Following a discussion of what some scholars have seen as “divided loyalties” among immigrants, this article surveys the history of the ethnic influence on U.S. foreign policy from the 1790s to the present. Specific topics include Irish American nationalism and its relationship to republicanism and anti-imperialism in the nineteenth century, the diverse aims of ethnic activism in the era of World War I, the alleged role of ethnic activism in shaping the isolationism that partly characterized U.S. foreign policy between the wars, and the role of U.S.-based diasporas and ethnic lobbies in the era of the Cold War and after. Attention is given to Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Cuban Americans, African Americans, Eastern Europeans, and others. The article closes with a discussion of the potential impact of the recent phenomenon of dual citizenship.
This article discusses the evolution of U.S. civil rights and civil liberties through the lens of Supreme Court decisions. It traces the evolution of negative rights against the state and positive liberties from nineteenth-century property rights decisions through early-twenty-first century decisions regarding same-sex marriage. It also traces the shift in the Court’s approach to rights cases from one in which the state is regarded as a threat to individual rights to one in which the state plays a complex role of balancing rights claims. As well, the article demonstrates that rights claims and cases have become more complex as notions of the “public interest” become more contested when the pursuit of general interests has a disproportionate effect on the interests of particular social groups.
This essay begins by examining the establishment of English political systems in the North American colonies in the seventeenth century. It then goes on to look at eighteenth-century developments, and particularly at the conditions that allowed the colonial assemblies to assume increasing importance in colonial government. The final section considers the efforts made by ministers and officials in London to check the power of the assemblies and assert more control from the imperial center. It sheds fresh light on the great constitutional dispute between London and the colonies that formed an important aspect of the American Revolution.
Federal involvement in communications came early with the development of a national postal system. Yet that involvement was intertwined with and influenced by international developments from the start. This chapter surveys the federal government’s long involvement in communication policy including telegraphy, radio, and the internet. While surveying this involvement, this chapter discusses such issues as antitrust regulation; federal development of communications systems; free speech and restrictive policies; overlapping federal agencies involved in communications; various attempts by the federal government to promote technological development; and the relationship of federal-private technological development.
Timothy J. Lynch
The history of American foreign and defense policy is framed by an enduring debate over the appropriate role of federal power in national politics. From the very beginning, parties formed around the role of the armed forces and how America should conduct its diplomacy. Competition between the branches of government, and the parties therein, over who should direct foreign and defense policy is central to their history. This chapter charts the contours of that competition, most notably between the president and Congress, and then considers the ideas that have driven these often overlapping public policies. It concludes by arguing that whilst this competition is basic to the history of the subject, continuity in foreign and defense policy is also an important part of the story.
Direct democracy was practiced within town meetings in colonial New England, driven by four overarching principles. First, citizens had a political voice as members of a specific geographic community, rather than as individuals. Second, “the mind of the town,” as it was called at the time, could be readily determined through public discourse in meetings of the enfranchised citizenry. Third, this collective will could be relayed to higher governing bodies by issuing specific and binding instructions to elected representatives. Finally, citizens who opposed the mind of the town could be forced to abide by it through community pressure. While the American Revolution elicited its own examples of popular, democratic politics outside of official chambers, the overall trend was in the opposite direction. Formal representational structures generally superseded meetings of the body of the people by liberty trees and liberty polls, county conventions of committees of correspondence, and local committees of safety, inspection, and observation.
Harry L. Watson
The rivalry between the Whig and Democratic Parties, often called the “Second American Party System,” first emerged in Andrew Jackson’s administration (1829–1837). Democrats organized to secure Jackson’s 1828 election, then united behind his program of Indian removal, no federal funding of internal improvements, opposition to the Bank of the United States, defense of slavery, and the “spoils system” that used patronage for party building. Whigs supported Henry Clay’s pro-development American System, sympathized with evangelical reform, and reluctantly accepted Democratic techniques for popular mobilization and party organization. The mature parties competed closely in most states and briefly eased sectional conflict, before splitting in the 1850s over slavery in the territories. Whigs made no presidential nomination in 1856, and the Second Party System disintegrated. As it did, Northern Whigs and antislavery Democrats merged in the Republican Party, southern Whiggery steeply declined, and Democrats survived as the only national party.
John L. Brooke
The twenty-five-year political history of the early American republic, covering the period from the first federal election through the War of 1812, critically shaped the terms and path of American politics over the ensuing two centuries. During this time the United States emerged from the volatility of revolutionary politics to establish the bipolar party structure that has dominated the American political landscape ever since. The central ideological debate over the power of the national government was shaped by classical understandings of politics and by powerfully contested interests. This essay begins with a short chronological summary of the politics of the period, and then turns to the five broad frameworks that historians of the politics of the early republic have addressed over the past half-century: party structure, republican ideology, political culture, slavery, and state-formation.
