United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-1850: The Formative Generations

United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-1850: The Formative Generations

United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-1850: The Formative Generations

United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-1850: The Formative Generations


Relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America have been characterized by misunderstandings based on language and culture, a lack of sustained commitment on the part of the United States, and, in some cases, incompetent diplomats. During the era when many of the Latin American countries discarded the yoke of colonial status, the young United States attempted to define itself culturally, economically, constitutionally, geographically, and diplomatically. As Latin American emerged from the crucible of revolution and international power politics, it was affected by and in varying degrees affected the United States and its desired position of leadership in the Western Hemisphere.

To make sense of these relationships, this volume concentrates on Central America, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Describing the particular paths taken by each of the formation of relations with the United States, Shurbutt and his colleagues focus on the American diplomatic community and its effectiveness in tense political situations.

Contributors in addition to the editor include Lawrence A. Clayton, Paul B. Goodwin, Eugene R. Huck, Phil Brian Johnson, Edward H. Moseley, Wesley P. Newton, Charles S. Stansifer, and Robert Kim Stevens.



An analysis of any era in the history of U.S.-Latin American diplomacy is fraught with difficulties; this is especially true for one attempting to deal with its formative generations. the adolescent United States had begun sending envoys and agents-official and unofficial--to various areas of Latin America in the 1790s, increasing their number during the independence period (1810-1823), and with the pronouncement of the Monroe Doctrine, Washington had adopted a statement of formal policy. Yet upon close examination, it becomes apparent that, beyond this policy statement, there were few consistencies in U.S.-Latin American relations.

Each newly independent nation had its own unique set of political, economic, and cultural problems and aspirations for the future, and each therefore established its own agenda of priorities in promoting relations with Washington. the overwhelming majority of U.S. diplomats posted to Latin America possessed little knowledge or understanding of the history, traditions, and people of the countries to which they were assigned. Indeed, most were mere political appointees who embarked upon their missions with little or no experience in statesmanship and who soon found themselves in strange locales and encumbered with tasks quite different from those they had naively envisioned. Couple this unfortunate scenario with the fact that Washington, at best, offered sketchy instructions and limited, irregular communications, and it is not surprising that many of these envoys were quickly disappointed with their positions. For many agents, their unhappiness and frustrations measurably detracted from their effectiveness.

Each chapter of this work represents the views of a recognized scholar who has conducted specialized research in a particular na-

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