‘A Fruitful Source of Trouble’: The Virginius Affair and the Rise of Free Trade Foreign Policy in Nineteenth-Century America

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dc.contributor.advisor Engerman, David en_US
dc.contributor.author Romero, E. Kyle
dc.date.accessioned 2014-05-19T14:58:53Z
dc.date.available 2014-05-19T14:58:53Z
dc.date.issued 2014
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10192/27063
dc.description.abstract In 1873, the capture of a private American vessel, the Virginius, by a Cuban warship almost brought the United States and Spain to war. Running arms and troops to Cuban revolutionaries fighting against Spain, the Virginius was seized as a pirate vessel and fifty-three members of its crew were put to death by Cuban authorities. A widespread popular reaction to the incident, which was termed the Virginius Affair, swept through the United States while newspapers agitated for war against Spain. The affair, however, was resolved peacefully through the foreign policy strategies of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Dealing with a capricious minister to Spain, unreliable communication networks, and a public in uproar, Fish patiently waited for the State Department to gather more information on the ship and its alleged piratical activities. Basing his policies in the principles of nineteenth-century free trade economics, Fish mediated the international incident while promoting American economic interests in the Caribbean. Although the United States retained a high tariff system throughout the late nineteenth-century, the foreign policy strategies of politicians like Hamilton Fish reveal the extent to which the rhetoric of free trade had become embedded in American diplomacy. This narrative challenges popular conceptions of this era in American history as isolationist and free of governmental restriction; the United States government was actively involved in both foreign and domestic economic affairs, seeking to maintain economic protectionism at home and liberalize trade around the world. Weeks after the Virginius Affair played out it was lost to public memory. In the wake of Fish’s successes, local free trade organizations gained significant support by championing a utopian view of American politics that resonated with the practical policies of the U.S. State Department. These societies would be influential decades later in prompting the War of 1898 against Spain. In a final irony, the legacy of the Virginius Affair would become a rallying cry against Spain in the 1890s, and the free trade foreign policy of Hamilton Fish would ultimately be realized by America’s twentieth-century empire. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences en_US
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en_US
dc.language English en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Brandeis University en_US
dc.rights Copyright by E. Kyle Romero 2014 en_US
dc.subject Free Trade en_US
dc.subject Hamilton Fish en_US
dc.subject U.S.-Spanish Relations en_US
dc.subject Virginius Affair en_US
dc.title ‘A Fruitful Source of Trouble’: The Virginius Affair and the Rise of Free Trade Foreign Policy in Nineteenth-Century America en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.contributor.department Department of History en_US
dc.degree.name MA en_US
dc.degree.level Masters en_US
dc.degree.discipline History en_US
dc.degree.grantor Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences en_US


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