Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding

Overview

That New England might invade Virginia is inconceivable today. But interstate rivalries and the possibility of intersectional war loomed large in the thinking of the Framers who convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to put on paper the ideas that would bind the federal union together.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin rejoiced that the document would "astonish our enemies, who are waiting to hear with confidence . . . that our States are on the point of ...

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Overview

That New England might invade Virginia is inconceivable today. But interstate rivalries and the possibility of intersectional war loomed large in the thinking of the Framers who convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to put on paper the ideas that would bind the federal union together.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin rejoiced that the document would "astonish our enemies, who are waiting to hear with confidence . . . that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats."

Usually dismissed as hyperbole, this and similar remarks by other Founders help us to understand the core concerns that shaped their conception of the Union. By reexamining the creation of the federal system of the United States from a perspective that yokes diplomacy with constitutionalism, Hendrickson's study introduces a new way to think about what is familiar to us.

This groundbreaking book tells the story of how thirteen colonies became independent states and found themselves grappling with the classic problems of international cooperation. The founding generation, Hendrickson argues, developed a sophisticated science of international politics relevant both to the construction of their own union and to the foreign relations of "the several states in the union of the empire." The centrality of this discourse, he contends, must severely qualify conventional depictions of early American political thought as simply "liberal" or "republican."

Hendrickson also takes issue with conventional accounts of early American foreign policy as "unilateralist" or "isolationist" and insists that the founding generation belonged to and made distinguished contributions to the constitutional tradition in diplomacy, the antecedent of twentieth-century internationalism. He describes an American system of states riven by deep sectional animosities and powerful loyalties and explains why in such a milieu the creation of a durable union often appeared to be a quixotic enterprise. The book culminates in a consideration of the making of the federal Constitution, here styled as a peace pact or experiment in international cooperation.

Peace Pact is an important book that promises to revolutionize our understanding of the era of revolution and constitution-making. Written in a lucid and accessible style, the book is an excellent introduction to the American founding and its larger significance in American and world history.

This book is part of the American Political Thought series.


About the Author:
David C. Hendrickson is professor of political science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He is the coauthor of Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson and The Fall of the First British Empire: Origins of the War of American Independence.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700612376
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Series: American Political Thought Ser.
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 Introduction
1 To Philadelphia 3
2 The Great Debate of 1788 8
3 The Unionist Paradigm 14
4 An Experiment in International Cooperation 24
Pt. 2 The Lessons of History
5 An Age of Inquiry 33
6 Greece and Rome 36
7 Universal Monarchy and the Balance of Power: The View from the Eighteenth Century 40
8 Republiques Federative and Machiavellian Moments 47
9 The British Setting: Continental Connections and the Balanced Constitution 55
Pt. 3 The British Empire and the American Revolution
10 From War to War 67
11 Constitutional Crisis 70
12 Burden-Sharing and Representation 75
13 Plans of Union and the Imperial Predicament 80
14 "The Great Serbonian Bog" 86
15 Rights and Wrongs, Prophets and Seers 90
16 Independence and Union 104
Pt. 4 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union
17 Problematics of Union 115
18 The "Dickinson Plan" 127
19 Deadlock and Compromise 138
20 The Basis of Congressional Authority 150
Pt. 5 A Foreign Policy of Independence
21 Foundations of the New Diplomacy 161
22 States, Sections, and Foreign Policy 177
23 The Armistice of 1783 194
Pt. 6 Peace Pact: The Writing and Ratification of the Constitution
24 Vices of the Critical Period 211
25 To the Great Compromise 220
26 Commerce, Slavery, and Machiavellian Moment 232
27 "A Feudal System of Republics" 242
28 Federals and Anti-Federals 249
29 Conclusion 257
A Note on Capitalization, Style, and Bibliography 261
Appendix: The Argument Diagramed 263
Figure 1 Associations of States: Comparative State Systems and Empires 274
Figure 2 Constitutional Interpretation: Varieties of Federal Union, 1763-1787 275
Figure 3 American Political Thought: The Unionist Paradigm, c. 1776 276
Figure 4 Theories of American Politics 277
Figure 5 American Diplomacy and Theories of International Relations 278
Figure 6 Objectives, Doctrines, and Principles of Early American Diplomacy 279
Figure 7 General Map of the Interpretation 280
The Constitution in History: A Bibliographical Essay 281
List of Short Titles 299
Notes 307
Index 391
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