Tag Archives: 154-13

A Nationalist Foreign Policy: The Monroe Doctrine

Part of President  James Monroe’s State of the Union message to Congress on December 2, 1823, the “Monroe Doctrine” was the brainchild of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. It was a response to the continued European intervention and interference in the affairs of newly independent nations in Central and South America. The Monroe Doctrine, with its stated desire of the United States to stay out of the affairs of Europe, and for Europe to stay out of the affairs of the Western Hemisphere, would be one of the driving forces of US foreign policy until the early 20th century.

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Samuel Taggart speaks against the War

[T]he Orders in Council [British policy to seize US cargo ships, one of the causes of the US declaration of war] have been more rigorously carried into effect, on the part of Great Britain. And since the additional hostile attitude assumed during the present session of Congress, has been known in Great Britain, I understand, from the public prints, that orders have been given for their still more rigid execution. Unless she saw fit to rescind them, this was naturally to be expected. In proportion as we assume a more hostile attitude towards her, and show a disposition to embrace her enemy in the arms of friendship and affection, it was to be expected that she would either relax and accede to our demands, or adhere more rigorously to her own system. She has chosen the latter.

As it respects the impressment of seamen, this is a delicate and a difficult subject, and if it is ever adjusted to mutual satisfaction it must be by war, and whenever there is mutually a disposition to accommodate, it will be found necessary to concede something on both sides. . . . It is vain to contend against the principle [of drafting citizens for the military], since we have sanctioned it by our laws, and daily practise upon it, however hardly we may think of some of the particular modes in which it is applied. I feel satisfaction, however, in the reflection, that it has never had the sanction of my vote. The principle then being admitted, the only ground of complaint is the irregular application of it to Americans. Great Britain does not claim, she has never claimed the right of impressing American citizens. She claims the right of reclaiming her own subjects, even although they should be found on board of American vessels. . . .

It is said to be necessary to go to war, for the purpose of securing our commercial rights, of opening a way for obtaining the best market for our produce, and in order to avenge the insults which have been offered to our flag. But what is there in the present situation of the United States, which we could reasonably expect would be ameliorated by war? in a situation of the world which is perhaps without a parallel in the annals of history, it would be strange indeed, if the United States did not suffer some inconveniences, especially in their mercantile connexions and speculations. . . .

What is the particular achievement to be accomplished by this armament, which is to be kept up at such an enormous expense, and which is to bring the war to a successful termination? Why, the conquest of Canada. . . . Our rights on the ocean have been assailed, and, however inconsistent it may seem to go as far as possible from the ocean to seek redress, yet this would appear to be the policy. We are to seek it, it seems, by fighting the Indians on the Wabash or at Tippecanoe, or the Canadians at Fort Malden, at Little York, at Kingston, at Montreal, and at Quebec. . . .

For whose benefit is the capture of Canada? What advantages are we likely to reap from the conquest? Will it secure the liberty of the seas, or compel Great Britain to rescind her Orders in Council? Did we ever know an instance in which Great Britain gave up a favorite measure for the sake of saving a foreign possession, perhaps of very little value to her? Will the advantages to be derived from the conquest of Canada be an equivalent for the loss and damage we may sustain in other quarters? What is Great Britain to be about all the time that we are wrestling Canada out of her possession? Is it consistent with the vigor with which she usually acts, to stand by and tamely look on? Either she will attempt a vigorous defence of Canada, or she will not. If she does, some of the difficulties of the enterprise have been stated. If she does not, it will be that she may be the better able to inflict a severe blow in some other quarter. Admitting war to be sincerely intended, no course could be devised more inconsistent with the maxims of sound policy than that which appears to be pursuing by the United States.

Source: Samuel Taggart, Speech, June 24, 1812, Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 1st Sess., pages 1649-1650, 1652, 1662-1663, 1666-1667.

Henry Clay speaks in Favor of the War


….Let war therefore be forthwith proclaimed against England. With her there can be no motive for delay. Any further discussion, any new attempt at negotiation, would be as fruitless as it would be dishonorable….

But it is said that we are not prepared for war, and ought therefore not to declare it. This is an idle objection, which can have weight with the timid and pusillanimous only. The fact is otherwise. Our preparations are adequate to every essential object. Do we apprehend danger to ourselves? From what quarter will it assail us? From England, and by invasion? The idea is too absurd to merit a moment’s consideration. Where are her troops? But lately, she dreaded an invasion of her own dominions, from her powerful and menacing neighbor [France]….  Can any one believe, that, under such circumstances, the British government could be so infatuated, or rather mad, as to send troops here for the purpose of invasion? The experience and the fortune of our revolution, when we were comparatively in an infant state, have doubtless taught her an useful lesson which cannot have been forgotten. Since that period our population has increased three-fold, whilst her’s has remained almost stationary. The condition of the civilized world, too, has changed. Although Great Britain has nothing to fear, as to her independence, and her military operations are extensive and distant, the contest is evidently maintained by her rather for safety than for conquest. Have we cause to dread an attack from her neighboring provinces? That apprehension is still more groundless. Seven or eight millions of people have nothing to dread from 300,000. From the moment that war is declared, the British colonies will be put on the defensive, and soon after we get in motion must sink under the pressure. Little predatory incursions on our frontier will not be encouraged by those who know that we can retort them ten-fold, and pursue and punish the authors, retire where they may, if they remain in this hemisphere. Nor is any serious danger to be apprehended from their savage allies. Our frontiers may be easily protected against them. The colonial governments, aware of our superiority, and of the certainty of their subjugation in case of war, will feel their responsibility for the conduct of the Indian tribes, and keep them in order. But should the war lately terminated be renewed, the struggle will be short. Numberless expeditions from different quarters may be led forth against them. A single campaign would drive these unfortunate people into the most distant and desart wilds.

