The Dominion Of War: Empire And Liberty In North America, 1500-2000

Paperback | November 29, 2005

byFred Anderson, Andrew Cayton

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Americans often think of their nation’s history as a movement toward ever-greater democracy, equality, and freedom. Wars in this story are understood both as necessary to defend those values and as exceptions to the rule of peaceful progress. In The Dominion of War, historians Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton boldly reinterpret the development of the United States, arguing instead that war has played a leading role in shaping North America from the sixteenth century to the present.

Anderson and Cayton bring their sweeping narrative to life by structuring it around the lives of eight men—Samuel de Champlain, William Penn, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Colin Powell. This approach enables them to describe great events in concrete terms and to illuminate critical connections between often-forgotten imperial conflicts, such as the Seven Years’ War and the Mexican-American War, and better-known events such as the War of Independence and the Civil War. The result is a provocative, highly readable account of the ways in which republic and empire have coexisted in American history as two faces of the same coin. The Dominion of War recasts familiar triumphs as tragedies, proposes an unconventional set of turning points, and depicts imperialism and republicanism as inseparable influences in a pattern of development in which war and freedom have long been intertwined.   It offers a new perspective on America’s attempts to define its role in the world at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

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Americans often think of their nation’s history as a movement toward ever-greater democracy, equality, and freedom. Wars in this story are understood both as necessary to defend those values and as exceptions to the rule of peaceful progress. In The Dominion of War, historians Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton boldly reinterpret the deve...

Fred Anderson is professor of history at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of several books, including Crucible of War, which won the Francis Parkman and Mark Lynton prizes.Andrew Cayton, distinguished professor of history at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, is the author or editor of eight books, including Frontie...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:544 pages, 8.4 × 5.4 × 1.1 inPublished:November 29, 2005Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:0143036513

