The birth of the United States as an independent nation was a new event in the sense that no country before had ever decided to break the oppressive power of the colonial country which ruled it. The Declaration of Independence was not enough to make the world understand America was no longer a slave of Europe: its political leaders had to impose the former British colony as a homogeneous, reliable interlocutor. The constitution of a federal power was to give them the possibility to be considered as a potential partner for commercial issues and as a dangerous enemy in the military field. As Bradford Perkins explains, few thought of an American identity' in any political sense. The very new idea that was here at stake, through the elaboration of the Constitution, was the definition of this American identity
[...] What they gained was above all international credibility. But they knew that they could not rule such a wide and fragile country with principles only, that they had to face all the problems a new nation encounters and adopt the same attitude than Europe: expansion for instance, which is linked with war. The American territory was not a wild country: for instance, Spain controlled Louisiana; Canada controlled the region of the Great Lakes, etc. Even if the Constitution claimed America's neutrality in foreign affairs and that the exchanges theoretically remain of a commercial nature, the Congress gained the right to declare the war, to raise an army, etc. [...]
[...] On the practical field the Constitution was motivated by different needs. The desire for isolation and neutrality corresponded to a complete rejection for the “European corruption” what led to the Monroe doctrine. The hate of monarchial authority made America the shelter for the republicans and the enemies of European governments, such as the Irishmen. The political power of the country was also very instable because of the absence of a solid central government: the local conflicts between the states destroyed the possibilities to claim for territories or commercial facilities between the states. [...]
[...] The President, during the years that followed the ratification of the Constitution, was forced to find stratagems to get round the Senate's rights: Perkins explains (p. 79) that, “President James K. Polk in 1845, following the annexation of Texas, [ ] sent troops commanded by General Zachary Taylor into territory south of Texas' limits while a province of Mexico, and in 1846 this resulted, as Polk may have hoped, in war. In any event, in making the president commander in chief, the authors of the Constitution, although recognizing the need for central direction of armies in the field, in wars declared by Congress, had never expected that authority to be used to control policy.” The principles obstructing a unilateral use of the power by a single authority as established by the Constitution became the stake of a legal and administrative struggle between the Executive and the Legislative powers. [...]
[...] The very new idea that was here at stake, through the elaboration of the Constitution, was the definition of this American identity. It was built in many ways, politically as well as diplomatically or philosophically. The major ideas of the Constitution can be linked with a more general tendency which is at work in Europe in these times: the evolution of the monarchies (especially in France and Great-Britain) as far as the respect of the lower classes and the human rights are concerned due to the essential impact of philosophers like Rousseau and Locke finally provoked a real questioning of the legitimacy of this kind of government. [...]
[...] America had to face the contradictions between its ethical principles and the inevitable choice of Realpolitik. Actually it went through many characters that they used to criticize as evidences of European barbarism: expansion, slavery, bloody revolution. The realistic viewpoint also forces us to say that the United States could not keep on moving without taking part to what was happening in Europe. Either a new and powerful country as America becomes an active ally or an enemy territory to conquer. [...]
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