59. FOREIGN POLICY. The diplomacy, negotiations and treaties of the United States since the beginning of the national government in 1775 are connected with more than 50 foreign governments, cover a period of over 140 years and apply to a great number of subjects. To analyze the national policy either by topics or by the -governments concerned would require a volume. On the other hand, an historical survey of the successive epochs and episodes of American diplomacy may be brought into mod erate space, because the main lines of policy have been simple and easy to trace.
Diplomatic Procedure.— From 1775 to 1789 Congress, as the mainspring of govern ment, was the source of all diplomatic authority, the framer of instructions and the maker of treaties. During the Revolution, Congress com missioned foreign ministers to most of the Continental great powers and they were for mally received by France and Holland. After the peace, Prussia, Sweden and Great Britain entered into diplomatic relations; and in course of time all the other European states sent min isters.
Under the Federal Constitution, the power to appoint ministers and ratify treaties was placed in the hands of the President with the advice and consent of the Senate; and the com missions, correspondence and instructions all proceeded from the President or the Secretary of State, who was practically subject to his di rection. From 1797 to 1829, each of the five successive Presidents came into office with large diplomatic experience. Almost all the en voys also were men of public responsibility, trained for their duties.
Since Jackson's time, both Presidents and Secretaries of State have frequently been men of small experience outside the boundaries of their own country, and sometimes of little pre vious public service at home. Presidents Polk, Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, McKinley and Wil son had no previous knowledge of courts, and with one or two exceptions had been out of their own country. Such secretaries as Van Buren, Webster, Buchanan, Blaine and Hay were trained statesmen; others came into office little known even to their own country men.
Most appointments to foreign missions were made from a class of well-to-do gentlemen who were novices in politics, or from literary men, such as Washington Irving, James Russell Low ell and John Hay. The policy of each succes sive administration was to carry on its rela tions with other countries through men of nat ural force of character and sagacity who knew little of diplomatic usages. Nevertheless the
diplomacy of the United States has always had the advantages of directness, vigor and free dom from the complications and intrigues of European diplomacy.
Independence and Territory (1775-89).— The first diplomatic object of the Continental Congress was to make friends abroad, who would aid the infant United States against Great Britain. The treaties with France in 1778 were contrary to all the previous tradi tions of the colonies and brought about the only military alliance between the United States and any foreign power, before 1917.
The practical effect was to incline England to agree to the favorable terms of peace negotiated in Paris in 1782. With great skill and perti nacity, the American envoys secured an agree ment that independence should be admitted be fore any other conditions were made—not as a gift or a makeweight but as a recognition of a political and international fact.
Another success was the adjustment of boundaries. Our envoys obtained from Great Britain an acknowledgment of territory which doubled the area of the 13 former colonies and prepared the way for an empire in the West. Canada, for which the United States at one time hoped, was not included; but in the Northwest and Southwest, Great Britain withdrew all claims and the Mississippi became the boundary.
Early Expansion (1803-19).-- The bounds of the treaty of 1782 excluded the United States from the natural outlet of the Great Lakes; but the Erie Canal and the trunk rail road lines later made good that defect. The United States was also left with no frontage on the Gulf of Mexico. That made it an essential American policy to secure the strip of Spanish territory which shut them off from tide-water on the south. A lucky chance, of which Presi dent Jefferson skilfully took advantage, made it possible to annex the lower Mississippi in 1803, and with it the whole western part of Louisiana extending far into the Rocky Moun tains. This gave a narrow approach to the Gulf, which was broadened by the forcible oc cupation of West Florida (1810-13) and by the annexation of East Florida in 1819. On the northwest, the discovery of the Columbia River (1792), the exploration of Lewis and Clark (1806) and the founding of the post of Astoria (1811) laid the foundations for an ex tension of territory to the Pacific.