What will the early USA's legacy be?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,733
SoCal
I think the US will go very much the same way as Great Britain. Slowly being eclipsed in prestige and power. But definitely able to draw on incredible amounts of influence and state craft when needed
The US has something like five times Britain's population, though.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,733
SoCal
Population really does not have much to do with it. China is historically a heavily populated region, but her influence and prestige has ebbed and flowed through the centuries.
Population plus things such as human capital and level of industrialization do help determine a country's ultimate power, though. This is why the US was able to rapidly build up huge militaries in both World Wars.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,163
Kansas
Population plus things such as human capital and level of industrialization do help determine a country's ultimate power, though. This is why the US was able to rapidly build up huge militaries in both World Wars.
And what is the US industrial capacity now compared to that era. A lot of manufacturing has moved off shore, and there is virtually no heavy industry outside of mining any more :(
 
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MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,163
Kansas
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Jul 2019
123
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
On America’s tombstone I would find this appropriate:

Historians will differ on whether the political philosophy and the economic and military direction of any nation have changed more fundamentally than those of the United States in a comparable period of time—1933-1967. But as an eyewitness of governmental and other public actions throughout these years, I formed the opinion that the United States merits the dubious distinction of having discarded its past and its meaning in one of the briefest spans of modern history.

That was from the 1968 Memoirs of New York Times bureau chief Arthur Krock.

But the losses that worried Krock did not arrive suddenly in 1933, although the crises of era sometimes made it seem that way. There had been a steady downward trend.

In 1787 James Madison at the Constitution Convention clearly recognized the danger of empire:

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.

George Washington in 1796 also warned about it:

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. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. 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.

In his celebrated July 4th 1821 address to Congress, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams had asserted the foreign policy American ideal as he saw it:

But she [America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all…

But by 1841 the change can be noticed. That same John Quincy Adams sounded an explicitly imperialist tone, justifying forced commercial expansion. Referencing Britain’s Opium War waged against a weak China, Adams asserted that opium was:

"a mere incident to the dispute ... the cause of the war is the kowtow — the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relations between lord and vassal."

In writing his own instructions for his famous 1853 naval expedition which use military power to force opened up the commercial ports of Japan – an act that that put America on the trail to Pearl Harbor - Commodore Perry noted:

"It is manifest, from past experience, that arguments or persuasion addressed to this people, unless they are seconded by some imposing manifestation of power, will be utterly unavailing."

Immediately following America's Civil War the English historian Lord Acton, wrote to General Robert E. Lee bypassing slavery and asking about States’ Rights as the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will. On December 15, 1866, Lee, in replying to Acton’s letter, sensed the future:

I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.

By 1895 Progressive Henry Cabot Lodge trumpeted the claim to empire when he published “Our Blundering Foreign Policy” in the March 1895 issue of Forum:

We have a record of conquest, colonization and expansion unequalled by any people in the Nineteenth Century. We are not to be curbed now by the doctrines of the Manchester school [free market economics that severely limited government involvement], which...as an importation are even more absurdly out of place than in their native land…

…From the Rio Grande to the Arctic Ocean there should be but one flag and one country… For the sake of our commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should control the Hawaiian Islands and maintain our influence in Samoa. England has studded the West Indies with strong places which are a standing menace to our Atlantic seaboard. We should have among those islands at least one strong naval station, and when the Nicaragua Canal is built the island of Cuba, still sparsely settled and of almost unbounded fertility, will become to us a necessity…


In a 1907 unpublished paper, Woodrow Wilson expressed the weltanschauung of his era years before he was elected President and a full decade before the U.S. went to war in Europe to make the world safe for democracy:

Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.

Cabinet Member James Farley in his book The Roosevelt Years reported on Franklin Roosevelt’s second Cabinet Meeting – just four days after he was sworn into office:

The second Cabinet meeting the following Tuesday was more interesting, because the new President again turned to the possibility of war with Japan. The Japs were swarming in Jehol Province toward the Great Wall of China. There was much discussion of Japan's attitude in the Orient, Japan's clashes with China, and other possible avenues of Japanese activity…

The President discussed possible plans of action in the event of war… Roosevelt said the Navy should be operated from Hawaii and air bases should be established in the Aleutians. He said we would have to depend largely on air bases in the Aleutians against Japan, because the fleet could not operate efficiently over great distances.


By 1950, in National Security Council Report 68, Madison’s warning about foreign danger and the instruments of tyranny at home became institutionalized.

…[T]here are risks in making ourselves strong. A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people. They will be asked to give up some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms…

…A further increase in the number and power of our atomic weapons is necessary in order to assure the effectiveness of any U.S. retaliatory blow . . . Greatly increased general air, land and sea strength, and increased air defense and civilian defense programs would also be necessary to provide reasonable assurance that the free world survive an initial surprise atomic attack…This would provide additional time for the effects of our policies to produce a modification of the Soviet system. . .Budgetary considerations will need to be subordinated to the stark fact that our very independence as a nation may be at stake.


In Rise of Empire two years later on 1952, Garet Garrett, one-time editor of the Saturday Evening Post, described the journey:

We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: "You now are entering Imperium." Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: "Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible." And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: "No U-turns."

If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake, the graves of the fathers did not fly open, the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind does not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, "He is not there."

That a republic may vanish is an elementary school book fact. The Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire, and yet never could a Roman citizen have said, "That was yesterday." Nor is the historian, with all the advantages of perspective, able to place that momentous event at an exact point on the dial of time...


The undeclared war on Korea was underway, the one in Vietnam lay in the near future, and Arthur Krock was still watching. Madison would be depressed to see it, but he would not be surprised.
 
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Dec 2017
294
Florida
Population really does not have much to do with it. China is historically a heavily populated region, but her influence and prestige has ebbed and flowed through the centuries.
The American population multipler was one of the reasons early founding fathers thought our Empire of Liberty would eventually overtake the world.
 
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Feb 2017
221
Canada
It's not semantics. I had a reason for asking you. For future reference, if you don't want a thread moved to Speculative, don't write in future tense.
Fair enough. Feel free to edit, but I'd prefer it to be in this forum. I don't consider the topic speculative, I'm just curious how historians have framed the US and it's place in history.