. That there is nothing in the past history of the British government, or in its present expressed policy, to encourage the belief that she will aid, in any manner, in the delivery of continental Europe from the yoke of despotism; and that her treatment of Ireland, of O'Brien, Mitchell, and other worthy patriots, forces the conclusion that she will join her efforts to the despots of Europe in suppressing every effort of the people to establish free governments, based upon the principles of true religious and civil liberty.
Several points should be made about Lincoln's Kossuth Resolutions. Although Lincoln is presumed to be their author, they were ultimately the product of a committee which contained both Democrats and Whigs. They contain provisions and arguments that are similar to other Congressional and popular resolutions on the subject. They may not fully reflect Lincoln's views, especially the final point criticizing Britain. Nevertheless, one can discern the outlines of a "Lincoln Doctrine" based on the following principles: (1) the universal right of revolution and national self-determination; (2) the standard of mutual non-interference by outside powers in such revolutions; (3) the legitimacy of American "resistance" to such interference—resistance being "meritorious," that is, honorable; and (4) the decision to offer resistance, and the nature of that resistance, is to be regarded as a matter of "policy," or prudential determination, based on the particular circumstances—presumably including factors such as precedent, the state of American public opinion and other domestic conditions, calculations of American material interest, the feasibility of intervention, and an estimate of long-term consequences of action and inaction.
At first glance, Lincoln's Kossuth Resolutions appear to be something of a waffle—"it all depends on circumstances"—and a typical feel-good American pronouncement of sympathy for human rights abroad, without the intention or ability to provide substantive support. On closer examination, Lincoln's Resolutions reach several important conclusions (if we accept them as an authoritative reflection of Lincoln's own views). Lincoln is open to U.S. intervention abroad on behalf of a good and just cause. He does not repeat reflexively familiar admonitions on neutrality and non-intervention in European affairs, or limit geographically America's concern with republican government to the Western Hemisphere. That openness, however, is not the same as a categorical imperative to intervene whenever and wherever self-determination and republican government is seen to be at stake.
If intervention for non-intervention is not a categorical imperative, what then of the prudential considerations then in play? According to press accounts, Lincoln spoke at the meeting against intervention on behalf of Hungary, and the thrust of the Resolutions themselves were understood by the audience to be anti-interventionist. (The more ardent supporters of Kossuth successfully proposed additional resolutions that were understood to lean towards intervention.) Lincoln's own calculations of those controlling circumstances likely tracked those of Henry Clay, who had long been Lincoln's beau ideal of a statesman in large part because of Clay's advocacy of the cause human liberty. Clay had been the great spokesman for American sympathy and support (in the form of diplomatic recognition) for the Spanish Americans and the Greeks in their struggles for independence in the late 1810s and 1820s. In his eulogy of Clay later that year, Lincoln remarked:
Mr. Clay's predominant sentiment, from first to last, was a deep devotion to the cause of human liberty—a strong sympathy with the oppressed every where, and an ardent wish for their elevation. With him, this was a primary and all controlling passion. Subsidiary to this was the conduct of his whole life. He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature.
In public meetings, Kossuth had cited Clay's arguments about the cause of liberty in making the case for American intervention on behalf of Hungary—even though Clay had previously criticized pro-Kossuth interventionist proposals in the Senate. When Kossuth visited the Sage of Ashland in Washington to ask his blessing—on the same day, it turned out, as Lincoln introduced his Resolutions—Clay minced no words.
As reported in the newspapers, Clay, who was on his sickbed (he would die within a few months), expressed his "liveliest sympathies" with the Hungarians; but he argued that the practical effects of providing "material aid" by the United States would probably be war with one or more European powers. Clay pointed out that the United States lacked the means to carry out military operations on the European continent; and that a maritime war would "result in mutual annoyance to commerce, but little else." Once the United States engaged (ineffectually) in such a war, it would have (effectually) abandoned its "ancient policy of amity and non-intervention in the affairs of other nations." The European powers would feel justified "in abandoning the terms of forbearance and non-intervention," which they had so far preserved towards the American Republic. "After the downfall, perhaps, of the friends of liberal institutions in Europe, her despots, imitating and provoked by our fatal example," might turn upon the United States in its hour of weakness and exhaustion. "Sir," Clay concluded, "the recent subversion of the republican government of France [by Louis Napoleon's coup of December, 2, 1851] and that enlightened nation voluntarily placing its neck under the yoke of despotism, teach us to despair of any present success for liberal institutions in Europe."
Here, Clay did cite the traditional American precedent of "amity and non-intervention in the affairs of other nations," whereas Lincoln tried to redefine the terms of the debate by arguing that American resistance to foreign interference against a legitimate domestic revolution did not constitute "intervention." Clay, unlike Lincoln, may have felt that the invocation of such precedents was a critical factor in determining "policy" in the present circumstance. That circumstance, which Clay did not identify but what he (and Lincoln) surely had in mind, was the need for the nation to heal itself from the divisions caused by the Mexican-American War and the subsequent political battles that led to the still-controversial Compromise of 1850. Clay and Lincoln were both opposed to the Manifest Destiny agenda of those Democrats who linked American expansionism (including the acquisition of new territories suitable for slavery to the south, by means of filibustering) with an interventionist attitude towards European affairs. American efforts to become involved politically or militarily in central Europe, or even to go too far in stirring up public sympathies on behalf of Kossuth, provided no solid grounds for American foreign policy and would likely divide the country even further. This was so especially because the necessary conditions in Europe for successful liberal revolutions seemed completely missing, at least for the time being.
