Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the British Challenge to Republican America, 1783-1795.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris formally ended the war between Great Britain and her former colonies, but, while it acknowledged the United States as an independent nation, it left much else unresolved. American leaders struggled to gain recognition as a sovereign state, and the significant issues that remained between the British Empire and the fledgling United States dominated the twelve years of Dr. Michael Schwarz's analysis. His objective is to place Madison and Jefferson at the center of this unfolding story. Thus, he focuses on their roles as they sought to build a coherent foreign policy in the face of the many dangers the British presented between 1783 and 1795 (xiii).
Schwarz offers no new interpretation; rather, he seeks to fill a gap in the existing literature. Scholars have written volumes on Jefferson and Madison separately, and a few have devoted monographs to their friendship. This author accepts the Madison-Jefferson friendship as a given but makes little effort to analyze its inner dynamics. During the period covered, Madison is clearly the dominant figure, while Jefferson, who was in France as ambassador much of the time, played second fiddle to his younger colleague.
Schwarz embraces the prevailing "classical republican interpretation" of the Confederation/Constitution periods. He maintains that Jefferson and Madison belonged to a group of nationalist statesmen who "more or less" agreed on the sources, severity, and potential cure for the nation's problems with Great Britain. However, Madison and Jefferson represented only one bloc of Virginians who were nationalists, and strong opposition to this position could also be found within the state. Moreover, this division represented a major fault line between the national and states' governments. Contentious issues included the treatment of Loyalists, the management of newly-acquired lands in the West, the evacuation of British forts, and the payment of prewar debts.
While labeling these Virginians as nationalists, he is clear that they were not Hamiltonian nationalists. The inability of nationalists to solve these problems fostered the reform movement that culminated in the Constitution. Schwarz asserts that the division into bitter factions and ultimately into political parties would not have happened without the breakdown of this consensus. His study ends with Jay's Treaty and Madison's vehemently hostile opposition to it. Jay's Treaty brought an end to cooperation between the divergent nationalisms represented by Hamilton on the one hand and Madison on the other.
There is no doubt that the twelve years between the Paris Peace Treaty and Jay's Treaty are complex. Schwarz uses five chapters, which are basically chronological in arrangement, to present his material. He bases his analysis on the printed volumes of Madison's and Jefferson's correspondence and on the important secondary sources. He also consulted some manuscript sources, mainly pamphlets, and British sources were generally not used. If Schwarz's contribution to the literature is modest, he does provide a useful and well-written narrative of the breakdown of the consensus that held American foreign policy together until Jay's Treaty. Scholars will find little that is new. Additionally, the high price of this book--$95--will preclude its use in most undergraduate courses.
John D. Krugler
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|Title Annotation:||THE AMERICAS|
|Author:||Krugler, John D.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
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