ISBN - 13:9780143036517

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A View in WinterThe Mall in Washington, D.C., is a good deal less inviting in January than in April, when the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin burst into bloom and tourists loiter in the sun. But because the ways in which the Mall and its monuments give meaning to the events of American history are clearest in the winter—and because the story we have to tell is in many ways a wintry tale—it may not be amiss for us to begin on the Mall with the trees bare and the skies gray, walking down the path that leads from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam War Memorial. In spring, the transition between the two would be muted by the trees and plantings of Constitution Gardens. In winter, the contrast is stark and unmistakable.Behind us, the majesty of the Lincoln Memorial leaves no doubt about the importance of the sixteenth president and the Union that he, more than anyone else, preserved. The steps that visitors must climb to enter the monument prepare them for what they find within: an immense, melancholy statue of the Great Emancipator, bracketed by the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address—majestic phrases that explain the meaning of the greatest blood sacrifice in American history. But the Vietnam Memorial makes no such unmistakable statement. We do not climb to meet this monument or even look up; we merely walk along a gradually descending path beside a polished granite wall. The only words inscribed on the stone are the names of 58,000 American women and men who gave their lives between 1959 and 1975, in the longest war the United States has ever fought.As we walk, the black wall seems to rise beside us, as if thrust from the earth by the columns of names that lengthen on its face. The roll of the dead begins almost imperceptibly at ground level, then rises inexorably—waist height, shoulder height, head height, higher—until at the monument’s center the names of the dead hang over us with an almost unbearable weight of sadness. Here we are left to draw our own conclusions by a monument that does not presume to instruct us on the meaning of the deaths to which it bears witness. And here, at the turning of the path where the twin walls join, we pause, as so many do, to look back.Because it is winter, the colonnade of Lincoln’s Greek temple looms white through the screen of trunks and bare branches, and it is suddenly clear that the narrowing V of the wall has been sited precisely to direct our gaze upward to the Memorial and to the hillside crosses of Arlington National Cemetery beyond. Turning again and looking up the path, it also becomes apparent that the oblique angle at which the walls join is not merely the product of Maya Lin’s superb aesthetic sense: the black arrow of the wall ahead points directly toward the marble shaft of the Washington Monument.Here, surrounded by wars laid up in stone, the questions press in on us. Why this location, half in seclusion apart from the center of the Mall? Why this orientation, directing our attention toward the two great monuments that define the Mall’s long axis? Why, for that matter, should the Korean War Memorial—less powerful emotionally but still evocative in its depiction of a rifle squad moving out, laden with combat gear—have been located in the counterpart space on the opposite flank of the Lincoln Memorial? And why, finally, do the facing halves of the new World War II monument bestride the Mall at the head of the Reflecting Pool, claiming a place as central as Washington’s obelisk and Lincoln’s Doric shrine?Silent though their stones may be, the monuments on the Mall speak unmistakably to Americans about the relationships between, and the relative importance of, five wars—the Revolution, the Civil War, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and World War II. Even stronger implicit messages can be discerned in the absence of monuments commemorating other conflicts: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, numerous military interventions in the Caribbean and beyond, and three dozen or more Indian wars by which the citizens of the Republic appropriated lands that native peoples had called home for a thousand generations. All these messages are rooted in a commonly accepted “grand narrative” of American history, a story so familiar that the meanings of the memorials can be deciphered by almost any citizen who has had the benefit of a public school education.1As everyone knows, wars have often punctuated the history of the United States and not infrequently have produced generals who become presidents. Nor have generals like Washington, Jackson, Grant, and Eisenhower been the only veterans to whom Americans have looked for political leadership. Even men who rose to only modest rank—Captain Harry Truman, Lieutenant John Kennedy, Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon, and Lieutenant Jimmy Carter, for example—drew attention to their service records when they were candidates for the nation’s highest office. Previous military service, of course, has never been a prerequisite for election; but whether the man is Thomas Jefferson or William Jefferson Clinton, presidential candidates who have never worn their nation’s uniform have always been subject to the charge that they are unfit to act as commander in chief of the armed forces.Of course a concentration on past wars is not enough to make Washington’s memorials distinctive, any more than the tendency of successful generals to become political leaders is uniquely American. Every capital city in Europe and the Americas commemorates the glories and sacrifices of military conflict, and one needs to look no further than Cromwell, Napoleon, and de Gaulle to find notable examples of generals who have gone on to govern nations. But while the martial cast of their nation’s capital is commonplace, Americans’ reactions to it are not; nor has their willingness to elect former generals to the presidency made them immune to ambivalence about their wars, especially those wars that expanded the geographical domain of the United States. The rhetoric that justified the founding of the United States made inescapable connections between empire and tyranny. Perhaps for that reason, American historians have generally approached the imperial dimension of the nation’s history obliquely, treating occurrences of jingoism like the war fevers of 1812, 1846, and 1898 as unfortunate exceptions to the antimilitarist rule of republicanism. No American Napoleon conquered this continent, no jackbooted legions subdued it; the United States grew by settlement. Apart from the regrettable Indian wars, the great movement west consisted of the essentially benign inclusion of ever-larger territorial realms into democracy’s dominion, freedom’s sphere. Or so Americans, for the most part, believe.With great justification, Americans also think of the United States as a refuge from tyranny, where those willing to bear the burdens of work and the obligations of citizenship can share equally in the blessings of liberty. Since Americans believe themselves to be a peace-loving people, it is an article of faith that their wars have been forced upon them by those who would destroy their freedom. Thus since the autumn of 2001 Americans have remembered New York on September 11 as they have remembered Pearl Harbor since December 7, 1941—and as earlier generations remembered the explosion of the Maine, the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and the first shot fired at Lexington—as a moment in which an enemy of liberty showed his barbarous hand and thereby justified the response of a free people, terrible in its wrath. So Americans tend to believe that by winning wars, they make the world a better, safer, freer place. George Washington himself articulated this faith just one week before he took command of the Continental Army. On June 26, 1775, en route from Philadelphia to the army’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he paused to reassure the Provincial Congress of New York that in taking up arms against the British empire, Americans were acting defensively, within limits and with a clear purpose in mind. “When we assumed the soldier,” he said, “we did not lay aside the Citizen, & we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy Hour, when the Establishment of American Liberty on the most firm, & solid Foundations, shall enable us to return to our private Stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful & happy Country.”2 Americans do not fight, therefore, except to fulfill a solemn obligation to defend their own—or others’—liberty.This is the argument that the monuments on the Mall sustain in marble and granite and bronze. This why they make three great wars for freedom—the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II—the central, defining moments of American history. And this is why there are no more important words on the Mall than those inscribed inside the Lincoln Memorial. The Gettysburg Address, composed in November 1863 to give meaning to the torrents of blood spilled in and around a small Pennsylvania town in early July, also gave meaning to the ordeal of the Union. There, in fewer than three hundred words, Abraham Lincoln made the Civil War something much nobler than a struggle by one part of a riven nation to bend another part to its will. It was a test of the capacity of human beings for self-government, the supreme trial of a revolutionary United States “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And at the heart of America’s agonies, Lincoln explained sixteen months later in his Second Inaugural Address, was the need to expiate the great sin of slavery, to cleanse the Republic of the stain it had borne since birth.It is impossible to imagine a more powerful conception of the nation’s history than this. Because Americans so clearly identify liberty and equality as the core values of the Republic, they necessarily make the inception of those values in the Revolution, the extension of liberty’s promise to all Americans, and the defense of liberty beyond America’s borders central elements in their collective story. It is not, therefore, the size of the sacrifice but the transcendence of the ideals that motivated it to which the Washington, Lincoln, and World War II memorials speak. Counting the cost in human lives would only blur our sense of the significance of the great wars for freedom that they commemorate.If Korea and Vietnam make it only to the margins of the Mall, it is hardly surprising that the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, and the many wars against North American Indians are altogether missing from it. Less central to the grand scheme, they caused fewer deaths, created fewer heroes, and engaged smaller proportions of the population as soldiers and sailors. Controversial in their day, they seem in retrospect wars less to defend American liberty than to extend American power. They are, indeed, hard to see as anything but wars for empire. Yet these wars, too, are part of America’s story.While we acknowledge that the creation and preservation of the United States are events central to the history of North America, we also maintain that the Revolution and Civil War cannot be fully understood unless they are seen together with those other, less well remembered wars waged against native peoples, Mexicans, and the agents of European empires. Indeed, we maintain that the American Revolution and the Civil War can best be understood as unanticipated consequences of decisive victories in the great imperial wars—the Seven Years’ War and the Mexican-American War—that preceded each by a little more than a decade. In both cases, the acquisition of vast territories created severe, protracted, and ultimately violent debates over sovereignty and citizenship. Those bitter postwar disputes over the empire’s future led to civil wars and ultimately to revolutions that altered the fundamental meanings of rights and citizenship, and redefined the bases of imperial governance.In the following pages we construct a history of North America that emphasizes wars and their effects and stresses the centrality of imperial ambitions