Lincoln's Kossuth Resolutions represent an interesting if little known link in the chain of American reasoning about the nation's role in international affairs, the legitimacy of revolution and regime change, and the relationship between self-determination and republican government.
— Patrick Garrity
The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793-1794: Toward the Completion of the American Founding
edited with an Introduction by Morton J. Frisch
Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007.
Text available online.
In April 1793, the United States was confronted with its most serious foreign policy crisis since the end of the American Revolution, when the Washington administration learned that the recently-constituted French Republic had declared war on England and the Dutch Republic. France, with which the United States had a political-military alliance dating from the Revolution, was locked in an apparent death struggle with a broad coalition, which included those two states along with Austria, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, and a number of Italian and German principalities. Popular support for revolutionary France surged in America. But there were complications. What had previously been a continental war had now become a worldwide maritime conflict. The United States, with its extensive commerce across the Atlantic and in the Caribbean, could no longer remain purely a spectator, trading unencumbered with all parties. American merchant ships were tempting prizes for both sides, particularly the British. A new French minister, Charles Edward Genet, was known to be en route to the United States. Americans wondered what he might ask, or demand, of them. Perhaps he would invoke the French alliance and try to force the United States into the war; an event which most American leaders thought would be disastrous to the fledgling republic.
President Washington summoned his Cabinet to Philadelphia to decide upon the proper course of American policy under these critical circumstances. The Cabinet members agreed that the United States should stay out of the military conflict, keeping with the Revolutionary-era objective of maintaining commercial relations with Europe but remaining aloof from purely European controversies and wars. They disagreed strongly over the means and ends of implementing that policy, however, as the line between commerce and politics, and European and American interests, was not easily established. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, a critic of the French Revolution and a supporter of Anglo-American rapprochement, argued that America's treaty obligations, particularly the U.S. guarantee of the French West Indies, had been rendered non-binding by the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and by the fact that France was engaged in an offensive war. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of the French Revolution and an opponent of Hamilton's British-oriented economic system, argued that this approach represented nothing more than legal hair-splitting and bad faith. At the level of principle, Jefferson argued, the change in regime did not excuse the United States from its obligations to the French nation. At the practical level, the French government was unlikely to invoke the treaty guarantees because it was in France's interest for the United States to remain a neutral carrier of vital supplies, especially foodstuffs. Jefferson insisted that the best course for the United States was to delay any formal action and use its economic leverage to force the belligerent powers (read: Britain) to "bid for [American] neutrality" on American terms.
In the end, on April 22, 1793, Washington decided to issue what became known as the Neutrality Proclamation (although the word neutrality, at Jefferson's behest, did not appear in the document).
Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other; and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent Powers;
I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid towards those Powers respectfully; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.
And I do hereby also make known, that whatsoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the said Powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States, against such punishment or forfeiture; and further, that I have given instructions to those officers, to whom it belongs, to cause prosecutions to be instituted against all persons, who shall, within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, violate the law of nations, with respect to the Powers at war, or any of them.
The President, however, accepted Jefferson's argument about the legitimacy of the French Republic, the validity of the Franco-American treaties, and the need to accept its new Minister without reservations.
Washington's decision caused immediate controversy among American supporters of France. The Proclamation had been issued by the Executive during a Congressional recess, without legislative review or approval, and it raised grave political and constitutional questions. Had the President usurped Congress's power to declare war by issuing a preemptive declaration of peace? Few Americans wanted to enter the conflict openly but those grateful for past French support, and sympathetic to the Revolutionary cause and the rights of mankind, demanded something better than a cold, legalistic approach. "Although America is not a party in the existing war," a group of prominent Philadelphia citizens proclaimed, "she may still be able in a state of peace to demonstrate the sincerity of her friendship by affording every useful assistance to the citizens of her sister republic." Honor demanded that the United States maintain fully its stipulated duties to France, something that the Proclamation did not address.
The political controversy increased over the next few months, as Hamilton and Jefferson, with Attorney General Edmund Randolph acting as something of an intermediary, battled to define the precise terms of American neutrality and to meet America's treaty commitments with France without justifying British retaliation. Minister Genet's provocative approach to relations between the two republics complicated matters further. In June, Federalist newspapers began to publish a series of essays by Pacificus—easily identified as Secretary Hamilton—which not only defended American neutrality, but did so by treating Hamilton's private arguments about the nullity of the Franco-American treaties and the questionable standing of the French Republic as if they were the authoritative position of the U.S. government. Hamilton argued that mutual interest and reciprocal advantage were much sounder bases for relations among nations than gratitude. He asserted that the executive had broad constitutional authority over matters of foreign policy.
Jefferson was outraged. He called on his political ally, Congressman James Madison, to respond to Hamilton publicly. "Nobody answers him, & his doctrine will therefore be taken for confessed. For God's sake, my dear Sir, take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to pieces in the face of the public. There is nobody else who can & will enter the lists with him." Madison reluctantly agreed, writing as Helvidius. The most striking heresy, in Madison's mind, had to do with the broad construction of executive power, which Madison understood to be part of Hamilton's larger plan to transform the United States into an English-style regime. Madison wrote with the implicit authority of having been a member of the Constitutional Convention as well as one of the principal co-authors of the Publius Papers (Hamilton, of course, being the other).
