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Title: Internationalism and isolationism in early American foreign affairs, circa 1774 to 1789 : an eighteenth century balance of power perspective
Author: Girn, Kanwaljit Singh
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 9150
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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It is the central argument of this thesis that American foreign policy in its critical founding years involved an active participation in the European balance of power. A framework is presented of American foreign engagement in this period which rejects existing notions of the newly independent nation as diplomatically isolationist from the start. The thesis also rejects two generally accepted origins of isolation, an interpretation of President's Washington's 1796 Farewell Address as a warning against entangling alliances, and of an American neutrality as, what John Adams referred to as a perfect impartiality. Instead, concerns with neutrality and avoidance of alliances which are interchangeably quoted when discussing isolationism, are exposed as nuanced terms that had specific meanings. They are best understood as a framework that mandated a hybrid approach to the creation of policy, within which ideology and realism were given greater relative weight depending on international conditions. Hence, at the commencement of the Revolutionary War, the ideological basis of foreign affairs that rejected political alliances, enshrined in the 1776 Model Treaty, was compromised in favour of a French Treaty. After success in that War, foreign policy took on a subtle complexion. Once independence had been achieved, American statesmen felt compelled to articulate an approach to foreign affairs that, whilst claiming an equality of dealings with European powers, in practice circumvented that neutrality by taking advantage of their rivalries in a rapidly evolving view of American national interest. Analysis of early foreign affairs through this prism of balance of power, illustrates the effectiveness of the emerging, ideologically polarised American nation in confronting the established international structure that was the European equilibrium. An equilibrium designed to contain conflict and restrain power, provided fertile ground for statesmen to achieve the objectives of national interest without compromising the fundamental tenet of the American founding.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral