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Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Interpretation Among Many?

There is a somewhat interrelated grouping of defensive refrains shot off in succession by all defenders of interventionist statism when confronted with the thoughts and actions of the various Founding Fathers. This includes the very language of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and even such robust empowering and supportive documents like The Federalist. This “defense” has recently been illustrated quite well—which is to say, horrifically—by a well-meaning letter writer in Las Vegas who took issue with George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams's January 13 op-ed that simply quoted James Madison’s “Bonus Bill” veto to illustrate the fourth President’s very cautious and circumspect constitutionalism. In the process, this letter writer hit nearly all the major themes of a very formulaic apologia for the welfare state and how it is not actually what it fairly obviously is—unconstitutional (or, most generously, “extra” constitutional). This essay will seek to explore each of the elements of this defense in the following order: 1) People who point out that the Founders were not statists are inaccurately reporting their views, 2) even if they were not inaccurately reporting their views, the Founders were not perfect—thus, a lack of perfection makes their constitutionalism imperfect, 3) even the Founders broke their own rules and commitment to their own limited constitutionalism, thus they are even less reliable than previously conceded, or, conversely, more reliable since their deviations are in favor of government power, and finally 4) as such, any other “interpretations” by any Johnny come lately are just as imperfect, or just as perfect. I do not think I have been unfair to this line of reasoning in the foregoing very brief summation. As it is prevalent enough among all sorts of people in our society today, I believe that it deserves some attention and at some modest length.

People who point out that the Founders were not statists are inaccurately reporting their views

Mr. Cohn asserts that Dr. Williams, “quotes James Madison's veto message of a bill constructing roads and improving canals. This is a cherry-picked quote.” Cherry picking—a fallacy of evidentiary selection—is a serious charge and one that can be easy to make with respect to Mr. Madison. For instance, certain so-called historians attempt to prove some manner of original intent for nullification and secession by cherry picking quotes of Jefferson and Madison in the 1798-1799 period, when both were in the political opposition and confronting the Alien and Sedition Acts of the Federalists. But, in order to make the charge of cherry picking actually stick, one needs to point out that Mr. Madison actually did not really opposed road and canal funding at the Federal level, or was a bizarre outlier among his contemporaries and thus quoting him gives his views some inflated importance they do not deserve. Instead, Mr. Cohn jumps completely out of context into the twentieth century to show that General Eisenhower, when President, seemed to think that road construction funded by the Federal government was swell. Ipso facto, Dr. Williams was cherry-picking. This is a very poor argument, but one I have heard and seen innumerable times.

The chief reason it fails logically is obvious. Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in 1890, fifty-four years after James Madison died. Not only were they in no sense contemporaries, but significant intellectual and historical events separated the United States of 1890 and 1836 by an immense chasm—let alone the United States of 1953-1961 when General Eisenhower served as President. Decontextualization is an essential ingredient in the relativistic and subjectivist attack on the authority of the Enlightenment in general and the American founders in particular. Dr. Williams may well have been guilty of cherry-picking quotes (in Madison’s case, he was not), but Mr. Cohn abandons any pretensions at being able to establish that fact by turning to General Eisenhower for proof. The two have nothing to do one another, except in the sense that both were American statesmen and Eisenhower presumably knew something of James Madison. But only a recourse to Madison’s statements and actions—and those of his contemporaries—can establish that Dr. Williams was engaged in a fallacy of evidentiary selection. He was not.

Madison’s veto of the “Bonus Bill” was premised on ideas and thoughts about the constitution that he had made public for many years, most recently in his last annual message to congress (3 December 1816): “And I particularly invite again their attention to the expediency of exercising their existing powers, and, where necessary, of resorting to the prescribed mode of enlarging them, in order to effectuate a comprehensive system of roads and canals, such as will have the effect of drawing more closely together every part of our country by promoting intercourse and improvements and by increasing the share of every part in the common stock of national prosperity.” Congress ignored the President, instead taking the far easier route in just passing the law anyway. So when the bill came to Madison’s desk, and after considering it awhile as he endorsed the objects contained in the measure, he had to veto it and say: “it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation within the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.” So while Dr. Williams may have cherry-picked quotes from Franklin Pierce, Mr. Cohn makes a “federal case” out of Mr. Madison’s quotes and authority, and on that score he fails to establish his contention that Madison was misrepresented—and I do no think he could ever successfully make that case unless some previously unknown book surfaces where Madison states opinions at complete variance from everything else he ever wrote.

Even if they were not inaccurately reporting their views, the Founders were not perfect—thus, a lack of perfection makes their constitutionalism imperfect

This argument is sickeningly prevalent and accorded a respect by journalists, politicians, academics, and others that it, in no sense whatever, deserves. Mr. Cohn’s summation of it is all too familiar: “But they were far from [perfect]. Let's not forget that these people said that a black slave was just three-fifths of a person. They also had strong and varying opinions of their own actions. These were the people who trusted the selection of U.S. senators to state politicians rather than the people. They considered women property. So why is Mr. Jefferson's "general welfare" interpretation any more important than Franklin Roosevelt's or Ike's?” This argument starts with a straw-man premise; namely, that people like Dr. Williams are claiming perfection for the Founding Fathers. I know of no one currently writing nationally who argues seriously that the Founding Fathers were perfect. The point is that the Founders held to very different principles than those of the people currently prominent in politics—principles that a minority of Americans still seriously revere and a majority of Americans still pay homage to without necessarily knowing why or what precisely they’re honoring—and that remembering what they stood for and the government they founded on those ideas is important for all of us. And, just maybe, that remembrance might help us successfully navigate out of our current difficulties. No one seriously proposes that we go back to 1789, good and bad.

Not according to Mr. Cohn with his smug and uninformed assertions about the Founders and their world. His history is not even close to being accurate, let alone fair. Take his first claim about the representation accorded to African slaves by the Constitution for Congress and taxation. Yes, slaves were to be counted in apportionment at a three-fifths ration, but Mr. Cohn implies this was done for some sort of nefarious reason related to not viewing African slaves as people. In 1787 this was far from being the prevalent opinion in the South, let alone the rest of the country. The fact of the matter is that Madison argued for all slaves to be counted as full human beings in the Constitutional convention, as an explicit acknowledgement of their humanity. Some of his fellow Southerners wanted them counted as full humans simply to increase their number of representatives in Congress. This placed most Northern anti-slavery delegates in the position of arguing that the slaves should not be counted at all—unless Northern forms of property, like sheep and cattle, were also counted for representation. Their position was that since slaves would not be able to vote or have anything at all to do with the electoral process, "their" congressmen would hardly be representing them. Delegates of Northern regions with few or no slaves saw the Southern position as a cynical move to gain more power in Congress and a larger voice in the selection of the President. So what would Mr. Cohn have preferred? That the slaves to be counted as full humans, but bereft of all rights and merely adding an enhancement to Southern power in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College? Or for the slaves to not be counted at all, formally exiled outside of the body politic at the outset? One can only imagine the results of the former in terms of elections later in the nineteenth century when the pro-slavery argument was in full bloom or the impact of the latter in bolstering that argument with the seeming sanction of the Founders that Africans were not even human enough to be considered in apportionment.

As one can easily see, this question is not the easy, glib, cut and dry matter Mr. Cohn makes it out to be, or the easy club by which to bash the Founding Fathers over the head in order to forget all the things they got right. Slavery as an institution existed long before the Revolution, and when delegates of the states came together in 1787, certain Southern delegates from Georgia and South Carolina made it abundantly clear that failure to compromise and offer certain protections to that institution was a sine qua non to any Union and government they would support. Nearly all delegates saw the creation of a more perfect Union essential to maintaining individual liberty and republican government in North America, and they were willing to pay almost any price to get it. Making temporary concessions to an institution that many of them saw as perishing was preferable to an open break and the creation of a state system resembling that of Europe—with its wars, standing armies, endless debt, and trampled liberties. Mr. Cohn can ridicule them all he wishes, but he is merely engaging in the worst sort of revisionism that fails to take account of the situation and its abundant tragedy.

Even the Founders broke their own rules and commitment to their own limited constitutionalism, thus they are even less reliable than previously conceded, or, conversely, more reliable since their deviations are in favor of government power

“Mr. Jefferson himself had to broaden his constitutional interpretation when he executed the Louisiana Purchase because his critics said he had no power to do so.” This historical example is almost laughably absurd, and one of Jefferson’s most unfortunate self-inflicted wounds. Does one seriously think, on the face of it, that the Federalists actually criticized Jefferson because they believed he was overreaching constitutionally? Even without knowing the specific facts, the very assertion should strike any generally educated reader as odd. And well it might! Jefferson was the one worried he was overreaching in the treaty with Napoleon that ceded the Louisiana Territory to the United States, not the Federalists. Hamilton’s chief complaint about the Louisiana Purchase was that it happened in spite of Jefferson’s policies and actions as President, and thus Jefferson deserved little credit for its consummation. Hamilton was probably correct, but like everyone on the political downside, his criticisms bore the distinct taste of sour grapes.

Jefferson, it should also be noted, was not Madison. James Madison, then Secretary of States, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, and the special envoy who signed the deal—James Monroe—all Jeffersonians, thought that as the purchase and cession of territory was contained in a Treaty and not at odds with any provisions of the Constitution, that it was perfectly constitutional so long as the Senate agreed. Jefferson, despite being worried over the matter himself, knew that whichever way he decided would be accepted by his large majorities in Congress. Mr. Cohn would have been far better off to have pointed to the Jeffersonian accommodation to Alexander Hamilton’s National Bank when they took over the government in 1801, but as he did not I will not be forced to make a far more complicated and less effective counter argument against that much stronger piece of evidence of lax constitutional interpretation.