The Pacificus-Helvidius debate, as the late Morton J. Frisch discusses here, in many ways defined the parameters of the seemingly permanent constitutional controversy between the executive and legislature over primary control of American national security policy.
— Patrick Garrity, October 29, 2008
by Walter Lippmann
Boston: Little, Brown, 1943.
During World War I, Walter Lippmann temporarily put aside his career in journalism and joined the Wilson administration, where he participated in the ill-fated American effort at post-war planning (the Inquiry). He soon became disillusioned with liberal internationalism as it was reflected in the Treaty of Versailles. For the next two decades, Lippmann attempted to work out a consistent theory of American diplomacy based on what he understood to be the national interest. In 1943, from his platform as America's most influential columnist and public philosopher, Lippmann penned U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic to fill what he regarded was an appalling gap in America's understanding of the fundamentals of national security; and the failure of President Roosevelt to lay out publicly his plans for a post-war settlement.
Shield of the Republic formulated what might be called the Lippmann equilibrium, which has become the standard of American realists: "Foreign policy consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation's commitments and the nation's power. I mean by a foreign commitment an obligation, outside the continental limits of the United States, which may in the last analysis have to be met by waging war. I mean by power the force which is necessary to prevent such a war or to win it if it cannot be prevented. In the term necessary power I include the military force which can be mobilized effectively within the domestic territory of the United States and also the reinforcements which can be obtained from dependable allies." If this strategic equilibrium could be brought into being, American foreign policy would command domestic support. On the other hand, if American commitments exceed American power, the resulting insolvency—"the Lippmann gap"—would lead to deep political dissension.
Lippmann wrote Shield of the Republic to counteract the two likely policy alternatives in the post-war era—a resumption of isolationism or (more likely) hyper-Wilsonian One-Worldism. Either of these paths would lead to strategic insolvency and paralyzing domestic controversy. He rejected the idealists' belief in world law and international parliaments and grounded his policy in national interest and alliances. "If there is to be peace in our time," he maintained, "it will have to be peace among sovereign national states."
Lippmann offered his readers a primer in the history of American foreign policy to demonstrate his theses. Although George Washington in particular among the Founders understood the imperatives of power politics, Lippmann argued that the period between 1789 and 1823 was plagued by insolvency and inconstancy, with predictable internal dissension over foreign policy. The end of the great wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon permitted American foreign policy to became solvent: with the advent of the Monroe Doctrine, U.S. commitments were limited to the western hemisphere and underwritten by the "concert with Great Britain" and the British fleet. By that act of statesmanship, according to Lippmann, America's foreign commitments were in accord with its vital interests and the means to sustain those commitments were more than adequate. Then, and only then, did foreign relations cease to be great domestic issues.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, however, the extension of American interests and commitments in the Pacific began to erode this solvency. The U.S. defeat of Spain and acquisition of the Philippines in 1898 ended it. The foreign policy that served the United States on the whole so well during most of the nineteenth century became dangerously inadequate after 1900. Because of the failure to readjust the foreign policy of the United States to this revolutionary change in the strategic situation, the nation had for over forty years been unprepared to wage war or to make peace, and remained divided within itself on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations. U.S. foreign policy during these years was based on a foundation of sand: disarmament, no entangling alliances, and collective security. The results were Hitler's conquest of continental Europe and the Japanese conquest of East Asia. Americans had lost the art of shaping a policy, and could not find a policy because they no longer knew what they needed.
Shield of the Republic concludes that a strategic equilibrium in the post-World War II era could be established best through what Lippmann called the "nuclear alliance" of the United States, Britain and Russia, and to a lesser extent with China. (This did not refer to nuclear weapons, of course, as the atomic bomb had not yet been developed.) "For more than a century, whenever our vital interests were at stake, American foreign relations have always been primarily with Britain, with Russia, and with China," Lippmann wrote. "Our relations with all other states have followed upon and have been governed by our relations with those three. In the conduct of American foreign policy our position has been solvent, our power adequate to our commitments, in so far as we were in essential agreement with these three states." None of these powers was a European state, Lippmann noted. "I submit that while our concern has not been with European affairs, we have always been concerned with world affairs. Our primary relations have been, and are, with the extra-European powers, and with Europe itself only as someone inside of Europe threatens to disrupt the order of things outside of Europe. Therefore our two natural and permanent allies have been and are Britain and Russia. For they have the same fundamental interest—to each of them a matter of life or death—of preventing the rise of such a conquering power in Europe."
Lippmann recognized that the unconditional surrender of Germany and of Japan was bound to leave all the allies with an immediate sense of mortal peril averted; and that this fact would naturally reduce the compulsion that bound the wartime alliance together. These fissures would tend to become wider and deeper if any one of the great powers sought to aggrandize itself either at the expense of one of the other great powers, or at the expense of their smaller allies. For the nuclear alliance to succeed, the cooperating great powers must moderate their post-war ambitions, which Lippmann believed possible if they properly understood their own interests. The United States must realize that any attempt to break-up the British Empire to its own advantage would impair profoundly, if not destroy, the Atlantic Community. By the same token, if Britain refused to recognize the necessary changes in the colonial and imperial system of the nineteenth century, it would face insurgent forces in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Britain could not count on American support in that circumstance, and almost certainly she would have to expect Russian and Chinese encouragement of these forces. By the same token again, a Russian policy of aggrandizement in Europe, one which threatened the national liberties of her neighbors, would inexorably be regarded as such a threat to Britain and America that they would begin to encourage the nations which resisted Russia. On the other hand, an anti-Russian policy in which Britain, American, and the European states sought, as they did in 1919, to blockade and even disrupt Russia would provoke Russian communist intervention to counteract it. This would be followed inevitably and immediately by competition among the Allies to win over to their side the vanquished nations (Germany and Japan) by restoring their power.
