Reading 45

The following passage is taken from a book by George C. Herring titled From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (© 2008 by George C. Herring).

  1. From their foundation, the
  2. American colonies were an
  3. integral part of the British
  4. Empire, and hence of an
  5. Atlantic trading community.
  6. According to the dictates of
  7. mercantilism, then the
  8. dominant school of economic
  9. thought, the colonies supplied
  10. the mother country with
  11. timber, tobacco, and other
  12. agricultural products and
  13. purchased its manufactured
  14. good.
  15. But the Americans also broke
  16. from prescribed trade patterns.
  17. New England and New York
  18. developed an extensive illicit
  19. commerce with French Canada,
  20. even while Britain was at war
  21. with France. They also opened a
  22. lucrative commerce with Dutch
  23. and French colonies in the
  24. West Indies, selling food and
  25. other necessities and buying
  26. sugar more cheaply than it
  27. could be acquired from the
  28. British West Indies. Americans
  29. benefited in many ways from
  30. Britain’s mercantilist Navigation
  31. Acts, but they staunchly resisted
  32. efforts to curb their trade with
  33. the colonies of other European
  34. nations.
  35. The American colonies were also
  36. part of a Eurocentric
  37. “international” community.
  38. Formed at the Peace of
  39. Westphalia in 1648, this new
  40. system sought to end years of
  41. bloody religious strife by
  42. enlarging the stature and role
  43. of the nation-state. Based in
  44. part on concepts developed by
  45. Hugo Grotius, the father of
  46. international law, Westphalia
  47. established principles such as
  48. the sovereign equality of states,
  49. non-interference by one state
  50. in the domestic affairs of others,
  51. peaceful resolution of disputes,
  52. and the obligation to abide by
  53. international agreements.
  54. After Westphalia, diplomacy
  55. and war came under the
  56. purview of civil rather than
  57. religious authority. A corps of
  58. professional diplomats emerged
  59. to handle interstate relations.
  60. A code was produced to guide
  61. their conduct. François de
  62. Callières’s classic manual of the
  63. eighteenth-century diplomatic
  64. art affirmed that negotiations
  65. should be conducted in good
  66. faith, honorably, and without
  67. deceit – “a lie always leaves a
  68. drop of poison behind.” On
  69. the other hand, spies were
  70. essential for information
  71. gathering, and bribes–although
  72. that word was not used—were
  73. encouraged.
  74. Negotiation required keen
  75. powers of observation,
  76. concentration on the task at
  77. hand, sound judgment, and
  78. presence of mind, de Callières
  79. explained. But a “gift presented
  80. in the right spirit, at the right
  81. moment, by the right person,
  82. may act with tenfold power upon
  83. him who receives it.” It was also
  84. important to cultivate the ladies
  85. of the court, for “the greatest
  86. events have sometimes followed
  87. the toss of a fan or the nod
  88. of a head.”
  89. Far from eliminating war, the
  90. new system simply changed the
  91. reasons for fighting and the
  92. means of combat. Issues of war
  93. and peace were decided on the
  94. basis of national interest as
  95. defined by the monarch and
  96. his court. Nation-states acted
  97. on the basis of realpolitik rather
  98. than religious considerations,
  99. changing sides in alliances
  100. when it suited their foreign
  101. policy goals. Rulers deliberately
  102. restricted the means and ends
  103. of combat. They had seen the
  104. costs and dangers of unleashing
  105. the passions of their people.
  106. They had made substantial
  107. investments in their armies,
  108. needed them for domestic
  109. order, and were loath to risk
  110. them in battle.
  111. Once involved in war, they
  112. sought to avoid major battles,
  113. employed professional armies
  114. in cautious strategies of
  115. attrition, used tactics
  116. emphasizing maneuver and
  117. fortification, and held to
  118. unwritten rules protecting
  119. civilian lives and property.
  120. Their aim was to sustain the
  121. balance of power rather than
  122. destroy the enemy. War was
  123. to be conducted with minimal
  124. intrusion into the lives of the
  125. people. Indeed, that master
  126. practitioner of limited war,
  127. Prussia’s Frederick the Great,
  128. once observed that war was
  129. not a success if most people
  130. knew it was going on.