But this argument is again suffused with the previous straw-man premise—that those who revere the Founders consider them perfect demi-gods. If that were actually the case, if Dr. Williams argued that Jefferson were perfect, then any evidence of inconsistency or error—which in Jefferson’s case is easy enough to come up with—would explode the premise and all the things flowing from it. But that, of course, is not Dr. Williams’s contention—or at least I do not believe it is given the article in question. People are flawed, or usually are, and the Founders were (sadly) not immune to this truism of human history. But an individual failure, even if we concede that Jefferson really reversed himself on the Louisiana Purchase, does not automatically invalidate a principle of limited government, or a method of interpreting the Constitution. If that were the case, any hypocrite could at any moment invalidate any principle they publicly proclaimed, and yet I am sure Mr. Cohn would not concede that conclusion for whatever principles he holds dear. In any event, his example is specious, and does not address a real argument, only a straw-man that no one has actually put forward.

As such, any other “interpretations” by any Johnny come lately are just as imperfect, or just as perfect

All of this leads to the subjectivist conclusion of "everyone has interpretations, what makes theirs better?" and the subsequent invitation to disregard the history of the republic and insert whatever you might like to see in its stead. While the Constitution was unquestionably written and adopted to provide the republic a much more robust and vigorous government, its ratification made clear that the American people wanted it to be expressly limited and restricted in certain very fundamental ways—and to only have certain (albeit fundamentally important and critical) duties that were written out lest anyone should ever be confused. This is easy enough to establish historically, and most historians—while being quite committed liberals—do not really question this fact. Those who do, like Howard Zinn, Charles Beard and their derivatives, are not taken very seriously by the profession—ironically because of ahistorical cherry-picking and decontextualization with blatant contemporary political motivation.

And yet here we are, seemingly confused. Why? Mostly because people want to pretend that latter "heroes" like Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, are acting in accordance with the original purposes of our founding charter (including all the amendments). Mr. Cohn should try to remember that the only way Mr. Roosevelt's "interpretation" gained any legal sanction was through threatening the independence of the Supreme Court, and then outlasting it's aged membership through an unprecedented four-term power grab that ended up making the bench a junior partner of the executive branch and the New Deal. This is hardly a shining example of how the country just sort of magically moved to different but ultimately inconsistent "emphases" on select passages of the U.S. Constitution. General Eisenhower merely operated in the shadowy legacy of that period, not from some conscious effort to move the founders forward in time, or rebuke them for shortsightedness. An interstate highway system was a rather tame thing after the TVA and the NRA had blasted a large and comfy swathe through the Constitution's checks on government authority.

Mr. Cohn and all liberals needs to remember that Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe did not veto bills for road and canal construction because they hated roads and canals, nor because either of them objected to the notion that the Federal Government could be a real force for progress in those realms. Quite the contrary, both of them expressed sympathy to what antebellum Americans called "internal improvements." But they vetoed those bills all the same. They were unconstitutional. The Federal Government was not empowered to construct roads or canals, thus any bills which tried to do that had to be vetoed, and both men did so with lengthy explanation and forewarning. Mr. Cohn may then complain that amending the constitution is difficult, takes time, and would probably end up getting blocked by as few as fourteen states—but that is the whole point of the amendment process. New powers should be difficult to add to the government's already ample repertoire. They should be added because of some serious defect in the original document—like slavery, or the right of women to vote (women were hardly considered "property" as Mr. Cohn absurdly states), or to undo the madness of alcohol prohibition—and not simply to placate the whims of those who think that if the government "gives" you something, it becomes "free."

Full text of Mr. Cohn’s Letter to the Editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 21 January 2011, Opinion, 6B:

“Why respect Madison's view of Constitution?

To the editor:

Walter Williams' Jan. 13 column on the Constitution is full of cherry-picked quotes, false assumptions and beliefs our founders are infallible.

For instance, Mr. Williams quotes James Madison's veto message of a bill constructing roads and improving canals. This is a cherry-picked quote. I could have just as easily quoted Republican President Dwight Eisenhower signing a much bigger bill starting the interstate highway system.

Then Mr. Williams plays his "got you" game by asking whether Mr. Madison was ignorant of the Constitution or whether it had been amended since his comments. Although Mr. Madison was the principal author of the Constitution, this is still only Mr. Williams' interpretation of the document.

My question: Was Mr. Eisenhower ignorant of the Constitution? Or did Mr. Eisenhower just have a different interpretation — one long upheld by the Supreme Court?

Mr. Williams also uses the myth that Mr. Madison was one of the founders of the country, therefore, people such as him and Thomas Jefferson are infallible.

But they were far from that. Let's not forget that these people said that a black slave was just three-fifths of a person. They also had strong and varying opinions of their own actions. These were the people who trusted the selection of U.S. senators to state politicians rather than the people. They considered women property. So why is Mr. Jefferson's "general welfare" interpretation any more important than Franklin Roosevelt's or Ike's?

Mr. Jefferson himself had to broaden his constitutional interpretation when he executed the Louisiana Purchase because his critics said he had no power to do so.

Ray A. Cohn

Las Vegas”

Monday, August 02, 2010

Dissertation Prospectus

Graduate students, in the process of earning a doctorate in history, must eventually write a dissertation prospectus. This is a very important document which outlines the questions the dissertation seeks to answer as well as the relevant historical literature which informs one's approach as well as whatever other historians have already said about it. Below is my own. I'm currently in the process of finishing the writing of the dissertation proper with the expectation of graduation in May 2011.

“It has long been a grave question:” The Republican War Dilemma in American History, 1776-1861

“History has kept no account of times of peace and tranquility; it relates only ravages and disasters.” – Voltaire, Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations

“If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it is large, it is destroyed by an internal vice.” – Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

In the wake of his resounding re-election and in response to a serenade of well-wishers, Abraham Lincoln made several remarks in November 1864 about the extraordinary circumstances of the time. He reminded the assembled crowd that a great historical question was at stake in the election and the war, a question present since the creation of the republic: “It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.” When Alexander Hamilton put forth the case for adopting the constitution, he was a bit wordier in his phrasing of this dilemma, but his point was the same:

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

All governments face a basic existential threat during any war, foreign or civil. Modern republics, devoted to the protection of the individual rights of their citizens, face a dilemma unknown to monarchies or any species of tyrannical dictatorship, in which the natural rights of individuals are not valued or even acknowledged. Always an experiment in so many ways, the American republic, as Lincoln tried to suggest, was passing in 1864 through the latest and most severe of trials.

Many scholars of the American Civil War and Lincoln have attempted to take their subject into an alternate historical plane, away from what came before and developed later. James G. Randall claimed the war was “sui generis,” and Herman Belz has asserted that Lincoln had an “ability to think beyond the horizons of his time and the limits of American experience.” Yet, these encomiums to uniqueness commit a grave historical injustice to the conflict and the man. Lincoln did not transcend his time at all. Unsurprisingly, he was very much a part of it. And even more than that, he was very much a part of a time earlier than his own as opposed to a transcendent future. Lincoln was a critically important part of a long historical tradition of republican thinkers who dwelled upon and dealt with the problems presented by republics at war, something I will refer to in this dissertation as the “republican war dilemma.”

The only way to understand that tradition and its significance is to examine carefully the relevant history, despite assertions that such an endeavor is not needed or of little value in this case. Certainly the Civil War was unlike every war which preceded it in American history in scope, carnage, vision, and bitterness. Although Nicholas and Peter Onuf have recently claimed that the “American Civil War was the first fully modern war,” Mark Neely is on to something important when he suggests that “we can reach a better understanding of the Civil War by viewing it from a long-range chronological perspective.” The American Civil War was only one example of a long line of republican experiments that had devolved into internal tumult. The specific reasons and circumstances, and the progress of the conflict, may have been unexpected or entirely new and unique, but just as important, the anticipation and fear of civil war had been part of America’s republican tradition long before Southern rebels fired upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

Uncovering the origins of the republican war dilemma tradition in the earliest parts of the republic’s history will be the primary goal of this dissertation. The subsequent and derivative goal will be to trace the thinking surrounding this tradition through the history of the “antebellum” period, focusing on a broad selection of parties and individuals of every persuasion in the political, cultural, and intellectual world of this period. If difficulties in republicanism—extended republics, federalism, separation of powers, protecting individual rights while upholding majority rule, republican virtue—were legion and the founders of the American republic typically are lauded for solving many of them, those associated with war are never usually on the list of achievements. This is not from neglect by scholars. On the contrary, many historians of the various intellectual dilemmas which arose from republican theory have spent much of their time examining the impact of war on the other aspects they were studying. Gordon Wood, for instance, in his Creation of the American Republic dealt with the effects of the Revolutionary War for Independence on the creation of the new state governments and the subsequent rollback of many of their more radical constitutional provisions in the more sobering days of the peace following that war. But his focus and the focus of other scholars who have not ignored the impact of war on republican ideas and thinkers, was on republicanism as such, and war as an external force acting upon it, temporarily forcing it into alternative channels for only a short period before things could eventually return to some sort of status quo antebellum. I argue that it is crucial to conceive of war per se as a critical problem within the whole republican outlook because I think it is demonstrably clear that that is how republican thinkers and politicians themselves saw the issue. For a republic born in a destructive and long war, this should hardly be surprising.

