As Michel Gobat demonstrates in “The Invention of Latin America,” ‘race’ became the basis for a geopolitical entity because Spanish colonialism produced cultural hybridity. Was Adams’ aversion to so-called solidarity inherently racialized? Immerman claims Adams was “obviously** not an isolationist,” as he went on to warn against championing foreign movements for independence during his 1821 Congressional address, claiming the American ideal of liberty could easily transmute into force (88). This premise connects well to Richard Hofstadter’s discussion of “benevolent imperialism” in “Cuba, the Philippines, and Manifest Destiny.” Does the myth of American exceptionalism only inspire paternalistic intervention in other countries as Hofstadter claims, or does it also encourage the opposite – isolationist policy born of the notion that only America is capable of establishing a free state?
Immerman describes Andrew Jackson’s policy towards Native Americans, whose presence he deemed “irreconcilably hostile to God’s design for America” (93). Adams, appalled, decried the “extermination of the Indians whom we have been driving like swine into a pen west of the Mississippi” – coming to understand American expansionism as “no longer the fulfillment of God’s promise but a ‘disgraceful, tyrannical usurpation of the national purpose’” (94). But was not the American nation itself (and, before that, the colonies that came to comprise it) formed on the premise of what Fredrick Jackson Turner would come to call “free land?” Connecting back to my previous question about expansionism versus encroachment – how might indigenous perspectives on and experiences of imperialism clarify this dynamic? Similarly, Immerman concludes with the proclamation that the War on Terror was conceived of as “a war for liberty” rather than “a war for empire” (234). Are these concepts mutually exclusive? One man’s freedom is another man’s tyranny.
* Once again, how do historians responsibly define “interiority?” How do the binary concepts of inside and outside apply to borderlands and acquired territories?
** This is a problematic word choice; why is it “obvious?”
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