But our coast and seaport towns are exposed and may be annoyed. Even this danger, which exists in a certain degree, has been much exaggerated. No land force can be brought to bear against them, because Great Britain has none to spare for such a service; and without a land force, no great impression can be made. Ships of war cannot approach near the coast, except at the entrance of our great bays and rivers. They cannot annoy the sea coast generally by their cannon; and if detachments of marines should be sent on shore, they may be repelled by the militia where they land. It is, however, unusual for incursions to be made on land from ships of war by sailors or marines. The law of nations forbids, and humanity revolts, at the idea of mere wanton desolation; and in that light only can such incursions be viewed. In the present war between Great Britain and France, which has been prosecuted with so much violence and animosity, no example of this kind, on either side is recollected. In our revolutionary war, in which the object of Great Britain was conquest, no great injury was sustained in this mode. Some of our towns, it is admitted, may be exposed to danger from ships of war, but with suitable precautions it will soon vanish. No ship of war can stand long before a good battery well manned and well supplied with heavy artillery. An attack by ships of war only, on any of our towns, could have no object but that of distressing the inhabitants; and if those towns are put in such a state of defence, as to enable them to repel the attack, as all of them are, or soon may be, it is not probable that the experiment would be made, or, if once made, that it would be repeated. The importance of the protection of our seaport towns is sensibly felt. It is a subject which claims the particular attention of the government, and that attention has doubtless been already bestowed on it.

The great question on which the United States have to decide, is, whether they will relinquish the ground which they now hold, or maintain it with the firmness and vigor becoming freemen. That the sense of the nation favors the latter course, is proved by a series of important and solemn facts, which speak a language not to be misunderstood. From the first attack by Great Britain on our neutral rights in 1805, to the present day, these facts have been multiplied, yearly, by the acts of Congress, by the proceedings of the state legislatures, and by the voice of the people. Let not the Representatives of the People, therefore, in either branch of the government, disappoint their reasonable wishes and just expectations.

The pretensions of Great Britain, so unjustly set up, and pertinaciously maintained, by her orders in council, not to enumerate other wrongs, particularly the impressment of our seamen, arrogate to her the complete dominion of the sea, and the exclusion of every flag from it, which does not sail under her license, and on the conditions which she imposes. These pretensions involve no local interest, nor are they of a transient nature. In their operation they violate the rights, and wound deeply the best interests, of the whole American people. If we yield to them, at this time, the cause may be considered as abandoned. There will be no rallying point hereafter. Future attempts to retaliate the wrongs of foreign powers and to vindicate our most sacred rights, will be in vain. The subject must be dismissed from the debates of Congress, and from our diplomatic discussions. An allusion to it will excite contempt abroad, and mortification and shame at home. Should any of our vessels be hereafter seized and condemned, however unjustly, and that all will be seized and condemned may be confidently expected, we must be silent, or be heard by foreign powers in the humble language of petition only.
Source and Full Text

Native American Policy in the Indiana Territory

Throughout the 1790s and early 1800s the United States sought to organize territory in the west. Often, this required buying land from Native American tribes who occupied the area. These purchase treaties often took advantage of conflicts between different tribes and, sometimes, were negotiated with tribes that did not have any claims to the land in question.

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Mad Tom!

"Mad Tom in a Rage" A cartoon from 1801

“Mad Tom in a Rage”
A cartoon from 1801
Click to enlarge

The Devil: Pull away pull away my son don’t fear! I’ll give you all my assistance.

Jefferson: I fear it is stronger rooted than I expected but with the assistance of my old friend and a little more brandy I will bring it down.

Questions to consider:

  1. How does this cartoon characterize Jefferson?
  2. What is Jefferson trying to “bring down”?
  3. Based on what you know of Jefferson’s political beliefs and actions, what specific actions or opinions might have inspired this cartoon?

The Age of Jefferson

Beginning with the election of 1800, the age of Thomas Jefferson—and his Republican successor, James Madison—saw the physical growth of the United States as well as a continuation of the diplomatic crises between the United States, Britain, and France that had dominated the foreign policy of the Washington and Adams administrations.  The first party system, consisting of the Republicans and Federalists, persisted as well and tensions would continue to increase between these factions through the War of 1812.
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The New Constitution Tested: Creating the Bank of the United States

Despite pro-Constitution writers’ arguments that the new government’s powers were limited, those limits were tested very quickly. George Washington, the first President under the new Constitution, inherited a financial disaster of debt. His treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, proposed a central banking system–the Bank of the United States–to manage the national debt and issue currency. Nowhere did the new Constitution define “creating a bank” as one of the federal governments powers.

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