Key to understanding this conception is recovering the living past that these thinkers lived with, worked with, and relied upon in their sometimes unprecedented endeavors. Trevor Colbourn pointed out more than four decades ago that for the founders “all the past was a storehouse, not of mere example, but of authoritative precedents.” In Federalist Number Twenty James Madison claimed, in very Aristotelian manner, that “Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.” Not only did this very experiential based epistemology, founded most obviously in Locke, inform the way the Founders went about creating the government, but it dominated the entire period after that and after them. Questions persisted regarding the efficacy of the republican “experiment” and its ability to survive and triumph in war. The prevailing conception of history and its proper uses, dominated as it was by Bolingbroke’s injunction about the philosophical lessons imbedded in the human past, as well as their understanding of the relevant history of republics, greatly informed how politicians approached the republican war dilemma. There were few major politicians in the period during and after the Revolution who would seriously make the case for a Cartesian approach to this matter or any other.

The works of historians specifically about war and its impact on political philosophers of the late enlightenment, along with their political offspring, are many and disparate, rarely in conversation with one another. The most rigorous and interesting attempt to grapple with the long history of republican government and, more importantly, republican thinking is Paul A. Rahe’s three-volume Republics Ancient and Modern (1994). War permeates all three volumes, notably in the breathtakingly violent world of ancient Greece. By the time one gets to Volume III—Inventions of Prudence: Constituting the American Regime, Rahe has made a compelling case that “in the short run, war—whether present or merely anticipated—can and often must override all other priorities and render even the achievement of justice a matter of secondary concern.” Rahe’s account of republican history, while vast and complex, and dealing with war frequently and often, still falls short. His purpose was a different one and so it is no surprise that his three volumes do not attempt to conceptualize this republican war dilemma as a specific concern, let alone to offer anything resembling a comprehensive account for the American case. My dissertation will seek to modify and build on Rahe’s work and explain more fully the role war played for American political thinkers during and after the revolution and in the years leading to the Civil War.

David C. Hendrickson, in 2003 and 2009, has addressed security against international threats as a primary concern in the formation of the American Constitution and the internal political disputes of the republic right down to the Second World War. “Far from being indifferent to the security problems that have drawn the anxious attention of internationalists in the twentieth century,” Hendrickson argues, “Americans were obsessed by them from the American Revolution to the Civil War,” Hendrickson’s work seems a logical fit for the core historiography of this dissertation. Closely related to Hendrickson’s efforts are those of Max M. Edling, whose A Revolution in Favor of Government (2003) makes the claim that the debate which occurred at the founding of the republic was “neither… a debate about democracy nor liberalism, but… a debate about state formation.” While Hendrickson’s previous work seemed far more in tension with Edling’s approach, his latest scholarship comes closer to accepting Edling’s dismissal of the ideological context of state formation to focus far more on the alleged realpolitik primacy of the republic’s creation. My reading of the sources leads me to challenge this argument. State formation requires that the sort of state being formed have definition and underpinning. Those definitions and underpinnings are what made the English monarchy different from ancien régime France and what made them both different from the United Provinces of Holland as well as numerous other states and polities around the globe including, after 1789, a newly constituted American republic. That all of these governments shared the basic obligation to protect themselves from internal tumult and foreign aggression does not change the fact that a limited republican government such as existed in United States faced a series of challenges and questions not faced by other governments. Edling hints at this point obliquely when he correctly points out that “In important respects, this government was not a limited government, as the conventional interpretation of the Constitution holds, but an unlimited government.” But, even in the direst of circumstances, civil war, the political thinkers and politicians in power did not conceive of the republic’s power in this way. Lincoln, in the midst of “the greatest of calamities,” conceived of his role in crushing the Southern rebellion to be of limited scope and power. While he could and did confiscate all manner of property in the South and wage war on citizens he never acknowledged as being of a legally separate nation, he did not operate in a world without legal, constitutional, boundaries and restrictions. That Edling’s assumptions about what sort of government was created at the founding—an unlimited one—are not confirmed during what can only be described as the perfect crisis for vindication, suggests that he missed something fundamentally important. That something was the historically important and fundamentally republican question Lincoln posed and that I quoted at the opening. The republic had to be able to survive any sort of war to protect the rights and liberties it was established to protect without destroying them in the effort. It was a difficult balancing act that Lincoln, and those nationalists who came before him, were always aware of and which suggests that their own conceptions of their roles and responsibilities is at variance with that which Edling has constructed for them.

One other work that presents a broad interpretation of war in the early republic is Scott Silverstone’s Divided Union: The Politics of War in the Early American Republic (2004). Silverstone posits that while the republic did go to war twice between 1789 and 1861, the more remarkable thing is how many times war was averted or rejected by the government during that same period. While I will take issue with Silverstone’s claim that “the American founders did not have an empirical record to examine in order to evaluate how closely the actual behavior of federal states matched their theoretical expectations,” the question he identifies as being of primary concern to the founders is one which I will try to carry further into the history of the republic: “while the U.S. republic would not be immune from the worst traits of human nature, would the republican institutions of government hold them in check to decrease the likelihood that ambition, greed, or passion would actually drive the United States to war?”

The first chapters of this dissertation will draw together the philosophical and political influences on the founders concerning the topic of war while also looking to the experiences and lessons learned in the opening decades of republican governance. For example, General Washington’s supreme crisis at Newburgh in 1783, to be covered in Chapter Three, is indicative of the “extra” considerations that went into the republican mindset when dealing with issues related to war and its successful prosecution. It is far too easy to dismiss this episode as mere talk on the part of some disgruntled officers who were tired of not being paid by an inept Continental Congress, but that would be a mistake. Even if the conspiracy was ultimately illusory, Washington’s response to it demonstrated just how much war, in this case civil war, loomed in his understanding of the history of republican success and, more importantly, failure. Writing to Alexander Hamilton, himself no novice in the too-often sad and short history of republics, Washington told his friend and former aide that preventing “Civil commotions” that would “end in blood” was a predicament “as critical and delicate as can well be conceived.” When Washington finally gathered his officers together to shame them from any notions of acting against their government he held nothing back, telling them:

And let me conjure you, in the name of our common Country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the Military and National character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood.

Washington’s knowledge of the tragedy of Cato the Younger, both of the man and the republic he tried to save, ran much deeper than simply a fondness for Joseph Addison’s dramatic adaptation. For the rest of his public career, Washington would do his utmost to keep his republic out of wars foreign and civil, not merely because he was not fond of warfare, but because, as he told Hamilton, if the cause which the revolution had been fought for—self-government and individual rights—failed, then “the blood we have spilt in the course of an Eight years war, will avail us nothing.”

Examples abound moving forward, from the fear of ambitious and conspiratorial individuals as diverse as Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Andrew Jackson to the quite obvious real war situations against Great Britain in 1812-1815 and Mexico in 1846-1848. But there are other very serious episodes that litter the history of the early republic and antebellum periods, from the so-called “Whiskey Rebellion” in 1794 to the attempt of South Carolina nullifiers to reject federal law and threaten secession in the early 1830s to the general southern threat of secession in 1849 and 1850. While it may seem that these episodes are separated greatly in time, the people intimately involved in them are often the same. To illustrate this point briefly, I need only name a prominent few of the figures that will be analyzed and discussed in this dissertation: Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), Henry Clay (1777-1852), and Winfield Scott (1786-1866). Between them, these men were involved in ways important and meaningful in the following crises: the American Revolution, the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty debates, the Burr conspiracy and/or treason trials, the War of 1812, the acquisition of Florida, the Nullification Crisis, the Mexican-American War, the Crisis of 1850 and its compromise, and the Civil War. In some of these episodes, they were spectators and observers more than participants while in others they were principal actors who exerted great influence over events. They are but a puny sample of only some of the most prominent people one could cite to make this point. Many aged second generation republicans made it to see the republic falter into fratricidal bloodshed. While the political landscape and intellectual concerns certainly changed over time, the continuities which remained in personnel, problems, and ideas are striking. It is those continuities in the face of massive changes socially, culturally, and economically that will take up the greater portion of this dissertation.

The dissertation is organized to move forward chronologically within each chapter, but also thematically by chapter to cover as many different aspects of the republican war dilemma as possible. After an introduction that will explicate how philosophers and historians set the intellectual stage for the American founding fathers to conceive of and attempt to solve this problem, the first chapter will open this investigation in the fires of the American Revolution. That these issues had to be recognized and dealt with in the midst of a war merely adds to the heightened sense of the difficulty of the task the American Revolutionaries grappled with for eight years. Chapter Two examines the confederation period and the adoption of the Constitution. War was a central concern in this period as centrifugal forces in the West and internal weakness threatened to rip the fragile republic in pieces. Solving the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation as related to war and Union without destroying republicanism outright was a tightrope walk, but one that had to be attempted. Chapter Three examines a related, though peculiar, phenomenon related to war and the historical understanding thinkers at the time had of it: the designing ambitions and conspiracies of “dangerous men.” In a country so vast and with such a commitment to liberty, how would the republic defend itself against the machinations of the unfettered genius that it prized, fostered, and in some cases deified? Chapter Four examines the major foreign conflicts of the period surveyed by this dissertation. What led the republic to war and how did the execution of those wars show (or not) the concerns of the republic’s leadership for the issues involved in the republican war dilemma? Chapter Five will delve into the actual “rebellions” and near-rebellions the republic faced in the decades leading up to the Civil War. What response did the republic’s leaders take to combat these threats and what precedents did these reactions establish? Chapter Six will tackle, in broad strokes, the two outlying but very important issues of Indian warfare and the military threats and perils wrapped up in the institution of slavery in the American republic. Chapter Seven will end the story in an examination of Lincoln and the great Civil War he confronted when he became President. That calamitous episode provides the proper end point of this examination because of the thematic and conceptual continuities leading to the conflict and its clear status as the most serious military calamity to befall the republic at any point in the time when the republican war dilemma was still consciously thought of as fundamentally important to the republic’s survival. The conclusion will attempt to make the case for why this research and the republican war dilemma itself have continuing relevance in a world almost completely post-modernly oblivious to the warnings of Thucydides, Gibbon, and The Federalist.

