Building the Continental Empire: American Expansion from the Revolution to the Civil War

Building the Continental Empire: American Expansion from the Revolution to the Civil War

by William Earl Weeks
     
 

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In this fresh survey of foreign relations in the early years of the American republic, William Weeks argues that the construction of the new nation went hand in hand with the building of the American empire. That empire, he maintains, was of fundamental importance to the new nation, and he shows how a dispute over the future of the empire led the nation to civil war.… See more details below

Overview

In this fresh survey of foreign relations in the early years of the American republic, William Weeks argues that the construction of the new nation went hand in hand with the building of the American empire. That empire, he maintains, was of fundamental importance to the new nation, and he shows how a dispute over the future of the empire led the nation to civil war. Mr. Weeks traces the origins of the imperial initiative to the 1750s, when the Founding Fathers began to perceive the advantages of colonial union and the possibility of creating an empire within the British Empire that would provide security and the potential for commerce and territorial expansion. After the adoption of the Constitution - which brought a far stronger central government than had been popularly imagined - the need to expand combined with a messianic American nationalism. The result was Manifest Destiny, a complex of ideas and emotions that rhetorically justified both the nation and the empire. With aggressive diplomacy by successive presidential administrations, the United States built a transcontinental empire and achieved supremacy in the Western Hemisphere. From the acquisition of Louisiana and Florida to the Mexican War, from the Monroe Doctrine to the annexation of Texas, Mr. Weeks describes the ideology and scope of American expansion. Relations with Great Britain, France, and Spain; the role of missionaries, technology, and the federal government, and the issue of slavery that forced a breakdown of the expansionist consensus - these are key elements in this succinct and thoughtful view of the making of the continental nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This concise history argues that American expansionist policies from the Revolution until the 1850s unified the new nation in a consensus that broke down only with Northern opposition to the South's dream of creating slave states that would expand into Latin America. The erosion of this consensus led to the Civil War, according to Weeks, who teaches American history at San Diego State University. The author advances his case in six chapters-administration by administration, from Jefferson to Lincoln-describing how the policies inspired by the assumption of Manifest Destiny strengthened nationalistic fervor through a series of wars he calls imperialistic, which built the nation with "unprecedented speed and ease." A master of no-frills history, Weeks makes his arguments in as few words as possible, rushing on to very tidy conclusions. While clearly and interestingly written, the book is history as overview, lacking local color or opposing opinions. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Historian Weeks (John Quincy Adams, LJ 6/1/92) offers a straightforward survey of American territorial expansion previous to the Civil War. Most of his focus is on diplomatic and political events, but he also covers the intellectual foundations of Manifest Destiny thought. The concluding chapter contains an account of the never-consummated attempts to expand into the Caribbean and Central America. Weeks is objective and succinct, and the book demonstrates solid scholarship. At the same time, the subject is rather too familiar to engage many general readers, few of whom will care to retread ground traveled in their high school studies. Most libraries probably have very full holdings on this subject, and there is little reason for them to add this book. It can, however, be recommended to public, school, and undergraduate collections in need of refreshing their coverage of the area.Fritz Buckallew, Univ. of Central Oklahoma Lib., Edmond
Booknews
In his new history of America's expansion from the Revolution to the Civil War, Weeks argues that the United States was determined not only to build the new nation; presidents from Jefferson to Buchanan also aimed to construct the American "empire," and this goal often went hand in hand with the rise of nationalism. His compact account of the construction of the nation from 1815 to 1861 emphasizes some surprisingly aggressive diplomacy by successive presidential administrations. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566631358
Publisher:
Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
Publication date:
10/28/1996
Series:
American Ways Series
Pages:
189
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.81(d)

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