Union, Nation, or Empire
The American Debate over International Relations, 1789-1941
David C. Hendrickson
Most overviews of American history depict an isolationist country finally dragged kicking and screaming onto the world stage by the attack on Pearl Harbor. David Hendrickson shows that Americans instead conducted often-raucous debates over international relations in the long epoch customarily seen as isolationist-debates that form the ideological origins of today's foreign policy arguments.
Union, Nation, or Empire is a sequel to Hendrickson's acclaimed Peace Pact, in which he identified a "unionist paradigm" that defined America's political understanding in 1787. His new book examines how that paradigm was transformed under the impact of the great wars that followed. Through skillfully drawn portraits of American statesmen, from Hamilton and Jefferson to Wilson and the two Roosevelts, Hendrickson reveals "union, nation, and empire" as fundamental categories of political discourse that have shaped our engagement with the world since 1776.
“Hendrickson’s fresh, richly developed argument deserves careful attention.”
—American Historical Review
“Effectively demonstrates that internationalism was, in the form of federal union, at the center of American discourse consistently from the young republic forward . . . Hendrickson’s effort is ambitious—in some ways challenging, in some ways provocative, but in all ways stimulating. Solidly researched and well written, it should be considered essential reading by all who seek a fresh look at the debates that have driven American foreign policy since the founding.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“Among the many strengths of his interpretative framework, it brings sectional politics and economics back into focus, where others imagine a coherent nation or national elite as ‘actor’ in hemispheric and world affairs. Indeed, it challenges any and all claims to a true, single, or enduring identity of US state and society. It also restores a sense of contingency or open-endedness, as well as comparability with European states, to a course of events that others have long since come to see at once as unique and overdetermined. Highly recommended. General readers, upper division undergraduate students, and above.”
“To be sure, Hendrickson has made an important contribution and not only to the historiography of U.S. foreign relations. By explaining how history and ideas have mediated American diplomatic concepts and choices, Hendrickson makes a powerful case for thinking historically about international relations.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“[This important book] helps recapture the passion, high stakes, and contingency of some of the country’s most contentious foreign policy debates. It provides a welcome and original addition to the literature on early American foreign relations.”
—Political Science Quarterly
“What is doubly refreshing about David Hendrickson’s new book is its frank declaration of an ideological home— ‘a blend or synthesis of constitutional realism and liberal internationalism’—along with its sincere devotion to history for its own sake, as opposed to history as handmaiden to either Right-wing hectoring or Leftist despair. . . . [His book] is a delightful ride, and a deeply instructive one as well. . . . This book is in keeping with its time, a history for a present once again defined by the problems of union, writ large, and by the reassertion of the republican over the imperial.”
—Reviews in American History
“Hendrickson has one big idea, and like all the really good ones, it is brilliantly simple. . . . [the book] has a richly argued narrative steeped in thoughtful, credible analysis of the American past. . . . A rewarding and excellent book.”
—Claremont Review of BooksSee fewer reviews...
Hendrickson argues that the ongoing debate over union, nation, and empire in American history encompasses and illuminates the great questions of international relations—such as whether democracies are as prone to war as monarchies, whether trade promotes peace, or whether empire is compatible with free institutions. Setting these debates in the context of historical events, from the birth of our federal government to America's entry into World War II, he shows the significance of the federal union in our history and demonstrates that internationalism has deep roots in America's past. His assessment of the unionist tradition, in counterpoint to rival ideologies of nationalism and imperialism, includes new insights into the causes of the Civil War and shows how after that conflict the building blocks of the original paradigm were reconstructed to shape the internationalist persuasion in the twentieth century.
Deftly combining intellectual, constitutional, and diplomatic history, this gracefully written work revives the compelling rhetoric of yesterday's statesmen to offer readers a lucid narrative of American international thought. It challenges accepted interpretations of our role in the world as it restores the federal union to its proper place in the understanding of American statecraft.