The Myth of American Isolationism: Commerce, Diplomacy, and Military Affairs in the Early Republic

America’s founding principles do not call for an isolationist grand strategy, and early U.S. statesmen did not adhere to a non-interventionist foreign policy as they sought to secure the nation’s interests. Regrettably, such misconceptions of America’s early statecraft have gained credence in a time of war-weariness and monumental federal budget constraints. In an effort to set the record straight, this report focuses on the areas of diplomacy, trade, and military affairs in the early republic (1776–1860) to better understand the foundations of U.S. statecraft. America’s Founders and early statesmen believed and acted upon the idea that prosperity at home comes through active trade abroad and that peace is best secured through military strength and foreign respect for U.S. sovereignty.

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