James Huston reviews Scott A. Silverstone, Divided Union: The Politics of War in the Early American Republic (Cornell University Press, 2004) on H-Net. The review begins: Scott Silverstone, an assistant professor of Political Science at the United States Military Academy, has written an intriguing and conceptually informative book about the relationship between a republican frame of government and foreign policy, more particularly the propensity of republics to engage in war. He believes that republics do indeed tend to be less warlike, because the war-making power is fragmented among the branches of government (separation of powers) and the executive is much more limited in the scope of his (someday, her) activity. In the American case, Silverstone especially points to the impact of federalism as a limitation on the capacity of the United States to engage in war; the extended republic, with its vast diversity of interests, enables sectional views to obtain representation in Congress and acts as a brake on warlike ambitions. To show the validity of his view, Silverstone goes through a number of American foreign policy questions from 1790 to 1860. He gives us an unusual and interesting view of foreign affairs of the early republic, and his conclusions merit careful consideration; however, in a strange and unusual way, he also brings to the fore some distinct methodological questions.
To find out what is strange and unusual, and for the rest of the review, click here. (And if you think Huston's critique of American Political Development scholarship is off-base, post a comment.)