Globe and Hemisphere: Latin America's Place in the Postwar Foreign Relations of the United States

By J. Fred Rippy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
INVESTMENTS OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES: THE FIRST FIFTEEN BILLIONS

THE, common assumption that investment of United States private capital abroad did not begin until after 1900 is not entirely correct. Foreign investments began within a few decades after the nation was founded, and the holdings of citizens of the United States in foreign countries reached a total of more than $700 million by the end of 1897, some $190 million in Canada and Newfoundland, $151 million in Europe, and the rest mainly in Latin America and the Hawaiian Islands.1

The assumption is especially inaccurate in the case of Latin America. Even without taking account of Louisiana, Texas, and the various borderlands annexed by the United States between 1803 and 1854, the history of this investment began before 1830 in the countries to the south, particularly Mexico, Cuba, and Chile. Considerable capital migrated to this region in the 1850's and 1860's, some of it Southern capital, so that by 1870 there was hardly a Latin-American country in which American money and skills had not been invested at one time or another. It is true that many of the early investments -- in mining, farming, extraction of forest products, mercantile establishments, transportation ventures, and public utilities -- were unprofitable and ephemeral; there were too many political and administrative disorders in Latin America and too much hostility in some countries toward the United States and its citizens. But they were investments none the less. Among the more permanent enter-

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