AMERICAN FOREIGN RELATIONS
CHATTEL SLAVERY IN a nation explicitly dedicated to human freedom was a heritage both paradoxical and dangerous for the new United States of 1776. The domestic consequences of that heritage became the central theme of nineteenth-century American history, as increasing sectional conflict led eventually to disunion, civil war, and the aftermath called reconstruction. Less familiar are the effects of the heritage upon American foreign relations and upon the image of itself that the United States presented to the rest of the world.
American victory in the Revolutionary War meant that the abstract principles of the Declaration of Independence had been successfully converted into an actual experiment in nation building. It made the new United States an international symbol, not only of revolutionary escape from external rule, but of republican self-government and personal freedom. “The example of political wisdom and felicity here to be displayed will excite emulation through the kingdoms of the earth, and meliorate the condition of the human race.” 1 So spoke Joel Barlow in 1787, and the same kind of gleam was in George Bancroft's eye many years later when he declared: “Our country is bound to allure the world to freedom by the beauty of its example.” 2 Freedom was the keynote. Liberty personified as a young woman soon emerged as one of the earliest symbols of American nationhood. At the beginning of the Revolution, Tom Paine had pictured freedom as “hunted round the globe” and finding her last refuge on the American shore. 3 For many a