The force of historical example, what Bolingbroke simply called “history” and that Madison labeled “experience,” lost some of its staying power over the years. By the end of the great bloodletting of the 1860’s it was no long exactly clear how the Peloponnesian War or the last partition of Poland spoke to the problems of the reunified and reconstructed American republic. The self-styled American Brutus, John Wilkes Booth, exclaimed to a puzzled and growingly alarmed crowd at Ford’s Theatre “sic semper tyrannus!” to tie himself to that noble assassin of the last days of Rome’s republic, but his understanding and application of that history was largely anomalous and vestigial. By 1865, all historical precedents and references seemed growingly inapplicable and irrelevant. What prior republic of so great a size had fought a horrible civil war over slavery and survived the experience with its republican liberties and principles intact, let alone enhanced by it? The ancients and all that came after them were at that moment as remote to those Americans as they are to present-day Americans, a far cry from the very real relevance they had held for American thinkers and statesmen leading up to the Civil War. This dissertation seeks to recreate that world. It will show how war itself played a central role in that historical understanding and in the precarious worrying done over the republic’s ability to survive without disintegrating or becoming the tyrannical leviathan Booth thought he was destroying and that thinkers like Thomas Hobbes thought was inevitable.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's the Deal with Jefferson?

The Problem with Jefferson

All students of the history of the American Revolution and the early republic eventually must, in their own minds, if not in formal analytical writing, deal with the problem of Thomas Jefferson. More than any other founding father, Jefferson’s paradoxical contradictions challenge even the most sympathetic of interpreters. The soaring rhetoric of the Revolution is encapsulated in the Jefferson drafted Declaration of Independence. He was devoted to human liberty and the hopeful progress that could be the fruit of human reason. At the same time, he indulged in racialist determinism in his Notes on the State of Virginia, made absurd apologias for the horrors of the French Revolution, unjustly tarred and condemned any number of well meaning opponents like Alexander Hamilton and George Washington (without the saving grace of being correct), proclaimed Jesus Christ to be the greatest moral philosopher in the history of the world, and indulged the fantasies of slavery’s defenders by promoting in lazy and paranoid moments the delusion that attacks on slavery were attacks on “liberty.”

It is easy to combine all of these criticisms, plus his likely sexual abuse of one of his slaves, into a full-fledged indictment of the man as not only undeserving of the highest accolades of the revolution and founding which he has often received, but as more deserving of scorn than admiration. This is the fountainhead of every scholar’s “problem with Jefferson.” It seems that the more one learns of Jefferson, the more uncertain is his legacy. The more problems arise in one’s understanding of the man, the more one is made to start making excuses, justifications, and rationalizations for a man who died 184 years ago. This is only natural. Jefferson’s name and image are, in many respects, the revolution. The Declaration of Independence is one of the pinnacle human achievements, certainly among the top three or four political statements ever written in the history of mankind. Yet the principal draftsman of that quintessential statement on the right of humans to throw off the shackles of oppressive government because of their fundamental equality as human individuals, was deeply (perhaps fatally) flawed.

Having dealt with Jefferson for years now, I’m still not certain what I make of him. On the one hand, I admire his ability to essentialize the revolution around individual rights and the legwork he did abroad as a diplomat. But, I cannot really understand why he overreacted to Hamilton’s financial plans as severely as he did, to the point of undermining Washington and dishonestly dealing with his colleagues in government. I also find his interpretation of the events of the French Revolution, which many of his colleagues (Washington, Hamilton, Adams, Jay, Marshall, etc.) got right very quickly, bizarre and horrific. Add to that his inability to ever boil slavery down to the same obvious essential fundamentals he was able to see so clearly during the revolution, and you have a whole list of major complaints. The most damning part of it all is that many others who were not nearly so brilliant, figured these things out and acted upon their ideas with honest conviction and courage. In some ways Jefferson comes off deficient and cowardly after 1776 and I’m not sure he is salvageable in many major respects. More troubling, I’m not sure anyone should take the trouble to try since there are a great many worthy candidates of our admiration left among the founders.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Book Review

Asking the Founders for Help: A Review of Richard Brookhiser’s What Would the Founders Do?
By Alexander Marriott

What would George Washington have to say about terrorism and preemptive war? What did Jefferson think of the death penalty? Would the founders fight a war on drugs? Were the founders pacifists? Did they object to women participating in the political process? These are just some of the many questions historian and journalist Richard Brookhiser poses to the whole panoply founding fathers in his new book What Would the Founders Do? The book is a valuable compilation and explanation of various positions and opinions the founders held (sometimes in contradiction to each other) on various problems of their day, the fundamentals of which are still relevant to problems confronting us today. Why look back to these figures, the last of whom died in 1836 (Madison), for guidance today? Brookhiser answers that question quite succinctly: “They built the country, they wrote the user manuals—Declaration, Constitution, Federalist Papers—and they ran it while it could still be returned to the manufacturer. We assume that if anyone knows how the U.S.A. should work, it must be them. In that spirit, we ask WWFD—What Would the Founders Do?” (Pg. 6) The book itself is not the end of the story; the founders are answering more questions online, in the blogosphere. A whole host of FounderBlogs have been created for the likes of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison to offer their wit and wisdom on more issues of the day.

With this premise dictating his direction, Brookhiser rakes his own immense knowledge of the founding fathers and uses their positions and opinions to answer numerous question under broad topics such as “God and Man,” “Money and Business,” and “Education and Media.” The book bears the hallmarks of Brookhiser’s previous historical interests. George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton would have had to be heavily involved in the book anyway, but Gouverneur Morris, a largely forgotten but incredibly fascinating founder from New York (who largely became marginalized due to his radical Federalism and the fact that Jeffersonians ruled the government for 24 years), is consulted more in this book than would have been the case if any other historian had written it. Brookhiser’s previous (and current) penchant for Federalists perhaps colors his views on their opponents, the Jeffersonians (whom he rather undeservedly connects to the modern Democratic Party, but that is a question for another day), but not to extent detrimental to this book.

The main recommendation this book has is the incredibly even handed and sober way in which Brookhiser treats his material. It would be easy for a partisan to go through the writings of the founders and pick out of context positions and opinions that validate current political opinions, but he does not stoop to such a level. The answers for whether the founders would fight a war on drugs, teach intelligent design, and permit assisted suicide are very measured and accurate expositions of the thoughts of the founders on the fundamentals underlying these issues.

Of course the easiest critique to level against this book or any work like it is the fact that the founders were men of a different era and are all deceased. In fact, Brookhiser devotes an entire chapter in the early going to this very question. Without their living in the present age it is impossible to tell what they would think about saving social security, drilling in ANWR, or school vouchers. This is superficially true, but such an attitude would invalidate all knowledge, particularly all history as we know it. Aristotle has been dead for over two thousand years and yet he can still teach us a great deal about the world (properly corrected where he was in error). The same can be said about John Locke, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, George Washington, and James Madison.

The real problem with the premise of Brookhiser’s latest effort is that the founders were not infallible authorities to consult on political or ethical concerns. Their inability to deal with metaphysics, which Brookhiser points out, was a serious flaw, because they ended up stating their political breakthroughs as self-evident truths, when they were and are not. Though Brookhiser and the rest of us may want to go back to the founders and get the wisdom we seem to have lost, their advice is limited not only by time, but by their own deficiencies. In their age they could say radical liberty and individual rights were self-evident truths because few would dispute the point, but today’s post-modern world where people dispute the existence of reality, objectivity, truth, reason, and knowledge (the beginnings of which had only begun when the founders were achieving their greatest triumphs) requires something more. In the context of their own time the founders were heroic visionaries, men of ideas and action. Whether they could fight the philosophical quagmire of the present which threatens all their efforts to secure freedom and liberty to their posterity is far from certain. That being said, Mr. Brookhiser’s efforts to bring the founders intelligently and understandably to as many Americans as possible (not just scholars) are to be commended and encouraged. The seriousness and probity which the founders brought to all the issues they grappled with comes through clearly in this book and is something we should all strive to emulate.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Essay, "The Delicate Interest" - Review of U.S. - Haitian Relations, 1798-1848

The “Delicate Interest:” American Relations with Haiti, 1798-1848
Alexander Marriott

Historians have only relatively recently begun to examine the importance of the Haitian Revolution in the context of the spirit of revolution which swept the Atlantic World during the half century between the American Revolution and the Wars of Independence in the American colonies of Spain.[1] The question of why the United States, self-proclaimed standard bearer of republicanism in the world, did not recognize the second republic in the Western Hemisphere is one that is often too easily answered. Tim Matthewson has argued that U.S. foreign policy was “proslavery” from the outset with the “policies of President George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.”[2] Matthewson further contends that “No country has suffered more than Haiti from the export of America’s racial divisions abroad.”[3] This is strong medicine and surly some amount of chastisement is necessary, but it would seem as to the latter charge that Liberia has a better clam to that dubious distinction. As to the former charge, others (including Matthewson)[4] have offered more complex and more convincing explanations for U.S. foreign policy towards Haiti in the Early Republic. A recent work on the subject claims:
The ambiguities of our policy toward the emerging state of Haiti were, in the end, a reflection of how closely balanced those competing interest groups were during most of the period under discussion in this work. It was only when the combined effect of Jefferson’s embargo and the collapse of the Haitian export economy caused the maritime interests effectively to drop out of the political argument than an anti-Haitian policy became crystal clear.[5]