to the development of the United States. It therefore stands in contrast to a set of popular notions about the shape of American history, which taken together comprise a grand narrative so deeply embedded in American culture that they persist despite the long-running efforts of professional historians to correct or revise them. This story might be diagramed to look like a great suspension bridge, in which Jamestown and Plymouth serve as anchor points for a chronicle of institutional growth and population expansion that rises to its first peak in the Revolution and the establishment of the federal Constitution. From there the narrative cables descend as post-Revolutionary political tensions diminish during the early national era, only to rise again as sectional conflicts grow between North and South, to reach a second peak in the Civil War. This great climax, the crisis of the Union, settles the all- important issues of citizenship, freedom, and nationhood that the Revolution had left unresolved. From Appomattox and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the story descends once more, as Americans work out the implications of citizenship and equality before the law, to the twentieth century: the American Century, in which the United States finally fulfills its destiny in the world as a whole. Before assuming global leadership, however, the nation and its ideals must pass through a third great trial. Hence the Second World War stands as the last great pylon and the Cold War as the long descent of the cables to the present day.Like a suspension bridge, this popular understanding of America’s story offers a robust, serviceable, and aesthetically pleasing structure, a design arguably central to maintaining political community in a vast, chronically fragmented nation. But just as there are other means than bridges to cross bodies of water, there are other ways to tell the American story. Ours begins with the proposition that war itself has been an engine of change in North America for the past five centuries and indeed has largely defined that history’s meaning. America’s wars, however, have not been uniform in either their character or their consequences, and the story as we tell it depends on recognizing that wars can have very different implications and consequences depending (among other factors) on whether they are localized conflicts between nonstate groups, large-scale contests between empires, revolutionary wars, wars by which a triumphant empire consolidates control over its conquests, or wars of foreign intervention. Making such distinctions allows us to examine the interrelationships and interactions between wars and to explore the ways that one conflict has connected to another—and another, and another—over time.At least from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present, American wars have either expressed a certain kind of imperial ambition or have resulted directly from successes in previous imperial conflicts. “Imperialism” is, of course, a loaded term, full of negative connotations. We suggest, however, that it can most productively be understood in the sense of the progressive extension of a polity’s, or a people’s, dominion over the lands or lives of others, as a means of imposing what the builders of empires understand as order and peace on dangerous or unstable peripheral regions. To found a narrative of American development on the concept of dominion is to forgo the exceptionalist traditions of American culture— those durable notions that the United States is essentially not like other nations but rather an example for them to emulate, a “shining city on a hill”—in favor of a perspective more like the one from which historians routinely survey long periods of European, African, or Asian history. Indeed, because throughout recorded history “empire has been a way of life for most of the peoples of the world, either as conqueror or conquered,”3 the story we outline makes the long-term pattern of America’s development look broadly similar to those of other large, successful nations.Emphasizing the imperial elements in American history thus serves several purposes. It enables us to depict the continuities between the growth of Britain’s American colonies and the revolutionary United States in the eighteenth century, the territorial expansion of United States in the nineteenth century, and the propagation of American power throughout the Western Hemisphere and the world in the twentieth. By offering an alternative story of American development, it serves the heuristic function of providing a different view of familiar episodes and personalities. Most of all, it illuminates the expansion of territorial domain and the extension of economic and political sway as features of the American experience so central to the nation’s approach to the world that Americans may be more apt to see them as parts of the natural order than as products of specific, contingent historical circumstances. In that sense, the utility of such an approach may be to make it easier for Americans to perceive aspects of their nation’s behavior that may seem natural or innocuous when viewed from within but that seem both intentional and troubling to those who view the United States from without.More than anything else, ours is a story of power—or, more precisely, a story of how power has been acquired, defined, used, contested, and lost in North America. It describes a past, and implies a present, in which human beings exercise far less control over events than they think they do: a past in which the unintended consequences of a persistent quest for power are often the most important of all. To tell this tale, we divide a half millennium of North American history into four major periods: an Age of Contact (the 1500s), an Age of Colonization and Conflict (c. 1600–1750), an Age of Empires and Revolutions (c. 1750–1900), and an Age of Intervention (1900 to the present).In describing the Age of Contact, we trace the consequences of the sixteenth-century collision between radically different systems of war, trade, and empire that had previously arisen in Europe and the Americas. In general, European expansion and the intrusion of various competing European groups throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean basins had tremendously disruptive effects for Europe and the Americas alike. The specific experiences of Spanish colonizers in this era also had effects that lasted well beyond it, as other Europeans began to imagine their own imperial destinies in the New World.In the Age of Colonization and Conflict, Europeans from England, France, and the Low Countries sought to realize those dreams by establishing colonies in North America. Perhaps the most striking unanticipated result of these colonizing enterprises was the intensification of warfare among competing native groups. These tremendously destructive conflicts reflected larger patterns of cultural and diplomatic exchange by means of trade and war that the Europeans did not fully understand but nonetheless sought to exploit to their own advantage. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, interactions between Indian and European peoples resulted in the emergence of a diplomatic and political system that reflected a balance of power in which native groups played a balancing role. Indian diplomats playing one European power off against another helped to stabilize relations between competing empires until the middle of the century.The vast conflict known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War (1756–63; its North American phase, 1754–60, is sometimes called the French and Indian War) ended this period of relative stability, introducing our third epoch, the Age of Empires and Revolutions. Unlike the three previous wars between Britain and France, this one ended in a decisive victory, as a result of which the North American empire of France ceased to exist and Spain (France’s ally in the final year of the war) was compelled to surrender its imperial claims east of the Mississippi River. This left Britain (in theory, at least) the proprietor of the eastern half of North America; it also marked a turning point in Native Americans’ power to exert decisive influence over outcomes on the continent.After 1763, dominion in North America, however hotly resisted, was exercised in the east by Great Britain and in the west and southwest by Spain. Both powers attempted in the postwar period to define the terms of membership in their empires in ways that would be acceptable to a wide range of peoples, including metropolitan Britons and Spaniards, Anglo-American and French colonists, and American Indians. The defeated Spanish succeeded best in reforming their empire, which survived for more than a half-century thereafter. The victorious British, by contrast, failed, so alienating their colonists by attempted reforms that just a dozen years after the Peace of Paris that ended the Seven Years’ War, the thirteen North American colonies took up arms against the empire. In their efforts to mount resistance to a sovereign king in Parliament in the decade before war broke out, colonial leaders used arguments that stressed what had usually been called the rights of Englishmen, stressing the centrality of political freedom and the protection of property and other rights. Because the colonists were a chronically divided lot, however, the leaders of the resistance movement took care to couch their explanations and appeals in universalistic language: as defenses of natural rights, not merely the liberties of Englishmen.The War for American Independence (1775–83) shattered the British empire and made those universalized ideas the foundation of American political identity. It took another dozen years after the end of the war in 1783, however, to produce the complex of agreements and understandings we call the Revolutionary Settlement, which became the basis of a new, successful, and aggressive American empire, the United States. In our scheme, therefore, imperial and republican elements together formed the basis of revolutionary political culture, and the American Revolution appears as a violent, institutionally creative phase lasting from 1775 to 1789 within a four-decade-long process that extended from 1754 to 1800, in which a monarchical empire expanded into the trans-Appalachian west, disintegrated, then was succeeded by an imperial republic capable of exerting control over the interior of the continent.With the election of Thomas Jefferson as president, bands of white American citizens on the marches of the Republic defined the political community as a brotherhood of white Protestant men like themselves. Finding no place in their new world for native peoples, these borderers treated suddenly vulnerable Indians as racially different peoples to be removed—or exterminated. In the War of 1812, Americans conjoined defiance of British efforts to dictate their commercial and diplomatic policy with a war of conquest, by which they intended to secure control of eastern North America. Though the Americans failed to conquer Canada, they effectively destroyed the power of American Indians east of the Mississippi River, thereby consolidating the United States’ claim to the region from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The conquest of the Southwest, begun by Andrew Jackson in his campaigns against the Creeks in 1813–14 and continued in 1818 when he invaded and occupied Florida, came to completion in 1819 with the annexation of Florida and the subsequent removal of most Indians to lands west of the Mississippi.As important as these aspects of the War of 1812 were, the war’s most significant legacy proved to be a distinctively American just-war ideology. Unlike the members of the Revolutionary generation, who justified taking up arms to defend a fragile liberty against Britain’s seemingly unlimited sovereign power, proponents of war argued that offensive warfare—against the British in Canada, the Creeks in Alabama, and the Spanish in Florida—was justified because conquest would liberate the oppressed and expand the sphere of freedom. It was a justification Americans applied again in their next imperial war—and indeed in every subsequent war in the Republic’s