"The nuclear alliance cannot hold together if it does not operate within the limitations of an international order that preserves the national liberties of other peoples," Lippmann concluded hopefully. "Nor could the nuclear allies divide the globe into spheres of influence which each was free to dominate and exploit separately. For no spheres of influence can be defined which do not overlap, which would not therefore bring the great powers into conflict. In no other way but by supporting a world-wide system of liberty under law can they win the consent, earn the confidence, and insure the support of the rest of the world in the continuation of their alliance."
Lippmann used his considerable journalistic talents to put the message in language that would appeal to the general reader. His prose was simple and direct. U.S. Foreign Policy quickly climbed to the top of best-seller lists and sold nearly half a million copies. The Reader's Digest printed a condensation. The U.S. armed forces distributed a twenty-five-cent paperback edition to the troops.
Lippmann's analysis of the American strategic situation—in many ways, a popularization of the argument previously advanced by Yale geographer Nicholas Spykman—helped shape American public opinion even when the nuclear alliance broke down after the end of the war. "American foreign policy did become solvent in the postwar years, although not exactly in the way Lippmann anticipated," Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington has explained. "That solvency was based on the overwhelming economic and military power of the United States compared to other countries, its continued close association with Great Britain and France, and the rapid recovery of Germany and Japan and eventually their equally close association with the United States. For almost a quarter-century after World War II, this combination provided what Lippmann would call a 'comfortable surplus of power' abroad and a general consensus on policy at home." (To this we might add the overhang of power provided by the American nuclear deterrent.) According to Huntington, when a capabilities-commitments gap reemerged by the end of the 1960s, due to the loss of American nuclear and economic superiority and the Vietnam disaster, the United States sought with mixed success to deal with it by reducing commitments and by increasing the role of U.S. allies. Eventually President Reagan used policies of rhetorical assertion, military build-up, strategic defense, insurgency support, coercive diplomacy and arms control.
Lippmann himself grew disillusioned with the U.S. response to the breakdown in the nuclear alliance. He criticized U.S. "globalism" and "missionary" interventionism in Eurasia proper. He believed that America's primary areas of strategic responsibility were in the Atlantic Basin and the Pacific islands, linked together by a "blue-water" strategy of naval and air bases and fleets. Outside this perimeter he believed there should be no permanent political commitments or military facilities. Lippmann's dissent reminds that his influential formula for foreign policy equilibrium does not provide a certain answer for defining its terms; but his aversion to the U.S. interventionism in the political-strategic affairs of Eurasia remains an enduring element of the realist approach to American strategy.
— Patrick Garrity
originally published in 1885,
Text available at www.bartleby.com/1011/.
"The most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar." Thus Mark Twain judged The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. Twain, to be sure, had a vested interest in offering such an endorsement. He was after all Grant's friend and publisher. But truth can be stranger and more profitable than fiction. Since leaving the White House in 1877, Grant had declined offers to write about his wartime experiences. He protested that he had little to say and little ability to say it. That limitation had not stopped dozens of other Civil War veterans from rushing to publish their views, most of which often offered little more than an elaborate score-settling with their critics and other veterans. But when Grant fell on hard economic times in the early 1880s, not for the first time in his life, he reluctantly picked up his pen to write a series of articles on individual battles for Century magazine. After he was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer, Grant negotiated with the magazine's publishers to produce a full-length autobiography. At this point Twain stepped in, appalled by the poor terms that Grant was being offered (and also attracted by the publicity for his new publishing firm). Grant barely won his race against mortality, dying just four days after completing the second and final volume. The product was so extraordinary and extraordinarily well received that Twain, then and now, is often (wrongly) assumed to have been Grant's ghost writer.
What was, and is, extraordinary about Grant's Memoirs is its clarity, which reflected the clarity of thought that distinguished Grant as a military commander. "There is one striking feature of Grant's orders," General George Meade's chief of staff noted, "no matter how hurriedly he may write them on the field, no one has ever had the slightest doubt as to their meaning, or even has to read them over a second time." With good maps at hand—one must have good maps—the logic and power of Grant's operational approach to the war stands out even to the unschooled reader.
Grant's Personal Memoirs briefly covered his childhood, West Point career, and time out of the Army during the 1850s, but it focused primarily on his experiences in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. He naturally defended his generalship against those who insisted that the North won because of its manpower and industrial advantages, which overwhelmed the superior military leadership and spirit of the outmanned South. "It was not an uncommon thing for my staff-officers to hear from Eastern officers, 'Well, Grant has never met Bobby Lee yet,'" Grant observed wryly after he took up overall command of the Union forces and moved against Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia in 1864.