Eliga H. Gould
William Augustus Bowles was a loyalist soldier during the American Revolution who also acted as an agent for the British governor of the Bahamas. Had events gone his way, he could have become the Anglo-Creek leader of a British protectorate on North America's Gulf Coast, but instead, was considered a pirate and died in a Havana jail in 1805 while awaiting trial. Bowles's saga shows that the British Empire was not only a formal but also an informal empire. None had a greater stake in understanding how Britain's informal empire worked than the citizens of the thirteen states that gained independence from the British in 1783. It would be more accurate to see the American Revolution as the moment when Americans began to make the history that other nations and people were prepared to let them make. In this entangled history, Britain played the most significant role. Three pillars of its informal empire were commerce, diplomacy, and international law.
This chapter explores the interrelated nature of the environmental and energy policies in the United States, particularly since 1900. As new technologies made new sources of energy viable, formal and informal political arrangements and laws were used to prioritize the United States’ ability to acquire necessary supplies. During the twentieth century, the essential need for energy has defined the concept of geopolitics and even served as a rationale for war. By the 1970s and 1980s, a separate policy mandate moved environmental concerns into formal local and federal politics. Although these applications of policy developed distinct from one another, a general chronology of their development from 1900 to the present demonstrates the growing interplay between environmental policy and energy management. In the twenty-first century, a new paradigm of economic development has moved energy and environmental policies together to wrestle with complex issues, including the sustainability of energy supplies and climate change.
James J. Connolly
This chapter traces the ways that ethnic politics evolved in the United States. During the mid-nineteenth century, amid heavy immigration from Europe, ascendant mass parties mobilized newcomers rapidly, spurring nativism. Although the incorporation of immigrants gradually slowed after 1870 and Congress established immigration restriction laws during the 1920s, pluralism remained strong enough to allow the gradual integration of ethnics into the nation’s civic life. The revival of immigration after 1965, chiefly from Latin America and Asia, reinvigorated arguments about ethnic inclusion and nationalism. These debates developed in an altered civic environment, one marked by interest group activism and an emphasis on multiculturalism. Despite these differences, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the incorporation of ethnics during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries proceeded at a pace and in a manner comparable to previous eras.
Wayne J. Urban
This article discusses federal educational policy and provisions, briefly in the nineteenth century and more fully in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It details federal educational activity in the interests of equity and equality, such as desegregation and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. It concentrates on the negative political reaction that has plagued federal educational activity, especially from conservatives suspicious of federal dominance. It also discusses ways around opposition to federal educational involvement, such as federal sponsorship and encouragement of educational endeavors in para-states and nonfederal institutions such as universities. The discussion also highlights federal educational efforts in various twentieth-century administrations, particularly the Truman, Johnson, Carter, and George W. Bush administrations, but also focuses on congressional legislation during those administrations.
Eileen McDonagh and Danielle M. Thomsen
The trajectory of women’s citizenship over the past two centuries reflects the changing political and cultural landscape at various moments in American history as well as a more constant liberal tradition. Women have made clear gains since the nation’s founding, though the rights granted to women came later than those granted to other groups and women continue to face barriers to political inclusion. Two key factors are women’s social construction as maternalists who are associated with the family, which liberal precepts define as separate and different from the state; and the incompatibility of women’s social construction as maternalists with the liberal American heritage that presumes individuals are equal. To promote their political citizenship, women had to transform the identity of the American state to be an institution similar to, not opposite to, the family, and they had to transform the identity of women so that the public and political elites viewed women not only as maternalists but also legally and constitutionally as individuals who were equal to men. To understand the trajectory of women’s political citizenship requires understanding how it is integrated with their social and civil citizenship as well as how that trajectory intersects with partisan disparities in women’s representation through the policies and platforms parties adopt over the course of American political development.
Christy Ford Chapin
This article reviews the history of the U.S. health care system and important themes in the scholarly literature pertaining to the subject. It argues that understanding the politics of health care, including the structure of government programs such as Medicare, requires careful attention to the private sector’s economic framework. This essay traces the development of modern medicine, health care systems in the 20th century, private health insurance, and federal and state health care policy.