history.Great Britain and the United States ceased to compete militarily after 1815, leaving Mexico, which declared its independence from Spain in 1821, as the last remaining obstacle to the dominion of the United States in North America. Mexico’s creole elite, staunch defenders of a conservative social order, were as capable of resenting metropolitan interference in the early nineteenth century as the leaders of Britain’s North American colonies had been in the latter decades of the eighteenth, but their fears of political radicalism and racial warfare inhibited the growth of a viable revolutionary movement. When the Mexican elite finally agreed to declare Mexico’s independence, therefore, it was not to defend the rights of individuals but rather to preserve the prerogatives of their class, the power of the Roman Catholic Church, and the stability of the social order. The Mexican leaders’ fears of revolution and racial war, along with the rich geographic diversity of their nation, inhibited the emergence of an American-style revolutionary settlement and created a fertile field for caudillos, violence, and local rebellions. One of the latter, on the remote northeastern fringe of Mexico, created the Republic of Texas in 1836. A decade later, the United States annexed Texas, provoking a war with Mexico in 1846. Within two years American soldiers overwhelmed Mexican resistance, seized the national capital, and forced a peace, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), that deprived Mexico of fully half its territory.As in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War, the accession of vast amounts of territory created a furious debate that shredded the political fabric of the victorious empire. Then it had taken twelve years for the imperial community to collapse in civil war; it now took thirteen. Adding the lands from the Rockies to the Pacific coast to what Americans thought of as the empire of liberty made the question of slavery’s expansion into the conquests inescapable. The Revolutionary Settlement broke down as Northern and Southern Americans came to see each other as potential tyrants intent on subjugation. Thus in April 1861, Southerners and Northerners went to war to make the American empire safe for their own, mutually exclusive, notions of liberty, convinced that no alternative remained but an appeal to the god of battles. Mexican liberals and conservatives, meanwhile, were already locked in a civil war that lasted for years. In both countries, imperial war had begotten revolutionary wars that ultimately redefined the nature of citizenship and the relationship between federal and local authority in ways no one could have imagined before the imperial war began.In short, revolution had once again emerged as an unanticipated consequence of an imperial war, and once again it created a new political synthesis. In the United States and Mexico alike, new revolutionary settlements were predicated on the supremacy (in theory, if not in daily practice) of the national government, the uniformity (in theory, if not in fact) of citizens’ rights, and the permanence of the state. The second Revolutionary Settlement in the United States was completed in 1877 with the congressional compromise that led to the election of Rutherford B. Hayes to the presidency and the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the “reconstructed” South. In Mexico, a settlement was worked out during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz in the 1870s and 1880s.The last act of the Age of Empires and Revolutions was the subjugation of Indian resistance west of the Mississippi River by elements of the U.S. Army, a process completed a little more than two decades after the Civil War by the confinement of native groups to reservations throughout the West. Meanwhile, the industrial transformation of the American economy and the rise of corporate capitalism, trends accelerated by the Civil War, produced an American governing elite that had less interest in territorial acquisition than in the expansion of economic dominion, in the United States and beyond its borders. This metamorphosis did not mean that Americans ceased to debate the relationship between the exercise of coercive national power and the commitment to universal freedom; the terms of the debate, however, shifted.Just how far they moved became evident with the Spanish-American War in 1898: an imperial war with a decisive victory that resulted not in a third American Revolution but rather in an alteration of long- established patterns of conquest and incorporation. Previous imperial adventures had opened vast, thinly populated regions to Anglo-American colonization in the certainty that the territories carved from them would be populated by white settlers who would eventually lead them into the Union as states. Victory in 1898, however, yielded conquests comparatively poorer in land than in population; and those millions of conquered Cubans and Filipinos were not only overwhelmingly nonwhite but Catholic, or even Muslim, in religion. When Filipino insurgents, resisting American liberation between 1899 and 1902, killed or wounded more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers and demonstrated what the true costs of an overseas empire could be, American leaders embraced an alternative imperial policy—interventionism—that allowed them to exercise power beyond the borders of the United States but that did not require yet another revolutionary reconstruction of American political culture.Elements of continuity nonetheless remained strong as the Age of Empires and Revolutions gave way to the Age of Intervention. Americans continued to fight wars according to the just-war ideology first worked out in the War of 1812—the notion that to be justified wars must either protect or expand the sphere of liberty—and that they have applied, in one form or another, ever since. As an imperial republic, the United States remained dedicated to using force not only to impose stability on disorderly peripheral regions but to create the conditions for liberty as Americans understood them—free markets, the protection of property rights, and the rule of law—in temporary protectorates. Having established the pattern of intervention in defense of freedom (and by creating American hegemony) in Cuba and the Philippines, the United States intervened militarily in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean basin, then perfected the practice by intervening in Europe in 1917 to defend democracy and expand freedom’s sphere.World War I, however, laid bare the terrible costs of modern war. Most Americans found them bearable for the comparatively short time needed to subdue the German imperialists in Europe, but had no interest in perpetuating them as an open-ended commitment to liberating Asians or South Americans or Russians from their various oppressive regimes. Moreover, the emergence of the Soviet Union as the revolutionary and imperial successor to tsarist Russia put the United States on the ideological defensive for the first time in its history. A republic that had regarded itself as the very embodiment of liberal revolutionary principles in the nineteenth century became a leading proponent of the status quo. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans turned to celebrating their history as a series of sacrifices made by Americans in the defense of liberty, an essentially conservative reading of their past that nonetheless left them prepared, when confronted with the crisis of Pearl Harbor, to revive the commitment of the United States to the military liberation of peoples beyond the seas.World War II, construed as a struggle against various tyrannies—German Nazism and Italian fascism in Europe, Japanese militarism in the Pacific and Far East—catapulted the United States to a position of global leadership from which, this time, it did not retreat. American opposition to communist regimes in China, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere during nearly a half century of cold war was, in that sense, a continuation of the defense of freedom conducted with such striking success in 1941–45. The limits of this commitment, made evident in Vietnam between 1968 and 1973, in effect confirmed the terms on which Americans were still willing to support foreign interventions; for it was only the palpable disconnection between the public justification of that war (the defense of freedom in South Vietnam) and its prosecution that finally convinced a majority of the American people that the war was no longer worth the sacrifice of lives and treasure.In sum, then, the version of American history in the following pages emphasizes contingency, proposes an unfamiliar set of turning points and phases of development, suggests that war and imperialism have powerfully influenced American development from the seventeenth century through the present day, and recasts familiar triumphs as tragedies. It identifies imperialism and republicanism as inseparable twin influences in the creation and growth of political culture in the United States. It denies that chauvinist demands for imperial wars in 1812, 1846, and 1898 were somehow exceptions to an otherwise pacific history in which Americans make war only when they have been driven to it by the need to preserve their threatened liberties. It implies that the great American military interventions of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been as much efforts to establish and preserve hemispheric—and ultimately, global—hegemony as they were efforts to defend ideals of freedom against the designs of would-be tyrants. Finally, it argues that the defining moments of American political culture and nationhood, the Revolution and the Civil War, can be understood as the unintended consequences of vaunting imperial ambitions.We have chosen to make our case for this broad argument in the form of a narrative constructed, as concretely as possible, around the lives of eight men: Samuel de Champlain, William Penn, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Colin Powell. We have adopted this approach in order to explore both the ways in which larger patterns have constrained and structured the lives of human beings and the ways in which the decisions and actions of individuals have inflected the direction of historical change. We have avoided theoretical statements and generalizations that might tend to overdetermine the narrative or to diminish the ambiguity, unpredictability, and messiness of the lives and events we try to describe. By embedding the argument in our narrative—by making it, in effect, the plot—while allowing the actions of our characters to drive the story’s development, we have tried to avoid depending on normative or ahistorical definitions of empire and liberty and to steer clear of prescriptive judgments. This approach, we hope, offers sufficient scope to explore tensions between larger patterns of development and contingent events, to seek out the intersections between private and public life, and to describe historical processes as compounded of social forces and individual choices. North America’s historical trajectory thus appears, in the pages that follow, not merely to be the product of demographic, economic, and political forces but the result of the interaction of those great structural factors with an array of unpredictable, emotional elements—ambition, greed, fear, courage, hatred, idealism, and various other human correlates of war, and life—in contexts that provide ample room for accident, unintended outcomes, and chance.4In this way, we intend the story of Samuel de Champlain to illustrate how the larger European search for profits in trade with natives led to the transformation of warfare and the destruction of whole Indian nations, and also to show the ironic consequences, in Champlain’s own life, of dealing with native people who had interests of their own to pursue. William Penn’s story demonstrates how a colony founded on principles of peaceful coexistence could succeed beyond anyone’s expectations yet still create crushing losses for its founder, while engendering the population growth and territorial expansion that ultimately brought on a horrifying, decisive