What can too easily be lost in focusing on just the years of the early republic (1789-1825) is the foreign policy of those who came afterwards. While the “pragmatic policy”[6] which the early administrations adopted may strike people today as callous and even cowardly, such judgments must be tempered by two important facts. The first is the reality that the United States in the entire period of 1798-1848, but especially in the early republic years, was a relatively weak military power incapable of the projection of power it now commands. The second fact to keep in mind is that the early administrations were headed almost exclusively by people committed, at least theoretically and rhetorically, to the end of slavery and the recognition of its fundamental immorality. Two of the last Secretaries of State this study will look at, John C. Calhoun and James Buchanan, could not have the same caveats applied to them. Their policies and statements reflect this distinction. At the risk of picking on historical punching bags, the coarsening of the attitudes of some American towards Haiti was visible earlier than the 1840s. During Henry Clay’s tenure as Secretary of State in the administration of John Quincy Adams (1825-1829), the consular commercial agent in Port au Prince, Andrew Armstrong, wrote to Clay: “it is evident that our trade, is, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which it labours, the most considerable of the Island And that although we have a really ugly and crooked race of beings to deal with, yet they afford us so important a debouche for our produce, that it is worth our while to cultivate their good graces.”[7] But even this level of contemptuousness was too tame for the much more radical pro-slavery men who would steer the country towards disaster in the years that followed.

The relations of the United States and Haiti from 1798-1848 were complicated. Complicated by the presence of slavery in the United States; complicated by racism in both countries; complicated by intense Southern paranoia; complicated by colonization schemes; complicated by abolitionism; and complicated by ideological parallels and juxtapositions. To write-off the foreign policy of the United States towards Haiti in the early republic as “proslavery” presumes that many people, let alone those occupying the White House, had begun seriously articulating proslavery arguments (upon which to base a proslavery foreign policy). This was not the case. The tragic fact is that it would be the case by 1848, when the proslavery argument was in full bloom and the foreign policy of proslavery Presidents reflected it quite obviously.

The United States would not officially recognize Haiti until 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, when pro-slavery Southerners were not present to stop the action as they had been since 1804.[8] With that eventuality in mind, this survey terminates in 1848, a year of seminal importance in world affairs and in the Americas on several levels. Aside from being a year of revolutions in Europe, 1848 marks the end of the Mexican-American War and all official attempts to extend the territory of the United States through armed conflict until 1898.[9] Second, it is the last year of James K. Polk’s presidency; he would be the last pro-slavery Southerner to occupy the White House. Third, the political situation of the United States increasingly focused inward after 1848 leading up to the eruption of armed conflict in 1861. And, lastly, Haiti in 1848 was undergoing yet another political transformation. After the collapse of President Jean-Pierre Boyer’s regime in 1843, Haiti had been in political turmoil (with the creation of the Dominican Republic). For Haiti, 1848 was the year that Soulouque consolidated his power upon the ashes of republicanism, culminating in his becoming Emperor Faustin I the next year.

Navigating fifty years of diplomacy chronologically could be an immense task, given the myriad incidents and changes of government.[10] This problem has been surmounted by organizing this survey around three distinct phases of American policymakers. The first phase will take Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as examples. Both men were slave owners committed to the ultimate abolition of slavery, to the colonization of the freed slaves to some location outside of the United States, and to non-recognition of Haiti. The second phase includes James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay. The time period in which these men shaped and directed foreign policy (1811-1829) witnessed the rise of slavery as the most divisive internal political issue. As a consequence, the solution they fashioned placed Union above all else. The end result was continued non-recognition. The last phase considers the diplomatic efforts of John C. Calhoun and James Buchanan; a southerner who thought slavery was a positive good and a northerner who thought slavery was not a moral issue to be meddled with, but repressed from the political scene if at all possible. These groups of statesmen confronted Haiti and the problem of diplomatic recognition from widely divergent assumptions. Crucially important were their different views of the issues which made U.S.-Haitian relations such a contentious issue in the antebellum period, slavery and race.[11]

* * *

In August 1791, the slaves of Saint-Domingue revolted. It was a coordinated and planned revolt which caught the whites and free people of color on the island off guard. The initial chaos and brutality of the revolt, in atrocity and reprisal, created the images and horrors which paranoid slave-owners and the active pro-slavery men would exploit and point to in justification of the non-recognition of Haiti. One historian of the revolutions in the Americas provides the following, “They strapped white planters to racks and cut them in half, raped their daughters and wives, and decapitated their children, impaling their heads on pikes. Women stuffed the severed genitals into the mouths of former masters and rapists as they bled to death. In reprisal, whites killed indiscriminately, imitating the rebellious slave practice of staking decapitated heads or hoisting tortured victims on crosses. In Cap Francais, they hanged slaves in the public square, joyously raising the British flag out of gratitude for the assistance—which included, among other things, slave-hunting dogs—they had received.”[12] The road from August 1791 to January 1804, when the Haitian Republic was born, was long, torturous, and complex. French, British, and Spanish armies would all become involved. The leaders of the rebels would split against each other under alliances with one or another foreign power.[13]

The United States monitored all of these events within the context of world trade and the continuing wars of the French Revolution. American merchants actively traded with France and her colonies since the days of the American Revolution. The French Revolution and the forces unleashed by it made this situation much more complex. George Washington declared American neutrality and the Federalist Party set itself against the French Republic. In 1798, when American diplomats were told they would have to pay bribes to meet with Foreign Minister Talleyrand, American public opinion became bellicose towards France. For the next two years a naval war ensued between France and the United States (known as the Quasi-War) with full expectation of French invasion.

Saint-Domingue, under the de jure control of France, but the de facto control of Toussaint L’Ouverture, created a unique problem for the Congress when considering the suspension of trade with France and her colonies. Thomas Jefferson, the Vice-President, presented the proposed solution to his temporarily retired friend James Madison: “The bill for continuing the suspension of intercourse with France and her dependencies is still before the Senate, but will pass by a very great vote. An attack is made on what is called Toussaint’s clause, the object of which, as is charged by the one party and admitted by the other, is to facilitate the separation of the island from France.”[14] When Toussaint’s clause became law, Jefferson voiced the paranoid fears of many Southerners: “We may expect therefore black crews, and supercargoes and missionaries thence into the southern states.”[15] He concluded his warning to Madison ominously, “If this combustion can be introduced among us under any veil whatever, we have to fear it.” Because his attitude as President was much more judicious, one wonders whether the hyperbolic partisanship of the crisis with France influenced Jefferson’s paranoia about the ability of black sailors and others from Saint-Domingue to come to the American south.
When Jefferson became President and placed his friend and ally Madison in the State Department, the political situation with France—and by extension, Saint-Domingue—had altered markedly. John Adams had successfully dissolved the crisis before leaving office, meaning American relations with Toussaint had to be conducted more delicately than before, so as not to provoke France into another military confrontation.[16] Above all else, Jefferson hoped to have the best of both worlds, unfettered trade with the island, while also preserving the status quo of French control. While both Jefferson and Madison committed themselves to the moral condemnation of slavery, they were also committed to the non-recognition of Haiti. This was all the more ironic when one considers the demonstrable fact that Jefferson’s greatest triumph, the Louisiana Purchase, would not have been possible (at least when it occurred) without the unintended assist of the blacks of Saint-Domingue, who foiled Napoleon’s grand designs in the western hemisphere (or at least delayed them so long that war restarted in Europe). The man Jefferson selected to perform the tricky legwork of his Haitian policy on the ground was Tobias Lear, whose most prominent former job was as private secretary to President George Washington.

When Tobias Lear, newly appointed agent of the United States of America to the Island of Saint-Domingue, arrived in his new post in the summer of 1801 he was quickly introduced to that “extraordinary man” who “commands everything in this Island,” Toussaint L’Ouverture.[17] The meeting went poorly; President Jefferson’s policy towards Saint-Domingue was intended to be much like that of President Adams, respectful non-recognition with a wink and a nod towards American merchants dealing with the former slaves. Toussaint was no fool and he immediately detected a change. According to Lear, “I handed my Commission to the General [Toussaint], who asked me if I had not a letter for him from the President, or from the Government. I told him I had not, and explained the reason, as not being customary in missions of this kind, where I should be introduced by my Predecessor, and exhibit my Commission as an evidence of my Appointment. He immediately returned my Commission without opening it, expressing his disappointment and disgust in strong terms, saying that his Colour was the cause of his being neglected, and not thought worthy of the Usual attentions.”[18] It would take more than one meeting with the General to convince him that he had not been slighted, Lear had to “assure him of the President’s respect & consideration” which mollified the leader of former slaves only temporarily.[19] The crisis was only resolved when Toussaint’s “sincere desire to preserve harmony and a good understanding with the United States” let him move beyond his perceived slight.[20]

