How did nationalistic attitudes, which were so evident in domestic affairs, influence American foreign policy between 1810 and 1830?



            …In assuming her station among the civilized nations of the earth it would seem that our country had contracted the engagement to contribute her share of mind, of labor, and of expense to the improvement of those parts of knowledge which lie beyond the reach of individual acquisition, and particularly to geographical and astronomical science. Looking back to the history only of the half century since the declaration of our independence, and observing the generous emulation with which the Governments of France, Great Britain, and Russia have devoted the genius, the intelligence, the treasures of their respective nations to the common improvement of the species in these branches of science, is it not incumbent upon us to inquire whether we are not bound by obligations of a high and honorable character to contribute our portion of energy and exertion to the common stock? The voyages of discovery prosecuted in the course of that time at the expense of those nations have not only redounded to their glory, but to the improvement of human knowledge. We have been partakers of that improvement and owe for it a sacred debt, not only of gratitude, but of equal or proportional exertion in the same common cause…

            [I invite] the attention of Congress to the subject of internal improvements…

            I would suggest the expediency of connecting the equipment of a public ship for the exploration of the whole Northwest coast of this continent....

            The establishment of a uniform standard of weights and measures was one of the specific objects contemplated in the formation of our Constitution, and to fix that standard was one of the powers delegated by express terms in that instrument to Congress....

            Connected with the establishment of a university, or separate from it, it might be undertaken the creation of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer, to be in constant attendance of observation upon the phenomena of the heavens, and for the periodical publication of his observations…

Source:  John Quincy Adams, First Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1825.



            Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!

Source:   Stephen Decatur, Toast given at Norfolk, Virginia, April 1816.



Mr. Grundy, December 9:

            What, Mr. Speaker, are we now called on to decide? It is, whether we will resist by force, the attempt, made by that government, to subject our maritime rights to the arbitrary and capricious rule of her will; for my part I am not prepared to say that this country shall submit to have her commerce interdicted or regulated, by any foreign nation. Sir, I prefer war to submission. Over and above these unjust pretensions of the British Government, for many years past they have been in the practice of impressing our seamen, from merchant vessels; this unjust and lawless invasion of personal liberty, calls loudly for the interposition of this Government.…

Mr. Randolph, December 16

            Sir, if you go to war it will not be for the protection of, or defense of your maritime rights. Gentlemen from the North have been taken up to some high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the earth; and Canada seems tempting to their sight. That rich vein of Gennesee land, which is said to be even better on the other side of the lake than on this. Agrarian cupidity, not maritime right, urges the war. Ever since the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations came into the House, we have heard but one word- like the whip-poor-will, but one eternal monotonous tone- Canada! Canada! Canada!

Source:  Debate in the House of Representatives, December 1811.



            …Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever was success so complete.  If we look to the history of other nations, ancient or modern, we find examples of a growth so rapid, so gigantic, of a people so prosperous and happy.  In contemplating what we have still to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features which characterize it, and that is to be done by preserving the virtue and enlightening the minds of the people; and as a security against foreign dangers to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to the support of our independence, our rights and liberties.  If we preserve in the career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced, we cannot fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the high destiny which seems to await us…

Source:  James Monroe’s First Inaugural Address, 1817.



            …We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.  With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.  But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States…

Source:  The Monroe Doctrine, 1823.



            …We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.  Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just case into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contest or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable reestablishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government.  In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation…

Source:   James Madison, War Message to Congress, 1812.



            America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence shall be, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in front of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

Source:  John Quincy Adams, 1821. 



            That intimate connection which generally attends free commercial intercourse, the strong ties which are formed by mutual interest, and the interchange of good offices, bind together individuals of different countries, and are well-calculated to cherish those friendly sentiments, those amicable dispositions which at present unite Virginia to a considerable portion of the Western people. At all times, the cultivation of these dispositions must be desirable; but, in the vicissitude of human affairs, in that mysterious future, which is in reserve, and is yet hidden from us, events may occur to render their preservation too valuable to be estimated in dollars and cents. The advantages which may result to Virginia from opening this communication with the western country will be shared in common with her by the states of Kentucky and Ohio…the proposition that a nation finds its true interest in multiplying its channels of importation, admitting them to be equally convenient, is believed to be unconvertible.…

            The whole of that extensive and fertile country, a country increasing in wealth and population with a rapidity which baffles calculation, must make its importations up the Mississippi alone, or through the Atlantic states....

            The advantages to accrue to the United States, from opening this new channel of intercourse between the eastern and western states, are those which necessarily result to the whole body from whatever benefits its members, and those which must result to the United States, particularly, from every measure which tends to cement more closely their union of the eastern with the western states.

Source:  Chief Justice John Marshall, December 26, 1812.



            …In the establishment of the independence of Spanish American, the United States have the deepest interest.  He had no hesitation in asserting his firm belief, that there was no question, in the foreign policy of this country which had ever arisen, or which he could conceive as ever occurring, in the decision of which we had so much at stake.  This interest concerned our politics, our commerce, our navigation.  There could not be a doubt that Spanish America, once independent, whatever might be the form of the governments established in its several parts, those governments would be animated by an American feeling, and guided by an American policy....

            If, then, there be an established Government in Spanish America, deserving to rank among the nations, we normally and politically bound to acknowledge it, unless we renounced all the principles which ought to guide, and which hitherto had guided, our councils…

Source:  Henry Clay on the Independence of Latin America, 1818.



            Are we doomed to behold our industry languish and decay yet more and more?  But there is a remedy, and that remedy consists in modifying our foreign policy, and in adopting a genuine American system.  We must naturalize the arts in our country; and we must naturalize them by the only means which the wisdom of nations has yet discovered to be effectual—by adequate protection against the otherwise overwhelming influence of foreigners.  This is only to be accomplished by the establishment of a tariff, to the consideration of which I am now brought…The sole object of the tariff is to tax he produce of foreign industry with the view of promoting American industry.  The tax is exclusively leveled at foreign industry.

Source:  Henry Clay, Speech in Congress, 1824. 




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     <> 15 February 2002.

I.   Clay, Henry.  "Henry Clay on the Independence of Latin America, 1818."  Annals of Congress.  15th
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J.  Clay, Henry.  "Speech in Congress."  31 March 1824. United States History: Preparing for the
     Advanced Placement Exam.  Newman, John J.,  and Schmalbach, John M.  New York: Amsco
     School Publications, Inc., 2002. 164.



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