Estimated in the same manner as ours, Lee had not less than 80,000 men at the start. His reinforcements were about equal to ours during the campaign, deducting the discharged men and those sent back. He was on the defensive, and in a country in which every stream, every road, every obstacle to the movement of troops and every natural defense was familiar to him and his army. The citizens were all friendly to him and his cause, and could and did furnish him with accurate reports of our every move. Rear guards were not necessary for him, and having always a railroad at his back, large wagon trains were not required. All circumstances considered we did not have any advantage in numbers.
And even though Grant had not yet fought Bobby Lee, he knew him, along with most of the other major Confederate commanders, from his time in the Army and particularly during their service in the Mexican-American war. "The acquaintance thus formed was of immense service to me in the war of the rebellion—I mean what I learned of the characters of those to whom I was afterwards opposed. I do not pretend to say that all movements, or even many of them, were made with special reference to the characteristics of the commander against whom they were directed. But my appreciation of my enemies was certainly affected by this knowledge. The natural disposition of most people is to clothe a commander of a large army whom they do not know, with almost superhuman abilities. A large part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities, but I had known him personally, and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this."
Grant offers decisive accounts of his operational conduct of the war and the strategy behind that conduct. For instance, he explained his approach upon taking command in the east in 1864.
Before this time these various armies had acted separately and independently of each other, giving the enemy an opportunity often of depleting one command, not pressed, to reinforce another more actively engaged. I determined to stop this.… My general plan now was to concentrate all the force possible against the Confederate armies in the field. There were but two such, as we have seen, east of the Mississippi River and facing north. The Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee commanding, was on the south bank of the Rapidan, confronting the Army of the Potomac; the second, under General Joseph E. Johnston, was at Dalton, Georgia, opposed to Sherman who was still at Chattanooga. Beside these main armies the Confederates had to guard the Shenandoah Valley, a great storehouse to feed their armies from, and their line of communications from Richmond to Tennessee.… We could not abandon any territory north of the line held by the enemy because it would lay the Northern States open to invasion. But as the Army of the Potomac was the principal garrison for the protection of Washington even while it was moving on Lee, so all the forces to the west, and the Army of the James, guarded their special trusts when advancing them from as well as when remaining at them. Better indeed, for they forced the enemy to guard his own lines and resources at a greater distance from ours, and with a greater force. Little expeditions could not so well be sent out to destroy a bridge or tear up a few miles of railroad track, burn a storehouse, or inflict other little annoyances. Accordingly I arranged for a simultaneous movement all along the line. Sherman was to move from Chattanooga, Johnston's army and Atlanta being his objective points.
When Grant explained this strategy to President Lincoln, he noted that it required no increase in manpower. "It was necessary to have a great number of troops to guard and hold the territory we had captured, and to prevent incursions into the Northern States. These troops could perform this service just as well by advancing as by remaining still; and by advancing they would compel the enemy to keep detachments to hold them back, or else lay his own territory open to invasion. His answer was: "Oh, yes! I see that. As we say out West, if a man can't skin he must hold a leg while somebody else does."
One is also impressed with the clarity of Grant's account of the grand strategy of the Civil War. It begins with his understanding of the first cause of the war—slavery. "The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war," he wrote. "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times." The war with Mexico and the acquisition of its northern territories "were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union."
For Grant, the schwerpunkt (focal point) of the Civil War was not any particular battlefield or confederate force but public opinion in the North, which would determine whether the superior social and economic system of free labor could be brought fully into play. Foreign intervention would follow as soon as Northern public opinion, and the performance of the Union armies, showed any sign of flagging. Grant fought with this fact constantly in mind. "The campaign of Vicksburg [in 1863] was suggested and developed by circumstances. The elections of 1862 had gone against the prosecution of the war. Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased and the draft had been resorted to; this was resisted, and a defeat or backward movement would have made its execution impossible. A forward movement to a decisive victory was necessary." When Sherman suggested that he fall back to Memphis on order to guard his base of supplies—an eminently prudent military move—Grant replied, "the country is already disheartened over the lack of success on the part of our armies … if we went back so far as Memphis it would discourage the people so much that bases of supplies would be of no use: neither men to hold them nor supplies to put in them would be furnished. The problem for us was to move forward to a decisive victory, or our cause was lost. No progress was being made in any other field, and we had to go on.'" When Grant finally succeeded at Vicksburg in July 1863, after one of the most remarkable military operations in American history, "this news, with the victory at Gettysburg won the same day, lifted a great load of anxiety from the minds of the President, his Cabinet and the loyal people all over the North. The fate of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell. Much hard fighting was to be done afterwards and many precious lives were to be sacrificed; but the morale was with the supporters of the Union ever after."
But the war was not yet over despite these successes in 1863. Grant pressed forward his all-fronts campaign in 1864, despite the appalling casualties entailed in his operations against Lee, because he felt he had to create the circumstances for decisive, public-pleasing success somewhere before the fall elections in the North (and that success turned out to be with Sherman and his campaign against Atlanta, and thence to the sea). Of all the Confederate leaders, General Joseph Johnston, who fought a defensive campaign against Sherman before being relieved by Jefferson Davis, best understood the proper grand strategy of the South. "For my own part, I think that Johnston's tactics were right. Anything that could have prolonged the war a year beyond the time that it did finally close, would probably have exhausted the North to such an extent that they might then have abandoned the contest and agreed to a separation. … The North was already growing weary, as the South evidently was also, but with this difference. In the North the people governed, and could stop hostilities whenever they chose to stop supplies. The South was a military camp, controlled absolutely by the government with soldiers to back it, and the war could have been protracted, no matter to what extent the discontent reached, up to the point of open mutiny of the soldiers themselves."
