Isolationism An American Perspective
What is it? • Isolationism refers to America's longstanding reluctance to become involved in European alliances and wars • America views world differently than Europe • Does not mean disengagement from world, but rather we will make our own way • Instead of forming alliances
Roots of Isolationism • Many early American settlers were fleeing European persecution • They felt America was a place to start fresh with new ways, leave old world behind • Growing separation between America and Europe
Thomas Paine • Thomas Paine crystalizes the idea of American freedom from Europe in Common Sense • He presents numerous arguments for shunning alliances • Becomes standard thought for more than a century
Common Sense • “We have boasted the protection of Great Britain, without considering that her motive was interest, not attachment; and that she did not protect us from our enemies on our account; but from her enemies on her own account, from those who had no quarrel with us on any other account, and who will always be our enemies on the same account. Let Britain waive her pretensions to the Continent, or the Continent throw off the dependence, and we should be at peace with France and Spain, were they at war with Britain.”
George Washington • The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.