It is not difficult to understand Toussaint’s frustration with having a new agent from the United States with no introductory letter from the government (though he may have been engaging in wishful thinking to expect a letter from Jefferson or any American President). It had been barely half a year since Toussaint L’Ouverture, victor of battles over French, Spanish, British, and opposition forces within Saint-Domingue and now “undisputed master”[21] of the island, had received a letter from outgoing Secretary of State, John Marshall. That letter was very interesting because, like the Lear incident, it characterized much of the confused nature of American dealings with what would become Haiti for the next half-century. Marshall was responding to requests for supplies from Toussaint through an intermediary merchant: “The principles which direct the Government of the United States do not permit its executive to engage in commercial enterprizes; of consequence from that source the articles you wish cannot be furnished. It is by individuals only that you can be supplied. No law exists which prevents the exportation from this Country to St Domingo, of any article of commerce what can be received there.”[22] Marshall even concluded on a note of optimistic cordiality, “Be assured, Sir, of our sincere desire to preserve the most perfect harmony and the most friendly intercourse with St. Domingo, and that we shall rejoice at every occasion of manifesting this disposition compatible with those fixed principles, which regulate the conduct of our Government.”[23] When Lear showed up without the title of “Consular,” which had been taken away in concession to France and no introduction from anyone aside from his predecessor, it is easy to see how Toussaint thought he was losing ground. Lear characterized the problem as arising out of Toussaint’s fear of not being “thot. Worthy of having a letter from the President or the Governmt.”[24]

When peace arrived in Europe in late 1801, the island of Saint-Domingue waited with hope and dread to see what Napoleon would do. Toussaint had angered the “Little Corsican” when he had invaded Spanish Santo Domingo on his own initiative, and Bonaparte was tired of the situation of nominal French control.[25] Tobias Lear reported the situation to Secretary Madison in the early months of 1802 as well as his own escape once the French invasion force arrived by the simple yet effective method of “gold.”[26] The campaign of the French, while initially going quite well, became mired in ceaseless guerilla warfare. At the same time the French soldiers under General Leclerc, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, were perishing at appalling rates due to the heat and disease of the tropics.[27]

American policy makers had been worried by the idea of French troops in the Caribbean because they thought it would just be a stepping stone to reestablishing a French North American Empire in the Louisiana territory, newly acquired from Spain. Madison requested information of Lear about the intentions of the French regarding their North American possessions:

Reports as you well know have long prevailed that a cession of Louisiana has been made to France by Spain. It is now conjectured by some that part of the force allotted for St. Domingo is directly or eventually destined to take possession of that territory. Should any discoveries be made by you with respect to either of these points You will be so good as to communicate them and in cipher is the nature of the communication require that precaution.[28]

Lear communicated that the intentions of the French were to go on to Louisiana, but he also informed him of America’s unwitting friend:

It is true that a force is destined to take possession of Louisiana. It is reported that General Barnadotte with 10 ships [of] the line is daily expected here on his way to take possession of that country. That this will be done I have no doubt but in the present states of the island all the force which [may] arrive here will be kept for the present.[29]

The French army would not be able to subdue Saint-Domingue, Leclerc would perish with his troops, and Louisiana would not become the base of operations for a reincarnated French North American empire. All this is due to the tenacity and fighting of the ex-slaves of Saint-Domingue. The United States, unable to help Saint-Domingue out militarily even if it wanted to (it did not), declared itself neutral and dealt with whoever controlled the ports where American merchants sold their products. President Jefferson told his Special Envoy to France, James Monroe, “As to the time of your going you cannot too much hasten it, as the moment in France is critical. St. Domingo delays their taking possession of Louisiana, and they are in the last distress for money for current purposes.”[30] Alexander Hamilton, degrading the supposed diplomatic genius of Jefferson, attributed the Louisiana Purchase “To the deadly climate of St. Domingo, and to the courage and obstinate resistance made by its black inhabitants.” It had been the “repeated and fruitless efforts to subjugate St. Domingo” which had “delayed the colonization of Louisiana” until war broke out again in Europe. War in Europe and the delay/defeat of French forces in Saint-Domingue had “destroyed at once all her [France] schemes as this favourite object [Louisiana] of her ambition.”[31]

The many faults of Jefferson and Madison in dealing with Toussaint and then the Haitian Republic of Dessalines (1804-1806) and the subsequent two states (Henri Christophe in the north as King, and Alexandre Pétion in the south as President) which existed while they controlled foreign policy should not move us to assume these two men were pro-slavery in outlook and unsympathetic to the people of Haiti. Jefferson, while speculating on black inferiority in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) made it clear that even if blacks were inferior human beings “it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others.”[32] Jefferson did not doubt the justice of slaves who revolted and that is precisely why the prospect frightened him. Towards the end of his life, Jefferson would write optimistically of President Boyer’s offer to import free black emigrants from the United States, “My proposition would be that the holders should give up all born after a certain day, past, present, or to come, that these should be placed under the guardianship of the States, and sent at a proper age to S. Domingo. There they are willing to receive them, & the shortness of the passage brings the deportation within the possible means of taxation aided by charitable contributions.”[33] Colonization of free blacks and emancipated slaves was an idea that many southern slaveholders, along with many others around the country, could not give up on. Jefferson and Madison clung desperately to it as a peaceful way of ending slavery, of letting the wolf go without it turning around to bite those who held it by the ears. It would be an idea which the next phase of policymakers would also embrace, but one that they would also see assaulted by abolitionists and rejected by pro-slavery men with no interest in seeing the ultimate demise of their “peculiar institution.”

* * *

James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay were not pro-slavery men in the sense that they actively argued that slavery was a positive good for the country. All three of these men, in differing degrees, argued against slavery and the practices that went along with it during their long public careers. Monroe and Clay owned slaves during their public lives and both supported colonization. Adams most assuredly did not own slaves, ever, but his foreign policy and public actions while in a position to influence American actions towards Haiti were not substantially different from Clay or Monroe. The thing which united these men when they dealt with the issue of recognizing Haiti as an independent country, which every major European power had done by the end of the Adams presidency, was their concern for the Union. By 1829, issues dealing with slavery, even vaguely, could be dynamite on the national level.

Monroe had had some sobering experience in this regard when, as Governor of Virginia, he confronted Gabriel’s Rebellion in the fall of 1800. For many Southerners, including Monroe, the possibility of rebellion among their slaves immediately conjured up images of the horrors of the rebellion in Saint-Domingue. He told Jefferson, “It is unquestionably the most serious and formidable conspiracy we have ever known of the kind: tho’ indeed to call it so is to give no idea of the thing itself.”[34] The “rebellion” itself was a minor event which illustrated more about white paranoia than imminent black revolution.

As President, Monroe deployed the United States Navy off the coast of Africa to interdict American ships illegally engaged in the slave trade, which had been outlawed in 1819. He told Secretary of State John Quincy Adams: “I do not think that any foreigner can sustain a claim against an African brought directly from Africa as a slave, in our Courts, but that brought within our jurisdiction he must be free.”[35] When Boyer’s government demanded recognition and the Senate took up the issue in 1823, Monroe’s response was to list a series of complaints against the Haitian government, including the fact that the United States had to pay more trade duties than other nations and the anti-white provisions of the Haitian Constitution, such as the prohibition on white property ownership.[36] Monroe explained his reasoning to the retired Sage of Monticello:

The govt. of St. Domingo has demanded its recognition, & complains that a formal application for it, has not been answered. The subject was referr’d to me at the last session, but a motion of Mr. Holmes, of Maine, and on which I sent a special message, advertising very concisely to all the most important considerations involved in it, in the expectation that it would be published, & in the hope that the view therein taken, would conciliate the several parts of the Union towards each other, in regard to the delicate interest, to which it related.[37]

The “delicate interest” alluded to scarcely needed explication. Slavery, with an assist from explicit and implicit racism, lay at the core of the American inability to recognize what even France was finally coming to grips with.

Monroe and Clay were both firm supporters of the American Colonization Society, an organization devoted to the premise that only by offering the real possibility of sending blacks away to an African colony could Southerners then be convinced to emancipate their slaves. James Madison had held the Presidency of the ACS after he left the Presidency of the country, and had tried in vain to convince his own slaves to consent to being shipped off to Africa for their freedom.[38] Monroe and Clay were no more persuasive or successful, though the fifth President’s name was immortalized when Liberians decided to honor him with their capital city, Monrovia. After leaving his post as Secretary of State, Henry Clay spoke to the “Gentlemen of the Colonization Society of Kentucky” about the location best suited to send free blacks and the theoretical ex-slaves. The possible locations included, “Hayti,” a “district beyond the Rocky Mountains,” or the Liberian colony. Clay, an advocate of the ACS, spent the majority of the speech speaking to the advantages of Africa, but he did provide reasons for why Haiti could not be of greater advantage:

Hayti is objectionable as the sole place of their removal, on various accounts. It is too limited in its extent. Although a large island, containing considerable quantities of unseated land, it is incompetent as an assylum, during any great length of time, for the free persons of color of the United States. It possesses no advantage, either in the salubrity of its climate, or the fertility of its soil over the Western Coast of Africa. The productions of both countries are nearly the same. The expense of transportation to the one or to the other, is nearly the same. The emigrants would be in a state of dependence on the present inhabitants of the island, who have more intelligence and have made greater advances in civilization, and moreover possess all the power of the Government. They speak a different language. It should not be the policy of the United States, when they consider the predominant power of the island, and its vicinity to the Southern states, to add strength to it. And finally Hayti is destitute of some of those high moral considerations which belong to the foundation of a colony in Africa.[39]

From this statement and others like them from a whole host of other ACS spokespeople it is not difficult to deduce the reasons behind hostility from blacks and abolitionists. The implicit racism of the ACS and the drive to send free blacks off to an “assylum” tainted the organization as an anti-slavery group which it officially was.