Modern scholarship indicates that Grant may have underestimated the role that Southern public opinion played in the outcome of the war. But he missed little else. As with Abraham Lincoln, we are confronted with unexpected genius arising from the most unusual and humble circumstances, evidence that democracy can produce great and reflective commanders as well as statesmen.
— Patrick Garrity
by Samuel Flagg Bemis
Yale University Press, 1923, rev. ed, 1962.
"America’s Advantage from Europe’s Distress." Samuel Flagg Bemis, the most influential historian of early American foreign policy, thus summarized the essence of that policy as he understood it. The United States took advantage of Europe’s quarrels and its own detached geographical situation to achieve objectives that suited America’s interests and character. In an academic career spanning over three decades at Yale, Bemis developed that thesis through a number of influential works and through his students. He twice received the Pulitzer Prize, once for history, Pinckney's Treaty (1926, rev. ed. 1960), and once for biography, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy (1950). His Diplomacy of the American Revolution remains the standard in the field; A Diplomatic History of the United States (1936, 5th ed. 1965) long dominated the university classroom. He was also the editor of the highly-regarded collection, American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy (18 vol., 1963–72).
In his classic analysis of one of the most controversial diplomatic agreements in U.S. history—Jay’s Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy (1923, rev. ed. 1962)—Bemis applied the "distress/advantage" criterion of American diplomatic success. But as always, he did so in a way that did not interfere with the presentation of the essential facts. He offered an unsurpassed examination of the strategic background and diplomatic record, after examining American, Canadian, British, French, and Scandinavian archives with the sort of detail and clarity of presentation that marked Henry Adams’ History of the United States during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
As a point of departure of his study, Bemis recalls Adams’ judgment: "That Mr. Jay’s Treaty was a bad one few persons even then ventured to dispute; no one would venture on its merits to defend it now." The Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation was negotiated by Lord Grenville, the British Foreign Secretary, and John Jay, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It was signed in November 1794, although the ratification process delayed its implementation until 1796. Jay had been dispatched to London in the spring of 1794 by President Washington in a last-ditch attempt to forestall war between the two countries, which had enjoyed at best a cold peace since the end of the American Revolution. For the past year, Britain had seized American merchant vessels as part of its naval campaign against Revolutionary France. The Governor-General of Canada had recently made a speech to a delegation of western Indians indicating that he expected to support them in an impending war with the United States. No major U.S. leader wanted war with Britain but there was also no political consensus about how to meet the crisis. The so-called Republican interest in Congress, led by James Madison with the private support of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, favored the French cause and supported legislation that would retaliate severely against British commercial and economic interests. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and his Congressional allies, known as the Federalists, thought that a rupture with Britain, America’s largest trading partner, would destroy American credit and undermine the nationality so tenuously created by the Constitution of 1787. Hamilton's recommendations strongly influenced the formulation of Jay's official instruction, as well the unofficial understanding of what he should seek.
The final version of Jay's Treaty made provision for some outstanding issues between the two parties, including the question of Revolutionary war debts, Britain's evacuation of the northwest frontier posts, and compensation for certain British maritime spoliations. But the Republicans were outraged by what they regarded as Jay's capitulation to London. He had abandoned the principle of the Model Treaty of 1776—free ships make free goods—which the United States had long sought to make the centerpiece of its neutrality policy; and which was an integral part of the 1778 alliance with France, as well as in America's other commercial treaties. The Treaty had moved substantially toward acceptance of the illiberal British definition of the maritime law of nations, including the definition of foodstuffs as contraband and the legitimacy of paper blockades. The Treaty explicitly foreswore the use of coercive economic instruments—including commercial discrimination against the ships and goods of the other nation, and debt sequestration—which the Republicans believed were essential instruments with which to confront the British.
Federalist diplomat John Quincy Adams, who reviewed a draft of the Treaty in London with Jay, was shocked. "It is much below the standard which I think advantageous to the country." He could not understand why Jay had not obtained much more advantageous terms from Grenville because Britain was then in high distress. The anti-French coalition in Europe seemed on the verge of defeat and Britain itself appeared on the verge of a popular revolt. Hamilton, when he learned of the terms, privately called it "execrable" and "an old woman’s treaty" (or at least so Jefferson heard). But John Quincy Adams and Hamilton wholeheartedly supported the ratification of the Treaty. "The national honor will be maintained," however minimally, and "the national interest will suffer infinitely less than it would by the most successful war we could wage," Adams explained. Despite an enormous public outcry against the Treaty, the U.S. Senate (by a bare constitutional majority, 20-10) agreed, along with President Washington and the House of Representatives, which debated withholding funding for the implementation of the Treaty. The case for ratification was greatly aided by the near-simultaneous, and much more favorable, agreement with Spain (Pinckney's Treaty, the subject of another major study by Bemis.) The political controversy over the British Treaty lingered for decades, however. Almost thirty years later, Jefferson told Madison that he approved the sentiments in George Washington's Farewell Address—save its favorable view of Jay’s Treaty.