Daniel J. Tichenor and Kathryn Miller
Although the United States is a nation shaped by vast waves of immigration over time, Americans have been fighting over policies governing immigrant admissions and rights since the earliest days of the republic. Rival nativist and pro-immigration movements and traditions have yielded marked shifts across U.S. history among national policies designed to stimulate or discourage immigration. The federal government only gradually took control of regulating immigrant flows over the course of the nineteenth century. Since then, national policy has assumed both restrictive and expansive forms. Whereas the creation of an “Asiatic Barred Zone” and national origins quotas in the 1920s imposed draconian barriers to immigration, immigration reforms after 1965 helped fuel the nation’s fourth major wave of immigration dominated by unprecedented numbers of Latin American and Asian newcomers. As underscored by recent battles over family separation and efforts to build a southern border wall, the politics of immigration reform today, as in the past, remain deeply polarizing, as border hawks on the Right and immigrant rights advocates on the Left clash over unauthorized immigration and the future of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country. The United States’ immigration policy will continue to reflect these competing interests and ideals.
Harry T. Dickinson
The length, extent, and scale of the American Revolution had a profound impact on political developments across the British Isles. Britain was forced to send the largest army ever to cross the Atlantic to suppress a rebellion 3,000 miles away. In addition, early in 1778, France entered the war in support of America, followed by Spain in 1779 and the Dutch Republic in 1780. Britain therefore found itself fighting a world war with no ally, relying only on hired German mercenaries. The Royal Navy could no longer retain command of the seas of the world, and British interests worldwide were endangered. Britain even was facing the threat of a major Franco-Spanish invasion in June 1779. To meet the threat presented by the rebellion, it greatly expanded its land and sea forces, increased taxes and secured large loans, and fought a long, bloody, and expensive war. This chapter assesses the impact of the American Revolution on British politics, focusing on how it affected Lord North's ministry, the opposition in Parliament, and demands for reform in both Britain and Ireland.
Benjamin H. Irvin
Historians of the American Revolution have long argued that American colonists were late and reluctant to sever ties with Britain. They characterized American independence as a natural and unavoidable consequence of the original settlers' unique sense of godly duty and a logical result of republican institutions long in the making, a vision of America's founding that passed largely unchallenged by the nation's nineteenth-century historians. During the twentieth century, this narrative of predestination was challenged by academic historians, who questioned its nationalistic and teleological qualities, and who instead viewed independence as one possible consequence of events that unfolded in the 1760s and 1770s. This chapter discusses American independence before and during the Revolution, the process of dismantling long-established colonial governments throughout the thirteen colonies, the drafting of new constitutions, the forging of confederation, and the establishment of foreign relations during the period of American independence.
Scott C. Martin
This chapter examines the legacy of Prohibition and prohibitory policies for twentieth-century U.S. alcohol and drug policy. It traces twentieth-century alcohol and drug policy from nineteenth-century antecedents through the Harrison Act, National Prohibition, the Marijuana Tax Act, the Boggs Act, and the regulatory regime established during the War on Drugs in the closing decades of the century. The chapter demonstrates how federal agencies tasked with enforcing drug legislation, notably the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Drug Enforcement Administration, both emerged from and furthered prohibitory policies. It concludes that alternatives to the current War on Drugs, such as decriminalization or legalization, have been hampered by the historic investment in prohibitory policies.
Max M. Edling
James Madison, the chief architect of the United States Constitution, drafted an introduction to notes from the proceedings of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unlike modern interpreters, which tend to view the U.S. Constitution as the blueprint of a liberal democratic society that protects the rights of individuals and minorities from the actions of overbearing majorities, Madison saw the Constitution as a plan of union between independent state-republics. It represented an attempt to reform the already existing union between the states that had been put in place by the chapters of Confederation. Until recently, few historians regarded international politics and problems of federalism as the main impetus for constitutional reform. Instead, it was usually argued that the Constitution was primarily an attempt to counteract the alarming revolutionary democratization of state politics. In recent years, historians have begun to focus on foreign affairs and federalism—the very issues emphasized by Madison.
This chapter explores the emergence of political and policy polarization in the post–World War II period. In the early Cold War years, a bipartisan foreign policy was evident in the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations. In domestic policy, Democrats and Republicans argued over the extent of the New Deal welfare and regulatory state, but there was little sentiment for returning to a laissez-faire weak state. Both parties were divided along regional lines, with Democrats composed of northeastern and southern regional factions, while Republicans divided generally along Northeast and Midwest factional lines. The 1960s, however, marked a turning point in general realignment, as Sunbelt states deserted the Democratic Party and turned largely Republican. Voter and party leadership became increasingly polarized beginning in the 1980s and would grow in intensity.