Modern America’s foreign policy has often been put on the hot seat. Should we get involved? Is isolationism our safest bet? Is it worth the risk for our government to deal with foreign issues right now? Are the foreign issues becoming our own?
Long since George Washington said “avoid entangling alliances” have we struggled with relations with foreign nations (and peoples). The struggle has troubled our country since before our brave patriot ancestors declared independence from Great Britain. Our history first began when British colonists began colonizing North America….
Once upon a time, a great influence called the Virginia Company, upon receiving a charter for King James I from England, arrived in North America. They expected the settlement of the New World to be only a short term and highly profitable investment, but, little did they know it would sprout an international powerhouse. On the arrival of these Brits, they first personally encountered the American foreigners, though they themselves were also foreigners, in an attack that forced them to move to a peninsula. Famine, death, and illness loomed over the colonists, nudging them to take from the local Indians both ideas and possessions.
One day, after many months of poor English-Indian relations and colonial suffering, a strong and determined Lord De La Warr arrived in Jamestown Virginia. He announced to the people, “I have instructions from the nurturing motherland to wage war against the Indians. I shall adopt Irish tactics and together we will defeat the natives.” Then, after many long and gruesome days, the first Anglo-Powhatan war was ended by a peace treaty and solidified by the saucy first known interracial marriage between the beautiful Indian princess Pocahontas and the strong John Rolfe. To the horror of the colonists and Indians alike, several Indian attacks still followed in retaliation of the rude actions of the whites. These events would be viewed by some as the first to express the foreign relations of the colonies. Though not yet a country with a unified government, these budding foreign policies, brought upon by the English government, strongly supported the interests of their own while neglecting indecencies towards the Native Americans (the foreigners to the foreigners).
Long, long ago, but not too too long after Jamestown, did the first major conflict involving the colonies (indirectly) and foreign entities occur. Before all the excitement of international war there was once a country more powerful than what would later become the US named France. France had just peeked its big head into North America and was beginning to stir conflict with the already established British. The conflict between them soon rose and evolved into a war involving many other foreign countries, which the British and their colonists would later win. The foreign involvement of the colonies rapidly increased in this battle for North American territory of the Ohio Valley. Under British rule, the colonies were subjected to their foreign policy which, to their advantage, protected the colonies and their North American territory.
The defeat of the French inspired many colonists to become independent. Their aspirations became accomplishments as, after a horrendous war against their once beloved motherland, they signed the Declaration of Independence, completely separating them from Old World rule. As an independent congregation of states, the US had a rocky foreign policy. This was demonstrated in part by the central government’s inability to control trade with foreign nations. The foreign relations were supported by many conflicting laws due to the disunited governments of the states.
Then, after many hot days and months of deliberation, the Constitution was signed and George Washington became the first president of the United States. It was a fairy tale come true for the developing country to be led by such an extraordinary Revolutionary War veteran. His leadership and influence helped keep the country from entering another full scale war. The old nation of England had involved itself in the French Revolution by attempting to seize France’s West Indies. Due to the Franco-American alliance of 1778, the US was bound by foreign policy to aid the defensive French. Washington chose the higher and level headed path by issuing the Neutrality Proclamation in 1793 that announced the government’s neutrality. His decision kept the United States from crumbling under the varying pressures of entering war.
Much happened between then and the time at which Washington retired, however, not much more has so greatly influenced the foreign policy of America as when Washington advised in his farewell speech the “avoidance of permanent alliances” and his support of them for only a temporary time in extraordinary circumstances. The young country took its wise leader’s advice and lived happily ever after. The end.
As illustrated by this story, the foreign policies and relations presented and exercised by the North American United States evolved much over time. They were first introduced and challenged when the British colonists were themselves foreigners dealing with the Native Americans, and later involved when the colonies became more established under British rule, when the colonies became independent from England and began solidifying their own beliefs in foreign relations, and when the United States formed a stable central government that practiced foreign relations that benefited and protected the new country.
Sources: The American Pageant textbook