imperial war. George Washington’s long quest to impose an imperial order on the North American interior suggests the continuities that link the British empire and its American successor. Yet Washington, too, finally found himself left behind by changes in the political culture he helped to transform; like Penn, he proved most useful as a symbol of values that his countrymen liked less to live by than to celebrate, and to claim as their own.Through the career of Andrew Jackson, we trace the emergence of a populist, nationalist empire whose white male citizens defined liberty as the province of people like themselves. Because they saw the United States as a bastion of freedom, they could not fathom why people unlike themselves detested it; why (for example) Indians so stubbornly resisted assimilation or why Mexicans understood Americans and their values as a threat their own well-being and to good order generally. We use the career of Antonio López de Santa Anna to explore the similar, yet hardly parallel, ways in which the tensions between liberty and power, consent and coercion, influenced the development of the United States and Mexico in the first half of the nineteenth century. Ultimately these contradictory pressures exploded in an imperial war over possession of the southwestern quarter of North America in 1846–48 and in bloody civil wars both north and south of the Rio Grande not long after. Those conflicts dominated the lives of Ulysses S. Grant and his contemporaries, giving powerful impetus to North America’s trajectory of development in the later nineteenth century.The life of Douglas MacArthur, who was five years old when Grant died and whose career in the U.S. Army spanned more than half a century, allows us to observe the metamorphosis of a nineteenth-century republican empire that had asserted its control over central North America in the name of liberty into a twentieth-century global power capable of intervening on behalf of freedom all over the planet. Finally, Colin Powell’s career as an army officer and public servant suggests the continuity of dilemmas fostered by America’s long historical trajectory that remain unresolved.We chose subjects whose lives either overlapped in time or came close to doing so and who were involved in as many aspects of our story as possible. Thus we picked Douglas MacArthur rather than (say) Dwight Eisenhower not only because of the importance of MacArthur’s own career but because his father participated in the Civil War, the subjugation of the Plains Indians, and the suppression of the Philippine Insurrection. We chose U. S. Grant because his career was framed by Mexico, because he sent tens of thousands of men to their deaths even as he doubted the justice of war, and because his Northern, middle- class male sensibility contrasted sharply with the Southern patriarchal world of Andrew Jackson. Antonio López de Santa Anna offered us a chance to highlight the divergent histories of North Americans as well as resistance to the imperial ambitions of the United States. Questions of personal identity, particularly with regard to notions of masculinity and race, run throughout the lives of all eight figures. The studied self- control of Champlain, Penn, Washington, and Powell contrasts sharply with the kinds of emotion that shaped the lives of the passionate Jackson, the domestic Grant, the opportunistic Santa Anna, and the ambitious MacArthur. Imperialism thus manifests itself in both public and private forms: men who exercised power to impose order on the world at large were no less driven by the need to master or release emotional energies within the smaller worlds of family and household.This book attempts to narrate the ambiguous and ironic relationship between war and freedom in the making of North America and in the creation of the United States as an actor on the world stage. It does not devote much attention to battles or to military history at the operational level; rather, it investigates wars as defining moments in the construction of cultural and territorial borders, in North America and beyond. It argues that wars—not only as fought but also as contemplated, criticized, defended, and remembered—have furnished crucial occasions for Americans to debate who they are and to express what they hope their nation represents. It maintains, finally, that the quest for liberty and the pursuit of power together have created an American historical dialectic catalyzed and made dynamic by war.The Dominion of War, in short, attempts to describe anew certain fundamental patterns of development and important sources of change over the longue durée of North America’s past, and thus to renarrate a tale we may too easily assume we know, with a significance we may too readily believe we understand. It tells of a continent’s shaping and a nation’s growth: a chronicle that begins in war, and ends—with us.Chapter OneChamplain’s Legacy: The Transformation of Seventeenth-Century North AmericaHe was awake now, but could not shake the dream from his mind. He had stood with his companions at the foot of a mountain, on a narrow shore, by a lake of sparkling beauty. Yet there was only horror in what he beheld: everywhere before him men struggled in the water, gasping for breath, dying. To the others he had said, We must save them. But they replied, Let them die. They are Iroquois, our enemies. They are worth nothing.And so, one by one, they drowned.1The man who woke from this nightmare was Samuel de Champlain, and the lake by which he slept we now call by his name. It was July 29, 1609. He and two French musketeers were accompanying sixty Montagnais, Huron, and Algonquin warriors on an expedition against the Mohawks, easternmost of the Five Nations of the Iroquois. The Frenchmen, the first Europeans to see the lake and the country around it, were also among the first Europeans ever to join an Indian war party as combatants. Before nightfall on the following day, Champlain’s new allies discovered that his dream had been a prophetic vision. What they could not know was that their victory over the Mohawks marked a turning point in North American history.No more a seer than his allies, Champlain, too, failed to grasp the significance of the battle he helped win. He had, after all, come to North America to trade and perhaps to save some souls, not to fight in local wars. In pursuing those ostensibly benign goals, however, Champlain came to understand that the goodwill of his trading partners depended on his willingness to join them against their enemies. The more he learned about Indians, in short, the more he found himself pressed to participate in their wars.In deciding to become an active ally, Champlain responded to the exigencies of the moment. But when he placed his weapons and his skills at the disposal of his allies, he inaugurated a pattern of interaction among French and Indian peoples that persisted for a century and a half. Champlain thus played both a symbolic and a causal role in changing the cultural and political landscape of eastern North America. For the previous century, European contacts had altered but not transformed native patterns of war and trade. Now, however, the creation of colonies in North America intensified the long-standing competition among native groups and made the Indians’ wars more violent and uncontrollable than they had ever been before.These terrible transformations did not occur solely because a lone Frenchman decided to enlist himself and his matchlock musket in the service of an Indian war party. Nevertheless, because Champlain’s career in North America spanned the transition between the sixteenth-century Age of Contact and the Age of Colonization and Conflict that followed, his story casts a powerful light on the unintended consequences of European-Indian interactions. In pursuing his dreams of trade and conversion, Champlain helped bring an old order to a violent end and made himself midwife to the nightmarish birth of a new era.“I Wished to Help Them Against Their Enemies”When Champlain dreamed of men drowning before his eyes in the summer of 1609, he was about forty years of age—old for war—and far from home. A circuitous route had led him from the town of his birth, Brouage, in the province of Saintonge, north of Bordeaux, to the spot where he slept, deep in the American forest.We know nothing of his education, although it is clear that growing up in a port town had given him a chance both to learn how to sail small vessels and how to make excellent, accurate harbor charts. The interminable civil wars of his homeland had also given him, as a young man, the skills of a soldier. During the Franco-Spanish struggle known as the Eighth War of Religion (or the War of the Three Henrys, 1585– 98), he served as a cavalry quartermaster in the army of Henri de Navarre. Such a post would ordinarily have kept him out of the line of fire, yet late in 1594, at about age twenty-four, he took part in the storming of Fort Crozat, outside Brest. That act earned him a reputation for bravery; the battle secured northwestern France for Navarre, a Protestant who had lately converted to Catholicism in order to reunite a kingdom long riven by religious bloodshed. By 1598 Navarre had triumphed over his enemies and ascended the throne that he occupied as His Most Christian Majesty, Henri IV. With that, the brave young quartermaster who had taken to calling himself Samuel de Champlain (thereby granting himself a noblesse to which he had no particle of a claim), found himself out of a job.He was not unemployed for long. His uncle commanded a merchant ship, the Saint-Julien, lately contracted to repatriate Spanish soldiers to Cadiz; he gave Champlain a berth as a junior officer on the voyage. At Cadiz his uncle hired out the Saint-Julien, “a staunch ship and a good sailer,” once more—this time to sail with the flota, or annual convoy, that carried European goods to New Spain to exchange for the silver, cacao, and other riches of the Indies that it would bear home to Spain. Thus Champlain first crossed the Atlantic in 1599, beginning a fascination with the New World that led him back again and again. By 1635, when he died at Quebec, the habitation he founded in 1608, he had made the voyage at least a dozen times.2Champlain did not return with the flota; instead, he lingered two years in the West Indies and Mexico. This sojourn fired his imagination and changed his life. New Spain—Mexico—in particular impressed him: “A more beautiful country,” he thought, “could not be seen or desired.” It was a rich country, too: a land of “fine forests” and “plains stretching as far as the eye can reach, covered with immense droves of cattle,” its mines poured silver worth millions of pesos annually into the Spanish royal treasury. New Spain also charmed him with its natural wonders—exotic trees (including the guava, whose miraculous fruit had flesh that could stop diarrhea in two hours and skin that cured constipation “straightaway”), such amazing animals as the iguana and the jaguar, and birds of every description and hue. Most of all, the monumental scale and architecture of “the beautiful city of Mexico” captivated him. Here was a place “superbly constructed of splendid temples, palaces and fine houses,” with “streets extremely well laid out” and lined with “handsome shops...full of all sorts of very rich merchandise”—a city, truly, that symbolized the power and wealth of the Spanish Indies.3Only the natives disappointed him. Those not yet subjected to the king of Spain worshiped the moon, practiced cannibalism, and were “deprived of the light of reason.” Those whom the Spanish did control, on the other hand, had been so extensively persecuted, tortured, enslaved, and slain in the course of being subdued that “the mere account of it arouses compassion for them.” They were Christians, of a sort; but they attended Mass less for the love of God than for fear of the beatings that priests inflicted on absentees. Doubtless as a result, Champlain found Mexico’s Indians to be “of a very melancholy disposition,” notwithstanding the “quick intelligence” that enabled them to “understand in a short time whatever is shown to them” and a remarkable fortitude in enduring “whatever ill-treatment or abuse is bestowed upon them.”4Champlain understood in a general way the historical events that had made New Spain into the land he so admired. He knew, for example, that it had been less than a century since Castilian conquerors had transformed the Valley of Mexico from the seat of the Aztec state into one of the principal bastions of Spain’s globe-girdling empire. Like literate sixteenth-century Europeans generally, he also understood the decisive victory that Hernán Cortés and the conquistadors had achieved as proof that the Spanish were the greatest empire-builders since antiquity. What neither he nor any of his contemporaries understood, however, was the extraordinary degree to which Spain’s triumph had depended upon the interplay between Aztec and Castilian ways of war and expectations about empire. Indeed, what had happened in Mexico during the years of the conquest, 1519–21, not only shaped the world Champlain described eighty years later but profoundly influenced the interactions between European colonizers and American peoples for centuries to come.From a modest start in the Valley of Mexico during the fourteenth century, the Aztecs had built an imperial state and a large standing army on the foundation of a religious system that required human sacrifice and a political system geared to war and the exaction of tribute. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Aztecs, governing from the great metropolis Tenochtitlán, exercised hegemony over perhaps 12 million people across central Mexico, sustaining their power by extorting food, precious metals, textiles, and labor from subject peoples. Perpetual warfare set the bounds of this empire, for two reasons. The Aztec economy (even to the extent of provisioning Tenochtitlán’s population of 200,000) depended on a steady supply of tribute, which could only be maintained by fear of military retribution; and the Aztec religious system demanded the blood of human beings to maintain the balance of the cosmos and insure that the sun would rise each day. By 1500 approximately 50,000 prisoners of war had to be taken annually to serve as sacrificial victims.Cortés was a thirty-four-year-old lawyer discontented with the slow pace of his advancement in Cuba when he landed on the coast of Mexico, essentially as a freebooter, in 1519. Operating in defiance of his superior, Cuba’s governor, he brought with him about five hundred soldiers, fourteen small cannon, a handful of horses, and little real idea of what he might encounter. Once this tiny force of would-be conquistadors demonstrated the military advantages of crossbows, gunpowder weapons, horses, and steel to the peoples they encountered near the coast, it was not particularly difficult for the Indians to see them as potentially useful allies against their Aztec enemy. Cortés, a brilliant practitioner of realpolitik, understood this well enough to ally himself with, first, the Cempoalans, and later (after initial clashes in which he and his armored men held their ground against massed formations of archers and slingsmen hurling stones) with the warlike Tlaxcalans. It was thus not merely a few hundred intrepid Castilians who conquered Tenochtitlán in 1521 but a few hundred Castilians in the company of perhaps 200,000 Indian allies. The conquest, as we now know, was effected less by technological and tactical superiority than by the support of these native warriors; it was ultimately secured by the devastating effects of the smallpox that the Spanish inadvertently introduced in the course of their invasion. Cortés and his men, however, concluded that the collapse of the Aztecs represented God’s will and lost no time in inserting themselves in the place of the empire’s previous rulers. Thus they were able to compensate themselves for the trouble of conquering Mexico by continuing to collect tribute through the existing system and to repay God for his help by instituting Christianity as the state religion.5The benefits of escaping Aztec hegemony appealed so powerfully to the Indians who allied themselves with Cortés that they failed to see the consequences of alliance until the devastations of epidemic disease made it impossible for them to resist Spanish control. Meanwhile Cortés and the governors who succeeded him continued to use Indian labor to extract the silver that funded their conversion of the Aztecs’ hegemonic empire into a territorial one, New Spain. The prolonged collapse of Mexico’s Indian population eventually slowed and, after about a century, ceased; intermarriage between Spanish creoles and Indians produced the mestizo population that gradually increased until it finally predominated, stabilizing both the labor supply and cultural relations.By the 1550s, Spanish rule was secure in central Mexico and the means of conquest were thoroughly understood; indeed, another conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, effectively replicated them in western South America by taking over the Inca Empire, a feat of even greater audacity than that of Cortés. Having twice seen the face of success, the Spanish sought to repeat this pattern of conquest in subsequent efforts at colonization and imperial organization. Even in areas less well suited to the process than Mexico had been, would-be conquistadors sought alliance with indigenous peoples as a first step toward their subjugation, the collection of tribute, and an enforced conversion to Christianity. This was the case with Spain’s first colony on the mainland to the north of Mexico, Saint Augustine. There, however, the attempt produced results substantially different from Spain’s spectacular triumphs in Mexico and Peru.Because the Spanish crown expended the wealth of conquered peoples largely to create a centralized empire, settlement expanded from Mexico according to strategic decisions made in Madrid. Imperial authorities quite reasonably assigned first priority to defending the treasure fleets that carried American bullion to the metropolis. Hence the decision to establish Saint Augustine in 1565 represented an attempt to secure the Atlantic coast of Florida against the Huguenot (French Protestant) buccaneers who had previously founded a base there to prey on the deep-laden galleons that sailed annually through the Bahama Channel.In Florida, as in Mexico, the Spanish invaders first allied themselves with local Indians (the Timucua) who had earlier tried to draw the French into their wars with neighboring peoples but who now feared French domination. The more numerous Spaniards and their Timucuan allies defeated the French, whereupon the Spanish slaughtered most of the Frenchmen as heretics, sending the few survivors home to tell the tale. The Spanish governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then followed the well-established pattern of establishing fortified settlements, sending out missionaries (paid from the military budget) to convert the Indians, and collecting the tribute necessary to make the enterprise self-sustaining. But Florida was not Mexico, and the path to Saint Augustine’s survival led through three perilous decades of uncertainty.In the first place, the absence of gold and silver made Saint Augustine itself a poor colony, hence— from the perspective of the royal treasury—an expensive outpost of empire. Economizing where it could, the crown refused to assign a large permanent garrison and made no concerted effort to encourage civilian settlement. Second, the dispersed Indian peoples of the region lacked the preexisting political organization that had facilitated conquest in Mexico and Peru and were unaccustomed to paying tribute. When the Spaniards tried to exact it by force, the Indians resisted, driving the Spanish soldiers, missionaries, and settlers back from the seven bases they had established in 1565–67 to Saint Augustine itself. The fort saved them, for the Indians, lacking artillery to batter down its walls, could hope only to starve out the defenders. Because the garrison could be resupplied by sea, the starvation siege failed, and the Spanish managed to hang on to their last precarious foothold on the Florida coast.6But there is a difference between maintaining a beleaguered military outpost and planting a viable colony, and for nearly three decades the fate of Saint Augustine hung in the balance. It was only at the end of the sixteenth century, at about the time Champlain was visiting the Indies, that conversions occurred near the fort among “rival tribes [who] saw security advantages in being allied with the Spanish.” Spanish officials now claimed “overlordship by arranging peace between tribes,” while missionary friars who proved adept at mediating disputes in native communities forged ties with the leaders of dominant factions. Thereafter the colonization of Florida depended on establishing missions among native groups willing to receive them (thirty-six missions were operating by 1675) while maintaining a garrison and small Spanish population at and around the fort of Saint Augustine.This was hardly conquest on the model of Mexico or Peru. When the bishop of Santiago de Cuba visited Saint Augustine more than a century after its establishment, he found just 1,500 Spanish settlers but confirmed more than 13,000 Indian converts. Since the Spanish garrison supported Christian Indians in conflicts with their unconverted neighbors and since the settlers remained few and clustered in a comparatively small region, the colony may be said to have taken root only after the local Guale, Timucua, and Apalachee Indians succeeded in defining the conditions of occupancy and the Spaniards had acquiesced in the modus vivendi thus created. Spanish authorities in Seville or Madrid had no accurate idea of what had happened, and Saint Augustine’s colonists no doubt thought, because tensions had subsided, that God had at last favored their enterprise. But the Guales, Timucuas, and Apalachees who had integrated the Spanish into their own system of warfare, alliance, and trade knew better. If the Spanish remained in Florida and evangelized among its native peoples, it was because they did so on terms that their Indian hosts found acceptable.7Champlain spent the rest of his life learning his own version of this lesson about the limits of European power in North America. Returning to France in 1601, he wrote (and lavishly illustrated) an account of his travels in the Caribbean and New Spain and set about securing himself a position on another transatlantic voyage. His interest, like that of most previous French explorers, centered on the northern reaches of North America, far from Spain’s dominions. For seventy years—ever since Jacques Cartier’s voyages of exploration between 1534 and 1541—French cartographers had understood the Saint Lawrence River as an avenue to the heart of the continent, and European fishermen and whalers had long used the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to make seasonal camps for drying cod and rendering oil from whale carcasses. Those camps had become the scene of lively exchanges between the fishermen and native peoples. One of the items the fishermen brought home in the 1580s had particularly interested French merchants: the pelts of beaver, whose undercoat provided fur ideally suited to making felt for the big, fanciful hats that were the rage of European fashion.Northern Europe’s waning beaver populations meant that these pelts commanded premium prices, but the French wars of religion (civil wars largely driven by Spain’s imperial ambitions and fueled by silver from its American mines) had so disrupted commercial life that the great merchants were unable to exploit North American fur supplies systematically. Only Breton and Basque fishermen-traders carried on a modest fur trade by calling in during the summers at Tadoussac, a small, deep harbor at the confluence of the Saguenay and Saint Lawrence rivers. There an Algonquian-speaking people whom the French called the Montagnais controlled access to the northern interior by the Saguenay and provided pelts they had gained both by hunting and by trading with groups further inland. They traded on terms uncommonly favorable to themselves. By the last years of the sixteenth century, Montagnais middlemen routinely withheld pelts each summer until enough ships