The South is perhaps the most distinctive region in the United States two centuries' or so of history and has played a massive role in
Dixie Looks Abroad (published in 2001) by Joseph A Fry is a full history of Southern Foreign Policy from the beginnings of the Republic to 1973. Fry elected to stop there-wisely given he had a monumental enough job as it was. Though chronological he shows many major themes and evolutions along the way.
Even just as a chronological account drawing the opinion ofs southern statesmen (and presumably to some degree voters) it would be enormously valuable to the interested and professional historian alike. He shows that southerners were more Anglophobic in the early republic and strongly supported the 1812 war with Britain (even as New England toyed with secession in protest) and in the 1830’s, 40’s and early 50’s tended to be stronger supporters of expansion southwards, (i.e. the taking of often quite sparsely populated land from Indians and Mexicans land which includes the areas that our now Texas and California). At the same time it was being closely divided for most of the period between pro expansion Democrats and anti-expansion Whigs who provided a powerful dissident voice. IN the late 1850’s after the collapse of the Whigs the south became more and more united on expansion to the South.
In 1860 came the
This changed (in Fry’s telling) dramatically during World War 1. Woodrow Wilson (not just the Second Democratic president since 1860 but a southern born one) gained solid even monolithic southern support for his intervention in Mexican internal affairs, World War 1 and a proposed League of Nations . In the interwar years though there was hostility to republican intervention in
In the post war era the south embraced the cold war consensus and the cold war with greater enthusiasm than the US as a whole- whilst being increasingly relatively dubious about foreign aid and actively hostile to treaties that might bind US force or even more US policy internally. Even when after the late 1960’s many particularly in the Democratic Party turned against the Cold War tradition in the light of the Vietnam War the South remained at least relatively firm (the odd exception like Fulbright) in supporting Vietnam War, military expenditure and the Cold War generally supporting both Johnson and Nixon against dovish critics.
Thus Fry shows the south has often been exceptional in its views on Foreign policy-but this exceptionalism has not necessarily been from the same direction- the same area of American, endorsed annexation in the early 19th century and then opposed it in the late, the same area was “internationalist” in the 20th century. These stands are not necessarily inconsistent- but they certainly don’t fit some simple narrative. It’s from the complications in the South’s distinctive profile that a true understanding of both its stands on foreign policy issues and their import can be found. Nor does this reviewer necessarily agree with all Professor Fry’s conclusions powerful though his arguments are.
However this will have to wait till a future post. I hope I have shown something of why the subject is interesting, the book is excellent and how southern distinctiveness has taken many different forms on foreign policy- the south has agreed more with the Democratic party and less, been more pro military spending and (occasionally) less, massively support annexation and opposed it, massively supported foreign aid and opposed it- and all not just in absolute terms but compared to America as a whole.