Jay's Treaty can be fairly characterized as appeasement of Britain, according to Bemis. Jay could have obtained a better treaty, at least at the margins. But as to the major Republican criticisms, Bemis believed that it was hopeless to expect Britain to relinquish her position on maritime rights unless compelled to do so by force. Jay did the best he could in that respect, because he knew that the United States had neither the capacity or will to do so; whereas Britain would have gone to war on this point. Republicans argued that in that case, no treaty was better than a bad one. But Bemis cites Alfred Thayer Mahan's judgment—the signature by England of any treaty at all with the United States was of "epochal significance," recognition of the existence of American nationality of far greater import than the technical recognition of independence forced from George III in 1783. Bemis agreed with critics of Hamilton that the Treasury Secretary seriously undercut Jay's negotiating leverage by telling the British representative in Philadelphia that Washington's Cabinet had agreed not to try to join the Armed Neutrality of European states opposed to Britain's naval practices. And Grenville, in Bemis' opinion, was a more able and more experienced diplomatist than Jay. All that said, Bemis concludes that Jay and Hamilton ("more aptly the treaty might be called Hamilton's Treaty") met the "distress/advantage" standard of American statesmanship:
"The United States needed peace and commercial expansion more than anything. The new nationality was still in danger. The political and economic foundations of the American nation had been laid by the hands of genius, but those foundations in 1794 were by no means unshakeable. The power of the federal Government to hold the Union together under the Constitution depended on the financial system which Hamilton had created. The elixir of national credit which energized the Government depended, let us remark for the last time, almost wholly on imports, which a war or even commercial hostility with Great Britain would have destroyed. … That is what Alexander Hamilton realized, with the clear eye of the realpolitiker.… it must be recognized that in 1794 the United States had far more at stake in a war with Great Britain than did the latter nation. The treaty of 1794 served to postpone hostilities to another remove and to give the United States in the meantime an opportunity to develop in population and resources, and above all in consciousness of nationality, to a degree which made possible in the War of 1812 a far more effective resistance than could have been afforded in 1794."
— Patrick Garrity
by Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, published in Philadelphia in January 1776, is properly recognized as a major turning point in the American Revolution. Paine effectively publicized the argument that radicals like John Adams and Richard Henry Lee had been making in private—that the cause of the British North American colonies could be achieved only by declaring their independence, not through continued attempts at reconciliation with the home country. Paine’s case for independence inter alia included what proved to be enduring, and controversial, arguments about America’s place in the world.
Paine argued that a formal declaration of independence from Britain was necessary to obtain the temporary assistance of France and Spain in the war; but looking beyond the immediate exigency, he claimed that separation from Britain would also secure long-term American peace and prosperity. "Because, any submission to, or dependence on Great Britain, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint. As Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial connection with any part of it. It is the true interest of America to steer clear of European contentions, which she never can do, while by her dependence on Britain, she is made the make-weight in the scale of British politics." America’s true interest "is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port." The Continental Congress would soon adopt, together with the Declaration of Independence, what became known as the Model Treaty—a template for relations with foreign powers, first and foremost with France, which called for commercial relations based on reciprocity but that eschewed any formal political-military commitments.
Despite his apparent isolationism, however, Paine raised the stakes of the American Revolution to the point where it would be difficult to maintain the nice distinction between political and economic ties. "The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which their affections are interested." Paine attacked the legitimacy of monarchy writ large—not just that of a particular king, George III, or the peculiar corruption of the English Constitution with its king in Parliament, but the institution of kingship altogether. He was particularly scathing about the propensity of monarchies to wage war as a means of further oppressing their peoples. "The republics of Europe are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Switzerland are without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, it is true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at home; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal authority swells into a rupture with foreign powers, in instances where a republican government, by being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the mistake."
Paine suggested that liberty, like commerce, could and must prosper in America alone: "O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mind." But his broad-based attack on monarchy, in the name of human liberty and republican government, could not easily be shrugged off by dynastic Europe, especially when its privileges came under assault during the French Revolution. Nor was the global cause of human liberty likely to be ignored by American republicans when revolutionary France seemed under assault by European despotism. Paine himself, in The Rights of Man (1791-92), writing in London and Paris, sought to internationalize the conclusions of Common Sense against the arguments of Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France) and American skeptics such as John Adams (Discourses on Davila). In that sense, Common Sense reflected the division within the American mind about the proper attitude towards the promotion of popular government and the rights of mankind.
— Patrick Garrity
The United States and the Balance of Power
by Nicholas John Spykman
Introduced by Francis P. Sempa
525 pages, March 2007
Originally published in 1942
American national security policy in the 21st century is conducted on the foundations of a global network of military bases and strategic alliances that first emerged during World War II and the early years of the Cold War. The American security network had many fathers, above all Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. One important intellectual contributor, however, is barely known today: Nicholas John Spykman, a Dutch-American geographer who was the Sterling Professor of International Relations at Yale. In the late 1930s, Spykman published several articles in the American Political Science Review that considered the relationship between geography and politics. He later wrote two books that bore upon U.S. war and post-war strategy: America's Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (1942); and The Geography of the Peace (1944), which was completed after Spykman's death. America's Strategy has recently been republished, with an introduction by Francis P. Sempa.
