The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
THE INCUBUS OF IGNORANCE

"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity."

--THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1821

AN APPALLING IGNORANCE of foreign affairs is one of the most striking and dangerous defects of American public opinion. This is not to say that we are thick-witted; there is a world of difference between a stupid person and an uninformed one. Even the most brilliant scholars must necessarily be ignorant of a vast body of knowledge.

The American people have informed themselves very creditably on a number of complex questions, once their interest was aroused. The heated nation-wide debates on imperialism in the 1890's, on the League of Nations in 1919-1920, on the neutrality issues of the 1930's, on the repeal of the arms embargo in 1939, and on Lend-Lease in 1941, while bringing out specious as well as valid arguments, on the whole gave encouragement to those who have faith in the democratic ideal. But we seldom become aroused to this high pitch, and largely because we are uninterested we lack information. The journalist Raymond Clapper used to say: "Never over- estimate the people's knowledge, nor underestimate their intelligence."

As a nation we may be reasonably well informed, yet we are not well enough informed to exercise understandingly our present direct and hence dangerous control of foreign affairs. For many years the average citizen has passed judgment on, and exercised pressure regarding, knotty problems of international law upon which not even the ablest international lawyers could agree. Questions of blockade and maritime rights, which figured so prominently in our history during the nineteenth century, baffled both the jurists of that time and the historians of a later generation. But this did not prevent the layman from expressing his judgment with great vigor, often substituting emotion for reason. A true patriot has been aptly defined as one who is unable to wait for the facts. Sanity indeed receives a setback when interpretations of treaty obligations and international law fall into the hands of the mob.

The same danger is no less evident in international trade and finance. Even if the average citizen had the incentive to make a profound study of these subjects, his intellectual capacity and training are not equal to mastering the intricacies of international exchange, international banking,* international debts, international reparations, and reciprocal trade agree

____________________
*
In 1946 Mr. Jesse Jones, with long experience as head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, criticized the loan to Britain of $3,750,000,000 on the ground that there was not adequate "collateral," as though an international loan and a domestic loan operated on precisely the same basis.

-130-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 338

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.