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Title: The impact of international law on British foreign policy to the United States, 1836-1846
Author: Earles, Charles Graham
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 546X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The impact of international law on British foreign policy to the United States, 1836-1846 (Candidate: Charles Graham Earles, Sidney Sussex College) The decade from 1836 produced major tensions in British-American relations over Canada and the role of the United States as a growing regional and maritime power. American citizens added to the danger of the Canadian rebellion of 1837 through frequent border disturbances, and there was a real risk of war in the case of McLeod. The United States made spectacular gains of territory in Texas and Oregon, and settled the north-eastern boundary controversy. Disputes with Britain arose, but American continental dominance was put beyond doubt. On the seas, pressure from the United States in the "right of search" and Creole incidents ultimately restricted British actions against the slave trade and slavery. This thesis examines the impact of international law on British foreign policy towards the United States during this period. It aims to establish that international law provided the framework and principles within which British policy worked, and disputes were handled. It also intends to show that the conduct of the issues concerned demonstrates that there was a shared British-American respect for international law. These points matter because British policy has traditionally been explained mainly in terms of peace being sought for reasons of global strategy and economic benefit. The role of international law has been largely overlooked. As the thesis aims to demonstrate, however, international law was at the heart of how Britain responded to the United States. British policy, and the maintenance of peace, cannot, accordingly, be fully understood without an appreciation of this legal context. The thesis begins by arguing that international law was able to be influential because it was part of the institutional practice of British foreign policy to the United States. Expert advice was available to the Foreign Office and a series of principles was established by which policy was to be conducted. The thesis then shows how treaties and legal principles made an important impact. A combination of treaty law and principles guided British objectives towards the United States concerning imperial possessions, commerce, the slave trade, and peace. Crucially, law also influenced the handling of issues in the British-American relationship through what was effectively a legal framework shared with the United States. The remainder of the thesis then examines in detail the impact of international law within these themes on the most contentious issues of the period. Canada, the American expansion into Texas and Oregon, and the disputes over the "right of search" and the Creole are each considered separately. The thesis does not argue that British foreign policy to the United States can be explained entirely by international law. Without an enforcing authority, the role of international law was a question of political choice and power. Rather, its main underlying contention is that the acceptance and use of international law in this decade needs to be seen as an important part of the British-American political relationship.
Supervisor: Parry, Jon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: British ; Britain ; United States ; British-American Relationship ; Foreign Policy ; Nineteenth Century ; International Law ; Law of Nations ; Canadian Rebellion ; McLeod ; Caroline ; Maine Boundary ; Oregon ; Texas ; California ; Slave Trade ; Creole ; Peel ; Aberdeen ; Palmerston ; Fox ; Pakenham ; Ashburton ; Dodson