Spykman was a balance of power realist who argued that American security depended to a first order on preventing a hostile power or coalition of powers from dominating the Old World. The combined resources of the "World Island" of Eurasia would simply overwhelm those of the Americas. The ocean would become a highway, not a barrier, to foreign invasion (or more likely) to economic strangulation and political intimidation and subversion. This balance of power logic—controversial then as now—was hardly original. But Spykman provided a conceptual map that proved highly congenial to key civilians and military officers in the emerging U.S. national security establishment. Spykman's precise influence on policy is difficult to document but his major ideas resonated with those strategists who wanted to move the United States permanently beyond hemispheric-oceanic isolationism, while avoiding the mistakes of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, they thought, had pursued an overly ambitious agenda during and after World War I that made no distinction between vital and peripheral U.S. interests; and that turned democratization and self-determination into categorical imperatives. Wilson thereby divided what was otherwise a political majority of conservative and liberal internationalists, who agreed on the need for the United States to "look outward" and participate actively in the security affairs of Eurasia.
The catastrophic experience of the 1930s and early 1940s, which put Western civilization at such grave risk, convinced internationalists of all stripes of the need to develop a politically persuasive post-war grand strategy—one that grounded idealistic American involvement in Eurasian affairs in specific and definable material interests. Spykman provided an easily-understood geopolitical template that defined and prioritized those interests. (In doing so, Spykman drew upon, but modified significantly, the concepts of the British geographer Halford Mackinder.) First, Spykman concluded that America was best defended—indeed, it could only be defended—forward, in Eurasia. Second, he argued that a properly-structured forward defense in Eurasia was militarily feasible despite changes in technology (airpower and railroad transportation) that seemed to advantage large continental states over maritime powers. Third, a close reading of Spykman indicated that American strategic interests outside the Americas were not indiscriminate or open-ended. Spykman's analysis offered a middle ground between those who sought to fall back on a defensive hemispheric security system; and those who believed that overseas threats were so grave that preventive war and American global hegemony—or world government—were the only alternatives to totalitarian domination of Eurasia.
According to Spykman, America's principal security concerns were located in the "Rimland" of Eurasia. The Rimland, broadly speaking, included Western Europe, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and continental South, Southeast, and East Asia. This region contained the majority of the world's population and natural resources. The Rimland was connected by a series of marginal seas, such as the Mediterranean. The gravest threat to the global balance of power would occur if a single power or coalition of powers dominated the Rimland. That power could then close off communication between the Heartland—essentially Russia and Eastern Europe—and the offshore islands and continents, above all the United States. By isolating the offshore powers from Eurasia, the united Rimland power bloc would be able to dominate the Heartland, organize the World Island's resources, and present a very real possibility of global hegemony. The recent contenders had largely come from within the Rimland itself (Austria, Spain, France, and Germany), but the threatening power could also come from the offshore islands (e.g., Japan) or the Heartland (Russia).
Spykman's key proposition was that American security depended on ensuring that the states of the Rimland remained independent from a would-be hegemon. Modern technology and communications were such that threats to the Rimland could emerge very rapidly. The United States could no longer afford to hang back and see how events developed. The United States must become actively engaged across the oceans during peacetime, through alliances and military bases that maintained air and maritime access to the Rimland and that preserved the security of the marginal seas. The United States need not be responsible entirely for the security of the Rimland, however, because other powers would naturally align with it against any hegemonic threat, irrespective of their political orientation. Spykman assumed that the natural post-World War II security alignment would be that of Britain (with its global empire along the Rimland), the Soviet Union, and the United States, all of which shared the desire to suppress the revival of a German or Japanese threat to the balance of power. Spykman did not dismiss the possibility of a Soviet drive for hegemony, but he concluded that the Heartland lacked the resources and the easy invasion routes that would allow it to dominate the Rimland against the counter-alliances that the United States could form. He believed that Soviet leaders must appreciate the limits of their power, as long as they were convinced that the United States would remain actively involved in Eurasian security.
When Soviet behavior in the late 1940s indicated that Stalin had not grasped this essential geopolitical point, American officials, consciously or not, applied the logic of Spykman's conclusions against Moscow when developing the national security policy known as containment. The United States could not withdraw from Eurasia because the war-weakened Rimland was unable to resist unaided a Soviet drive for global hegemony. But the states of the Rimland, especially once they recovered from the war, contained ample resources to defend themselves, with the aid of the United States. Spykman's strategy required a much larger commitment of peacetime resources and overseas commitments than Americans had become used to; but not so massive as to bankrupt the country or force it to abandon its constitutional order. The power-political challenge of creating an anti-Soviet dike seemed manageable because of the strategic contribution and positional advantages supplied by the Rimland states. The Soviet challenge was not so overwhelming as to require the adoption of a constant near-war state of readiness or preventive war to forestall an otherwise inevitable defeat.
The devil, of course, was in the details, to which Spykman could not offer authoritative guidance. Should containment be thought of in terms of a series of strong points or a continuous line? To what degree should containment be thought of in military-strategic terms, as opposed to its political, economic, or cultural dimensions? Did the development of nuclear weapons, unforeseen by Spykman, strengthen or compromise the defense of the Rimland? Would forces outside the scope of strict geopolitical analysis—above all, ideology and nationalism—trump or reinforce the logic of containment? Would Americans or other peoples become too weary, bored, or frightened to wage the long twilight struggle? Should American policy be limited and reactive—merely to see that the Rimland remained divided—or should it proactively seek to unite the Rimland (and the heavens above?) to compel an end to the Soviet hegemonic threat? Was there a point of Soviet strategic success in breaching the dike of containment, or in developing a first-strike threat, at which the United States must adopt a near-war state of readiness or even preventive war? The varying answers to these questions contain in themselves the history of the Cold War. They are not without interest in present times.
— Patrick Garrity