arrived at Tadoussac that they could play one buyer off against the rest, acquiring the best trade goods at the lowest cost.8With the conclusion of the wars of religion and Henri IV’s consolidation of power in a newly unified kingdom, the king saw the utility of reestablishing French claims to North America as a means of countering Spanish power in Europe. He easily understood that the profits of a well-organized monopoly on the fur trade could be used to reward his courtiers and other supporters, who in turn could create permanent settlements in North America at no direct cost to the crown. In 1599, therefore, Henri awarded a ten-year monopoly to an old comrade in arms, Commander Aymar de Chaste, and his partners Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit and François Gravé du Pont. They built a trading post at Tadoussac in 1600 only to find that, monopoly or no, Breton and Basque fisherman-traders kept coming there, too, while the Montagnais went on withholding furs to force the Europeans to compete for them. In the hope of locating an alternative to Tadoussac and perhaps of finding trading partners less sophisticated than the Montagnais, Gravé du Pont outfitted the little fleet of three vessels that sailed from Honfleur in March 1603 with Samuel de Champlain aboard.9This voyage carried Champlain up the Saint Lawrence to the site of Quebec and beyond as high as the Lachine rapids above Montreal, the limit of navigability for seagoing vessels. He carefully noted the qualities of the land he observed (“The farther we went,” he wrote, “the finer was the country”), but the place that made the strongest specific impression on him was Tadoussac, because that was where he first encountered large numbers of the people whom he and his companions called les sauvages.10 There, in late May and early June, he witnessed an extraordinary assembly of Indians—Montagnais and their allies, Etchemins (Malecites) and Algonquins, a thousand in all—as they celebrated a recent victory over their Mohawk enemies. With great care he described their feasting, orations, songs, display of enemy scalps, and dancing (he especially admired the Algonquins’ victory dance, which began when “all the women and girls” suddenly “stripped themselves stark naked”). The ceremonies, he noted, concluded with a ritual in which each Montagnais warrior “took what seemed proper to him, such as [wampum], tomahawks, swords, kettles” and gave them to one or more warriors from among his people’s allies, so that “every one had a present,” which they “carried away...to their lodges.”11Champlain and his companions returned to Tadoussac early in August and found the Montagnais, Malecites, and Algonquins again engaged in feasting and dancing as they prepared for a new expedition against the Mohawks.12 War, Champlain concluded, was perpetual among les sauvages, and the alliances that enabled groups like the Montagnais to contend against their enemies were cemented and continually renewed by the kinds of rituals and gift-giving he had witnessed. These were his first insights into the culture and society of the native peoples alongside whom he spent most of his remaining years.Champlain’s view of the Indians and their potential reflected the ethnocentrism of his age. He found it possible to admire them for their bravery in war, their physical qualities (“they are agile, and the women are well shapen”), their personalities (they “are to a man of a very cheerful disposition”), and even their technology (“In the winter...they make a kind of racket twice or thrice as big as ours in France, which they fasten to their feet, and so walk on the snow without sinking”). But he dismissed their religion as mere superstition, based on a faith in prophetic dreams that were in fact “visions of the Devil.” In the absence of sound morals, Indian society was lawless, families ties were weak, and individuals were “given to revenge.” In their personal dealings, he thought, they were “great liars, a people in whom it is not well to put confidence, except for good reason, and standing on your guard.” And yet, for all that, he found that the Montagnais did profess belief in a Creator—a strong enough hint at monotheism that he ventured to offer a thumbnail sketch of Christian doctrine to Anadabijou, one of their chiefs. When “the said Sagamore told me that he approved what I said,” Champlain concluded that with the right instruction “they would speedily be brought to be good Christians, if we were to inhabit their lands, which most of them desire.”13This mixture of observation, analysis, and wishful thinking suggests that Champlain was beginning to envision a future Canada colonized by French people of good character, trading with les sauvages, spreading the gospel among them, bringing them peace, and saving their souls. The colony of New France would enrich his sovereign (and, s’il plaît à Dieu, his servant Champlain), adding to his power as New Spain enhanced the power of the Spanish king; but it would do so with none of the debilitating effects that Spanish repression had on the Indians of Mexico. Champlain did not yet imagine that Anadabijou’s approval of Christian principles might have been an attempt to make polite conversation with a talkative guest or that the Indians might expect something more than catechetical instruction in return for allowing the French “to inhabit their lands.”Champlain’s old skills as a maker of harbor charts, his emerging talents as a practical ethnographer, scribe, and publicist, and his ability to lead exploring parties procured him a role in the next stage of exploration, which began in the spring of 1604. Champlain suggested to Pierre de Gua, sieur de Monts (a Protestant merchant from Saintonge the king appointed to lead the fur monopoly following the death of Aymar de Chaste), that the best site for a permanent trading post might lie somewhere on the Atlantic coast, away from Tadoussac’s highly developed commerce. With this in mind, de Monts organized an expedition to explore Acadia (modern Nova Scotia) and the coast of Norumbega (New Brunswick and New England). Champlain went along as geographer, returning to France only in the autumn of 1607.Three summers of exploration, mapping, and trading gave Champlain unparalleled knowledge of the coastline from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Cod and greatly expanded his experience in dealing with Indians. Above all, these years taught him the importance of maintaining friendly relations with the Indians who permitted the French to set up habitations on their lands. Generosity in trade and loyalty to one’s native hosts, he found, were the twin keys to success. Yet his experience also suggested that the very qualities essential to forging commercial alliances were apt to make those Indians who had previously been enemies of his allies into enemies of his own. A story that threads its way through Champlain’s account of his sojourn in Acadia and Norumbega illustrates this point.14In 1605, after spending a miserable winter on an island in the Saint Croix River near Passamaquoddy Bay, de Monts’s men crossed the Bay of Fundy and built a new habitation, Port-Royal, on the Acadian peninsula. There they established friendly relations with Membertou, the chief of the local Souriquois (Mi’kmaq) band while taking pains to retain the goodwill of Messamouet, the sachem of the Mi’kmaqs who had lived near the abandoned Saint Croix settlement.15 Both sachems understood the advantages to be had by trading with the French, and Messamouet in particular saw the potential for using this new connection as a means of expanding his influence. Thus in September 1606, Messamouet accompanied Champlain on a voyage down the coast to the Saco River with the intention of making peace with the Almouchiquois (Eastern Abenaki) sachem, Onemechin.16 The Mi’kmaqs and the Eastern Abenakis had long been enemies, and Onemechin accurately interpreted Messamouet’s lavish diplomatic gift—“kettles, axes, knives, and other articles” he had previously obtained from the French—as an effort to turn him into a client. He therefore reciprocated with a paltry present of “Indian corn, squashes, and Brazilian beans.” Messamouet, Champlain wrote,departed much displeased because he had not been suitably repaid for what he had given them, and with the intention of making war upon them before long; for these people give only with the idea of receiving something, except to persons who have done them some signal service, such as aiding them in their wars.17Champlain and his men continued down the coast to the Island Cape (Cape Ann), where to their surprise Onemechin soon appeared. He behaved strangely when they tried to give him a coat as a gift. He “presented it to another” (Champlain thought it was because he found it “uncomfortable...[and] could not adapt himself to it”18) and then drew Quiouhamenec, the local chief, aside for a private conference. Soon Quiouhamenec’s band—Algonquian-speaking Pawtuckets—began to act in threatening ways. This disconcerted Champlain, who had found them perfectly agreeable during the previous year’s visit.19The voyage thereafter became increasingly unpleasant. Calling in at a handsome harbor they named Beau-port (Gloucester) on September 30, the French found themselves forced to draw their weapons and make a hasty exit when the Pawtuckets seemed to be preparing an attack. Two weeks later, at Port Fortuné (Stage Harbor), they were less lucky. The local Wampanoag warriors launched a surprise assault on a group of Frenchmen baking bread, killing four and severely wounding a fifth.20 When Champlain tried to retaliate, he suffered several more casualties without killing any warriors or taking a single prisoner. He returned to Port-Royal with “four or five” men whose wounds festered with such a “stench” that the rest of the crew “could scarcely bear it.”21This abrupt reversal of fortune in dealing with the Indians left Champlain frustrated and puzzled. Had they thought it to their advantage, Messamouet and Membertou might have explained to him that all this mischief could be attributed to Onemechin, sachem of the Saco Abenakis, and his evident intention to persist in hostility toward the Mi’kmaqs—and thus to their ally, Champlain. Soon it came to war. During the winter of 1606–07, a warrior from Onemechin’s band killed Panonias, a Malecite ally of the Mi’kmaqs who had acted as an interpreter on Champlain’s exploring voyage of 1605. On June 20, 1607, Membertou led about 400 Mi’kmaq and Malecite warriors in a flotilla of canoes from Acadia to Abenaki country on the Saco. Champlain did not accompany them on the raid but noted that they returned on August 10 after killing twenty Abenakis, including Onemechin and another chief.22Membertou’s raid confirmed Champlain’s belief that an extravagant desire for revenge motivated les sauvages in their dealings with one another. “This whole war,” he wrote, “was solely on account of Panonias, one of our Indian friends, who...had been killed at Norumbega by the said Onemechin’s...people.” He did not yet understand the degree to which what had happened depended on French, not Indian, designs. The Mi’kmaqs’ attack was unusually effective because two years of trade with the French had brought quantities of edged weapons—hatchets, knives, swords, arrowheads—into their possession. Wittingly or no, by their presence in Acadia as traders, the French had tipped the balance of power along the coast of Norumbega in favor of the Mi’kmaqs, to whom they had become not just neighbors and friends but also arms-suppliers and, perforce, allies.Champlain understood little of this when he sailed for France in the fall of 1607. Uppermost in his mind was what he would advise the sieur de Monts (who had previously returned to France) concerning the future activities of the company, that and the completion of a magnificent map of Acadia and Norumbega, based on his own detailed observations. But though Indians and their world no longer preoccupied Champlain as he returned to France, his next venture in America put them squarely before him, with effects even more dramatic, unforeseeable, and far-reaching than his experience thus far could have led him to expect.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS vii