Henry Clay served as Secretary of State at a crucial moment in the history of American diplomacy. He and President John Quincy Adams confronted the problem of diplomatic recognition for a whole host of new republics, stretching from Mexico to Chile. Haiti, stabilized under the republican government of Jean-Pierre Boyer, also cried out to be recognized by the western hemisphere’s first and still most enduring republic. President Adams, often remembered for his actions against slavery in the House of Representatives and his argument before the Supreme Court on behalf of the rebellious slaves of the Spanish slave ship Amistad, was reluctant to extend recognition to the Haitians. The most important diplomatic effort during their control of foreign policy was the meeting of the Panama Congress in 1826. But, according to one historian, “Long before Congress took up the Panama mission, the administration decided against any formal or informal alliance with the Spanish American nations, any possible recognition of Haiti, and any sign of encouragement for revolutionizing Cuba.”[40] Southerners were alarmed that American commissioners would be required to meet on an equal footing with black Haitian representatives or, more ominously, that the Panama Congress would call for Haiti’s recognition. Clay acknowledged that “the independence of the Haytian Government must shortly be recognized.” President Adams stayed true to “the course of the late Administration upon that subject.”[41] By the time American commissioners were approved by the Senate and had finally arrived in Panama, the congress had already met and disbanded.[42]

The debate in the Senate did not help U.S.-Haitian relations at all. Henry Clay had to remind the consul for Port au Prince, Andrew Armstrong, that, “Our policy must be regulated by our own sense of our interests and duties, whether it be conformable to the wishes of the Government of Hayti or not.”[43] As for any potential negative response from Boyer’s government in terms to American trade: “At all events the Government could not be driven from the line of policy which it has at present marked out, by apprehensions of any non-intercourse which the Government of Hayti might think proper to ordain to effect that purpose.”[44] Monroe’s concerns with the Haitian government, that they were discriminatory in their trade duties and prevented white property ownership, investments, etc. became the focus of Boyer in revitalizing the domestic economy of his country and gaining diplomatic recognition from the United States. The Haitian government moved toward free trade in 1828, or at least as near a version of it as the mulatto-run government could safely put forward without incurring the wrath of the black majority.[45] Samuel Israel reported to Clay in the summer of 1828 that Boyer believed that “when all nations are placed upon the same footing” the “U States will then no doubt acknowledge their Independence.”[46] Whether this would have occurred under a second Adams administration (as the projected date of equalization was in 1830) is unknowable, but given the precedent up to that point one would have to conclude that it was highly unlikely. Given that the slave-owning Southerner Jackson confronted near secession over his policies on tariffs, one can scarcely imagine the response of South Carolina radicals if the New Englander Adams had recognized Haiti during the same period.

* * *

In 1843, Daniel Webster quit the post of Secretary of State out of disgust with President John Tyler. The President, banished from the Whig party that had elected him Vice-President in 1840 and unwelcome in the Democratic Party that remembered he was an enemy of Andrew Jackson, was trying to create a niche for himself in the upcoming Presidential race by pushing the issue of annexing the Republic of Texas into the forefront of national debate. The move failed and succeeded all at once. The issue forced the Whig candidate, Henry Clay, to hint that he might not oppose annexing Texas and thus angered his northern base of support, while it made Southern Democrats wary of Martin Van Buren’s reliability on the Texas question, instead turning to the Tennessean, James K. Polk. John Tyler was left out of the contest and failed to win reelection, even though it was he who had succeeded in annexing Texas and causing a crisis which led to more than one war.[47] Webster’s successor was Abel P. Upshur, but his service lasted only half a year. Upshur was replaced by a man as hard-pressed to find and keep a political party as the President he served, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.

Calhoun was a man who had shucked the nationalism of his early career in the House of Representatives in favor of the self-appointed role as spokesman for the South. He had led the efforts of South Carolinians in resisting and nullifying President Andrew Jackson’s tariff measures and the Force Bill, passed to make sure South Carolina could not, in fact, nullify anything. The remainder of his career was spent in and out of Congress, broken only in 1844 when he was appointed to the post of Secretary of State. His last time in a cabinet had been his two terms as Secretary of War under James Monroe. Calhoun was a man who could, without any sense of contradiction, thunder in the Senate: “It is proposed, from a vague, indefinite, erroneous, and most dangerous conception of private individual liberty, to overrule the common liberty which a people have of framing their own constitution!” while trying to make sure that the balance of free and slave states remained the same.[48] His was a mind that could view the crisis in 1850, again without any sense of contradiction, as one in which “simple justice” had to prevail: “The North has only to will it to accomplish it [save the union]—to do justice by conceding to the South an equal right in the acquired territory, and to do her duty by causing stipulations relative to fugitive slaves to be faithfully fulfilled—to cease the agitation of the slave question.”[49]

That Calhoun was a brilliant man in many ways does not change the fact that he was morally blind. Whereas Jefferson could at the very least acknowledge slavery as an evil that should be done away with, Calhoun only saw fault with those who agitated against it. It was an unjust violation of “liberty” to pressure the south on slavery, or to even prevent territories from legalizing slavery. This is the perverted logic of the pro-slavery argument, and John C. Calhoun brought it with him wherever he went, be that the States Department or the U.S. Senate.
Calhoun could not have arrived at a more important time for Haiti. Fed up with rule by the mulatto Haitian elite under Jean-Pierre Boyer, the culturally Spanish eastern part of Hispaniola rebelled, eventually creating the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic would be promptly recognized by the United States as the black majority in Haiti deposed Boyer’s regime. The American Consul in Kingston, Jamaica wrote to Calhoun with his own thoughts on the Haitian experiment in self-government: “After nearly fifty years of full possession of so fine and fruitful an Island as Haiti, its people making little or no progress in civilisation, and remaining nearly stationary in their difficienties of all sorts, prove indisputably their want of energy and industry, and that something is faulty in their intellectual powers; and that indolence and idleness overpower and inslave the Haitian Citizens! Unfortunate effect of a fine climate, a beautiful sky, and too generous a Soil!”[50] Calhoun accepted the paranoid fears of race war and racism that lay at the heart of colonization, but he used these concerns as an excuse to keep blacks enslaved as opposed to sending blacks away as a way of ending slavery. Slavery, while being of obvious financial benefit to slave-owners, was also advantageous and beneficial to the slave in the universe of pro-slavery thought. Calhoun declared to William King, the U.S. Minister to France:

Where statistical facts, not to be shaken, prove, that the freed negro, after the experience of sixty years, is in a far worse condition, than in the other States, where he has been left in his former condition. No; the effect of what is called abolition, where the number is few, is not to raise the inferior race to the condition of freemen but to deprive [the negro] of the guardian care of his owner, subject to all the depression and oppression belonging to his inferior condition.[51]

The wholesale context dropping engaged in by Calhoun and others, forgetting that the “prosperity” and alleged civilization of pre-revolt Saint-Domingue was built entirely upon a grave injustice, allowed them to rationalize their way around the enlightenment’s fading legacy.
The revolution of slaves against their French masters had been greeted with fear and hesitation in the United States, but the revolution of whites and mulattos in the eastern part of the island against the Haitians, leading to the creation of the Dominican Republic was met with optimism and interest. Calhoun corresponded several times with the representative of the Dominican Republic to the United States, Dr. José M. Caminero, before his tenure as Secretary of State ended, about the prospects of recognition for the new republic. Calhoun told Caminero that President Tyler “has read your memoir with much interest and that he trusts that the people of the Dominican Republic will be able to maintain the independence they have declared and the government they have adopted.”[52] Calhoun sent along his thoughts and wishes concerning the Dominican Republic to his successor at the State Department, James Buchanan: “I hope, if it [a report] should be favourable, the administration will not hesitate to recognize the independence of the Republick, as soon as it can be done.” Calhoun added, “Should the Dominican Republick sustain itself, it opens a prospect of restoring the Island again to the Domain of commerce & civilization.”[53]

James Buchanan was not a pro-slavery man in the sense of a John C. Calhoun, but he was certainly no Henry Clay either. A Pennsylvanian by birth, Buchanan was a northern Democratic “doughface.” A man of genteel proclivities, he was clearly at home among effete Southerners who he surrounded himself with and who brought him into the highest echelons of power. So while he may have found slavery distasteful, he was never one to think the issue was anything more than a rousing partisan gimmick. What Buchanan shared with Calhoun has a frightening moral blindness and inability to see the world for what it was. One scholar of Buchanan has summed him up this way: “Less heed was paid to enemies at home—the forces at work to dissolve the Union. To the end, he did not believe that expansion would contribute to a Civil War. It would all pass. The sacred Constitution would triumph, anger would subside, hearts would be cleansed of hate, and reason would conquer evil. Slavery would slowly die. Cuba would become a state of the Union, and the slave traffic would cease.”[54] His inability to identify things properly in the world around him assured him a top spot among his pro-slavery Southern allies, not to mention the general derision of history.

Buchanan’s attitude towards Haiti was informed by his, along with many Southerners, almost consuming obsession with obtaining Cuba from Spain before it should descend into chaos or be seized by a foreign power like Great Britain or France. An even greater nightmare was that Spain would, in order to retain control of her colony, emancipate the slaves – setting in motion the events to create another Haiti less than 100 miles from the shores of the American south. Ironically, the controversial effort to annex Texas and then go to war with Mexico, which consumed Buchanan’s time as Secretary of State, sapped the country’s tolerance and desire for “Manifest Destiny.” By the time Buchanan and President Franklin Pierce tried to implement a policy to gain Cuba in the early 1850s, the will to do so outside of the South was fading fast. Buchanan saw the importance of acquiring Cuba as a way to prevent blacks from taking over the island: “And should a black government, like that of Haiti, be established there, it would endanger peace and domestic security of a large and influential portion of our people. To come to the point—it has been publicly stated … over and over again in the United States and Spain, should she find it impossible to retain the Island, will emancipate the slaves upon it, and the British Government … [will] persuade her to pursue the course.”[55] This was the extent of Buchanan’s concern for the union; would Southerners be able to survive the “Africanization” of Cuba? Of much more importance was the organization of the territories newly acquired from Mexico. Would they be slave or free territory? Who would decide? How? These questions and their answers would consume the nation and realign politics until Americans decided to replace the ballot box with the cannon and rifle. Buchanan could not see these other questions because he had no conception of the premises they were based upon. There was a reason that the country could not get rid of slavery or recognize Haiti until “doughfaces” like Buchanan and pro-slavery Southerners were out of office.

