Lieven in particular finds the role of Jacksonianism in shaping American culture and foreign policy most problematic and disturbing.But all of these authors trace those aspects of American foreign policy and the American character that confound Europeans these days to Andrew Jackson and the Scots-Irish frontier settlers he represented.
Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by Emanuel Leutze, 1862.
A classic allegory of Jacksonian America and one of the most ambitious statements of Jacksonian nationalism and empire building in the nineteenth century. celebrated the idea of Manifest Destiny just when the Civil War threatened the republic.
They looked with contempt on the Filipinos as “niggers,” and did not believe that the United States had any business taking on the burden of responsibility for nonwhite peoples who showed little capacity for self-government.
“To use state power to reform and reconstruct societies inhabited by people whose skin colors and religions made white Americans distinctly uncomfortable was to go to the heart of the American dilemma about the appeals of liberty and empire, choice and coercion, freedom and power, whether the location was Alabama, Manhattan, or Luzon.”Jacksonian nationalism has started to get the attention it deserves as a major force in shaping American culture and foreign policy.
Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian nationalism have so profoundly shaped the American character that the United States can rightly be called “Old Hickory’s Nation.” Walter Russell Mead made the conceptual breakthrough of looking at Jacksonianism not just as a political ideology limited to the Age of Jackson in the nineteenth century.
Quoting Dialogue From A Book In An Essay - Jacksonian America Essay
Rather, as Mead defines it, Jacksonianism is a community of political feeling emanating from a populist folk culture.Jacksonianism is, in Mead’s words, “an expression of the social, cultural, and religious values of a large portion of the American public,” and is characterized by “a strong sense of common values and common destiny.”Jacksonianism is poorly understood because its members are poorly represented in the cultural elites of Hollywood, the media, and academia. Mencken onwards have dismissed Jacksonians as “Boobus Americanus” mired in ignorance, religious zealotry, jingoism, and racism, while Rush Limbaugh and a host of conservative commentators have raged against the “pointy headed academics in their ivory towers” as self-righteous snobs who are contemptuous of the values and institutions that ordinary Americans hold dear. Chesterton’s classic observation expresses the conventional wisdom of many historians and commentators who define American identity in terms of ideology—Lieven’s American Creed—and mulitculturalism.Listening to talk radio, the voice of contemporary Jacksonian populism, you can find that antipathies are mutual. Anti-intellectualism, the legacy of Scots-Irish resentment of the educated elites in England and New England, has been one of the less attractive sides of Jacksonian culture. Mead, followed by Lieven and Anderson and Cayton, while recognizing the importance of the American Creed of civic nationalism, reject it as the sole basis of American identity.In large part this is due to the debate over the meaning of American empire that has taken on great urgency since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.The question of whether America is a republic or an empire is an old one.Now, much to their surprise, the Americans found themselves struggling to suppress an insurgency among the people they were supposed to liberate.One soldier wrote that despite “frequent drubbings” at the hands of his comrades, the insurgents “‘bob up serenely’ at different points and it seems to be quite a job to subdue them.” Many of the soldiers were National Guardsmen without training for a mission they poorly understood and whose morale was undermined by unanticipated terrorist attacks.It was not the best of times for the United States Army.American soldiers had come overseas to uplift a downtrodden people and bring them the blessings of democracy and good government.While the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, frequently described the new republic as a rising empire, critics of American foreign policy from the opponents of the Mexican War in the 1840s to the opponents of the current war in Iraq have insisted that the United States betrayed its republican ideals and institutions in pursuit of world power.In their recent works, Walter Russell Mead, Anatol Lieven, and Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton examine the historical roots of America’s impulse to empire.