Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973

By Treadway, Sandra Gioia | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, April 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973


Treadway, Sandra Gioia, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973. By JOSEPH A. FRY. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002. xiv, 334 pp. $39.95.

ALTHOUGH historians have often recognized regional differences in Americans' views about foreign policy, Joseph A. Fry is the first to offer a comprehensive analysis of how the South's distinctive worldview affected American foreign relations from the founding of the republic through the Vietnam War. Drawing on an extensive secondary literature in southern and diplomatic history, Fry ably demonstrates that the South's approach to foreign policy-rooted in an obsession with economic independence and the continuous expansion of agricultural markets, a preoccupation with slavery and race, a strong commitment to states' rights and personal liberty, an aversion to foreigners and to a powerful central government, fervent patriotism, support for the military establishment, adherence to an exclusively American brand of internationalism, and a proclivity to violence-has had a "vast and often decisive influence" (p. 4) on U.S. foreign relations.

Fry traces the inception of the South's foreign policy perspective back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Caught up in events that gave rise to the nation's first political party system, these Virginians articulated the South's refusal to remain dependent on Great Britain after the Revolution and set the new nation on an alternative course of vigorous territorial and economic expansion that advanced the interests of the southern states. Their perspective defined national policy, Fry contends, from the Louisiana Purchase through the Missouri Compromise, when the South's influence began to erode in the face of the North's opposition to the extension of slavery into the western territories and support of high protective tariffs. During the Civil War, the South harked back to its Jeffersonian roots, using economic pressure to pursue an independent foreign policy-- only to discover that King Cotton diplomacy was as ineffectual as Jefferson's ill-fated embargo. …

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