The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783-1829

The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783-1829

The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783-1829

The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood: The United States and the Collapse of the Spanish Empire, 1783-1829

Synopsis

In this book, James Lewis demonstrates the centrality of American ideas about and concern for the union of the states in the policymaking of the early republic. For four decades after the nation's founding in the 1780s, he says, this focus on securing a union operated to blur the line between foreign policies and domestic concerns. Such leading policymakers as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay worried about the challenges to the goals of the Revolution that would arise from a hostile neighborhood whether composed of new nations outside the union or the existing states following a division of the union.

At the center of Lewis's story is the American response to the dissolution of Spain's empire in the New World, from the transfer of Louisiana to France in 1800 to the independence of Spain's mainland colonies in the 1820s. The breakup of the Spanish empire, he argues, presented a series of crises for the unionist logic of American policymakers, leading them, finally, to abandon a crucial element of the distinctly American approach to international relations embodied in their own federal union.

Excerpt

In the decades between the end of the Revolutionary War and the end of the War of 1812, the first generation of policymakers in the independent United States struggled to apply and to adapt their unionist logic to rapidly changing conditions within the new nation and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Even before the Spanish empire in the New World began to unravel with the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800 and the collapse of the Spanish monarchy in 1808, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, and others confronted the possibility that the western region of their own nation would reinvigorate the problem of neighborhood and destroy the solution of union. As they endeavored to preserve the union between East and West, in particular, and among all of the states, in general, these policymakers divided into opposing groups that eventually became the Federalists and the Republicans. The ideas about and approaches to the trans-Appalachian West and the American union that Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and other Republicans developed in these years shaped their responses to the retrocession of Louisiana between 1801 and 1803 and to the revolutions within the Spanish empire between 1808 and 1815. In each case, Republican policymakers worked actively to preserve the integrity of the federal union and to prevent the creation of a hostile neighborhood.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.