Economic Foreign Policy of the United States

By Benjamin H. Williams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
BACKGROUND AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF INVESTMENT DIPLOMACY

I. THE TRANSITION FROM A DEBTOR TO A CREDITOR NATION

From the time of the Declaration of Independence to the World War the United States viewed the world from the standpoint of the borrowing nation and American policies gave evidence of that coincidence which is so commonly observed between international idealism and the lack of surplus wealth. The reaction of indebtedness upon American policies was not due, as in the case of many weaker countries, to an attitude of shrinking from the political demands of powerful money-lending nations. In the case of the United States the fear of the intervention of strong creditors was removed at an early stage by the establishment of sound government, by the distance of Europe, and by the ability to take care of most purely governmental needs with domestic capital. The negative influence of the debtor position upon this country was nevertheless of great importance. Having almost no loans or investments to protect, the Department of State was free from those pressures which were contributing to drive creditor nations into careers of imperialism. The United States, also, because of the desire to keep European governments out of Latin America, was disposed generally to sympathize with the case of the debtor nation. Patriotic moralists during this period took pleasure in drawing contrasts between the American love of human rights and international democracy, handed down from the Revolution, and the aggressive policies adopted for the protection and promotion of foreign investments by certain strong nations of Europe.

Early Financial Distress. --The first financial requirements of the thirteen states were the demands made for the military purposes of the Revolution. Loans were sought in France, Spain, and Holland, and the distress at home which prompted these requests abroad was indeed profound. The following note

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