INTRODUCTION
A View in Winterix

CHAPTER ONE
Champlain’s Legacy: The Transformation of
Seventeenth-Century North America 1

CHAPTER TWO
Penn’s Bargain: The Paradoxes of Peaceable Imperialism 54

CHAPTER THREE
Washington’s Apprenticeship: Imperial
Victory and Collapse 104

CHAPTER FOUR
Washington’s Mission: The Making of an
Imperial Republic 160

CHAPTER FIVE
Jackson’s Vision: Creating a Populist Empire 207

CHAPTER SIX
Santa Anna’s Honor: Continental Counterpoint in
Republican Mexico 247

CHAPTER SEVEN
Grant’s Duty: Imperial War and Its Consequences Redux 274

CHAPTER EIGHT
MacArthur’s Inheritance: Liberty and Empire
in the Age of Intervention 317

CHAPTER NINE
MacArthur’s Valedictory: Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten 361

CONCLUSION
Powell’s Promise 409

NOTES 425

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 503

INDEX 507

Editorial Reviews

"An imaginative retelling of American history from the point of view of empire and war by two very talented historians." —Gordon S. Wood, author of The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin"A must read... Anderson and Cayton take off the blinders and show us what the past is really like." —Vine Deloria, Jr., author of Custer Died for Your Sins"This sweeping reinterpretation places war and empire where they should be - not as exceptions to the American past, but as central to it, and therefore to the United States today." —Michael Sherry, author of In the Shadows of War: The United States Since the 1930s"The most important book ever written on the connection between war and American expansion.  It should be required reading for our political leaders today..." —Don Higginbotham, author of The War of American Independence"History in an ironic key, timely and provocative." —Kirkus Reviews