State formation in north america, Humanities

The story of state formation in North America is similar. One difference is that the struggle for territory after the beginnings of European settlement was initially driven exogenously by con?icts between the great powers back in Europe, as much as by rivalries endogenous to North America. In the early stages, the process somewhat resembled the struggle for territory in nine-teenth-century Africa. Most of the early wars there were branches of con temporaneous wars in Europe, whether the Anglo-Dutch wars, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years War or whatever. Through these contests, ?rst the Swedish colonies and then the Dutch were eliminated, and later French and Spanish power was broken. The various Indian tribes were also involved in these struggles as allies of the European powers, and were simultaneously engaged in an elimination contest amongst themselves. Gradually, however, the struggles came to be shaped much more by endogenous forces.

This is not the place to retell the story of how American Independence came about, except to say that the taxation to which the settlers did not wish to contribute without representation arose from the costs of military control over a much larger territory after the effective elimination of the French from Canada and the trans-Appalachian region. But there is another side to the story besides this familiar one. The British had intended to reserve the Ohio Valley for their Iroquois allies, but settlers were already pressing westwards. As has been recognised at least since Theodore Roosevelt wrote The Winning of the West (1889-99), the War of Independence was also a war over the control of conquests. The colonials were also colonisers.

I shall not dwell upon what has been called the American Holocaust (Stan-nard 1992), save to say that westward expansion at the expense of the Native Americans was driven by the pressure of land-hungry migrants pushing for-ward in advance of effective federal government control of the territory, in contrast with policies followed in the settlement of Canada and Siberia. The scenes with which we are familiar from the Western movies are a glamorised version of a process of conquest and internal paci?cation. Americans are fond of pointing out that they bought much of their ter-ritory rather than conquering it by force of arms. That is certainly true of the Louisiana Purchase, which in 1803 doubled the federal territory. It arose, however, out of a particularly favourable conjunction in European power poli-tics, when it suited Napoleon to be rid of extraneous responsibilities. It is also true that another huge acquisition of land took place when the United States paid Mexico for a vast swathe of territory. But that was only after it had impressed upon Mexico that this was an offer it could not refuse, by invading that unfortunate country and sacking its capital city. ‘Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States', as President Porfírio Diáz later remarked. Ulysses Grant, who served as a young of?cer in the Mexican War, regarded the war as ‘one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory'.

Posted Date: 4/26/2013 3:46:46 AM | Location : United States

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