* * *

The antebellum history of U.S.-Haitian relations is not a particularly inspiring or courageous story. The early Presidents, while acknowledging the evil of slavery and contemplating its end, could not bring about the recognition of Haiti because of the tremendous strain such an action could put on the Union. This does not mean that their foreign policy was “pro-slavery” but that it was subordinated to objects of higher priority. Were the foreign policy of the United States actually “pro-slavery” under the early administrations the United States would not have continued trading with the Haitians and would not have declared neutrality in the conflict between the blacks and the Europeans. While it would have been extremely dangerous to side with the ex-slaves against France, it would have been relatively safe for the United States to pledge support to the French in their attempt to conquer the island in 1802. For that neutrality, the Haitians succeeded in destroying a French army, with the unintended benefit of Louisiana becoming a feather in Jefferson’s cap.

During the Presidencies of James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, the United States committed itself firmly to squashing the slave trade and to maintaining the Union. The appointment of commissioners to the Panama Conference in 1826 was an incident illustrative of how disruptive the issue of Haiti could still be. Even those who favored recognition of Haiti, like Henry Clay, still did not know what to make of the place and objected to strengthening the numbers of the island by sending American Colonization Society ships there. The concerns of Monroe, Adams, and Clay were attuned much more to sectional harmony. They could recognize the Latin American republics without objection, but recognition of Boyer’s government threatened the harmony of the Union and was thus avoided. The moral commitment against slavery still remained with these men, but this group of leaders was soon to be replaced by another set less inclined to admit Africans into the family of man.

The pro-slavery men who controlled American foreign policy in the 1840s actually thought slavery was a positive good. Their foreign policy reflected that. They attempted to protect slavery in the United States by preventing slave revolt in Cuba, encouraging movements against the black government of Haiti, and criticizing efforts to abolish slavery at home and abroad. John C. Calhoun and James Buchanan led the foreign policy of the United States into a morally ambiguous nether region from which it could not recover until the purging fires of Civil War removed those who had tainted it.

For Haiti, the failure of the United States to recognize its independence was as demoralizing as Toussaint’s anger and shame at not receiving a letter of introduction when Tobias Lear was sent to him in 1801. Haitians could not, and did not, want to understand America’s “delicate interest” in dealing with their republic. That they had to was a great failure of U.S. diplomacy, no matter what motivated it.

[1] Works which tie the Haitian Revolution into the wider ideological context of this period include Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996); A Turbulent Time, eds. David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997); and The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, ed. David P. Geggus (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001).
[2] Tim Matthewson, A Proslavery Foreign Policy (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), vii.
[3] Ibid, viii.
[4] See Tim Matthewson, “Jefferson and the Nonrecognition of Haiti,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 140, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), 22-48.
[5] Gordon S. Brown, Toussaint’s Clause (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005), 7.
[6] Matthewson, “Jefferson and the Nonrecognition of Haiti,” 25, 29.
[7] Andrew Armstrong to Henry Clary, 25 January 1826, The Papers of Henry Clay, eds. James F. Hopkins and Mary W. M. Hargreaves (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1973), Vol. 5, 60-61.
[8] For a discussion of the move towards recognition see Charles H. Wesley, “The Struggle for the Recognition of Haiti and Liberia as Independent Republics,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Oct., 1917), 369-383.
[9] The great exception to this is the effort of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan to obtain Cuba from Spain through purchase and intimidation in the 1850s. This movement was informed by fears of the Haitian Revolution, only this time on an island perilously close to the United States. See Frederick Moore Binder, James Buchanan and the American Empire (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1994); and David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, completed and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher (New York: HarperPerennial, 1976), 177-198.
[10] For an excellent work that does just that, and more, see Rayford W. Logan, The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1941).
[11] For more on these two topics as they relate to American reaction to the Haitian Revolution see Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution (New York: Vintage Books, 1956), 20; Winthrop Jordan, White Over Black (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 375-402; and Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 129.
[12] Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolutions, 1750-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 112-13.
[13] Two particularly useful and informative books on the Haitian Revolution itself are Thomas O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789-1804 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1973); and Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004).
[14] Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 5 February 1799, The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826, ed. James Morton Smith (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), 1092-93.
[15] Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 12 February 1799, The Republic of Letters, 1095.
[16] Brown, Toussaint’s Clause, 179-186.
[17] Tobias Lear to James Madison, 20 July 1801, The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, eds. Robert J. Brugger, Robert Rhodes Crout, Dru Dowdy, Robert A. Rutland, and Jeanne K. Sisson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), Vol. 1, 445.
[18] Tobias Lear to James Madison, 17 July 1801, Papers of Madison: Sec. of State Series, Vol. 1, 427-28.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] David Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979), 29.
[22] John Marshall to Toussaint L’Ouverture, 26 November 1800, The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles F. Hobson (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), Vol. 6, 22.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Tobias Lear to James Madison, 17 July 1801, Papers of Madison: Sec. of State Series, Vol. 1, 427-28.
[25] Joseph I. Shulim, The Old Dominion and Napoleon Bonaparte (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952), 115-6; Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier, 28-32; Robert L. Paquette, “Revolutionary Saint Domingue in the Making of Territorial Louisiana,” A Turbulent Time, 204-211; and Alan Schom, Napoleon Bonaparte (New York: HarperPerennial, 1997), 346, 389.
[26] Tobias Lear to James Madison, 11 December 1801; Tobias Lear to James Madison, 12 February 1802, The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, eds. Mary A. Hackett, J.C.A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), Vol. 2, 306; 462.
[28] James Madison to Tobias Lear, 26 February 1802, Papers of Madison: Sec. of State Series, Vol. 2, 490.
[29] Tobias Lear to James Madison, 22 March 1802, The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, eds. David B. Mattern, J.C.A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995), Vol. 3, 60.
[30] Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 13 January 1803, Thomas Jefferson: Writings, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Library of America, 1984), 1113.
[31] Alexander Hamilton, 5 July 1803, “Purchase of Louisiana,” Alexander Hamilton: Writings, ed. Joanne B. Freeman (New York: Library of America, 2001), 996-7.
[32] Thomas Jefferson to Henri Gregoire, 25 February 1809, Jefferson: Writings, 1202.
[33] Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 25 December 1820, Jefferson: Writings, 1450. See also Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 4 February 1824, Jefferson: Writings, 1486.
[34] James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, quoted by Harry Ammon, James Monroe (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1971), 187. See also Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), 87-88.
[35] James Monroe to John Quincy Adams, 3 August 1820, quoted by James P. Lucier in The Political Writings of James Monroe, ed. James P. Lucier (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2001), 295.
[36] See James E. Lewis, The American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 257.
[37] James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 30 June 1823, The Writings of James Monroe, ed. Stanislaus Murray Hamilton (New York: AMS Press, 1969), Vol. 6, 316-7.
[38] For more on this see Drew R. McCoy, The Last of the Fathers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 279-286.
[39] Henry Clay to Gentlemen of the Colonization Society of Kentucky, Frankfurt, KY, 17 December 1829, The Papers of Henry Clay, ed. Robert Seager II (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984), Vol. 8, 152-3.
[40] Lewis, American Union and the Problem of Neighborhood, 265.
[41] Ibid. See also Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991), 299.
[42] James E. Lewis, John Quincy Adams (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001), 99-116.
[43] Henry Clay to Andrew Armstrong, 14 June 1826, The Papers of Henry Clay, eds. James F. Hopkins and Mary W. M. Hargreaves (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1973), Vol. 5, 434-5.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Robert K. Lacerte, “Xenophobia and Economic Decline: The Haitian Case, 1820-1843,” The Americas, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Apr., 1981), 507-9, 512-5.
[46] Samuel Israel to Henry Clay, 11 July 1828, The Papers of Henry Clay, ed. Robert Seager II (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1982), Vol. 6, 382.
[47] Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 162-207.
[48] John C. Calhoun, “Speech on His Resolution on the Slave Question,” 19 February 1847, John C. Calhoun: Selected Writings and Speeches, ed. H. Lee Cheek, Jr. (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2003), 637.
[49] John C. Calhoun, “Speech on the Slavery Question,” 4 March 1850, Calhoun: Selected Writings and Speeches, 706.
[50] Robert Morton Harrison to John C. Calhoun, 4 May 1844, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. Clyde N. Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), Vol. 18, 434.
[51] John C. Calhoun to William R. King, 12 August 1844, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. Clyde N. Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990), Vol. 19, 576.
[52] John C. Calhoun to Dr. José M. Caminero, 21 February 1845, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. Clyde N. Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993), Vol. 21, 336.
[53] John C. Calhoun to James Buchanan, 30 August 1845, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. Clyde N. Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995), Vol. 22, 97-8.
[54] Binder, James Buchanan and the American Empire, 275.
[55] James Buchanan, quoted in Binder, James Buchanan and the American Empire, 202.