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_______________________________________________________ H-DIPLO ROUNDTABLE David M. Pletcher, _The Diplomacy of Trade and Investment: American Economic Expansion in the Hemisphere, 1865-1900_ (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1998) Roundtable Editor: Thomas Schoonover Reviewers: John Belohlavek, Jurgen Buchenau, Paul Dosal, Seth Fein, David Healy, Aissatou-Sy-Wonyu ________________________________________________________________ David Pletcher Professor Emeritus of History Indiana University I have always thought that a round table or panel discussion (essentially the same thing) should comment on the point of departure (in this case a scholarly monograph) and then take off on related topics, perhaps at some distance from the starting point. It appears that the commentators here represented had different views, for most of the essays in this collection do not go beyond the limits of a standard book review. Accordingly my reply to the contributions of these writers will deal mostly with their negative criticisms of the book and will be largely defensive. After I have, so to speak, done myself justice, I shall suggest a few lines of discussion that I thought might be inspired by the various parts of the book. I guess the best place to start is my brief reference to the New Left in my Introduction, since several writers bore down heavily on those three paragraphs. My purpose was not to vilify a school of historical interpretation for which I have considerable respect but to locate my own interpretation of late nineteenth century foreign policies in the mainstream of historiography-the sort of thing we are always looking for in the dissertations we direct. I regard William Appleman Williams as the founder and chief representative of the New Left school and his book Empire As a Way of Life published near the end of his life, when he was president of the Organization of American Historians, as the culminating expression of his historical credo. My remarks on the New Left were written with Williams, not Walter LaFeber, in mind. I believe I was justified in this, for historians of the last forty years have consistently placed Williams at the head of the New Left. Indeed, Diplomatic History has just published (Spring 2001) yet another round table discussion of Williams' current influence on history-writing. It is interesting to observe that although this round table. and other appreciations of Williams give lavish attention to his earlier writings, there is almost no mention of Empire As A Way of Life (Anyone reading this collection of exaggerations and snap judgments will understand the omission.) I am especially surprised at the criticisms by Paul Dosal, Jurgen Buchenau, and Lester Langley (who reviewed my book in Diplomatic History, Summer 2000) for what they call my antagonism to Walter LaFeber, whom I mentioned briefly in a footnote (no. 4, p. 3), On the basis of this, Dosal even absurdly calls me a closet imperialist. My relations with LaFeber, a more cautious historian than Williams, have always been friendly and respectful, and he admired my earlier monograph, The Awkward Years: American Foreign Relations under Garfield and Arthur, enough to request a copy of my manuscript while he was writing The New Empire (see his acknowledgment). I found his book stimulating and used it for years in my undergraduate and graduate teaching at Indiana, as many others of my generation seem to have done. When I started work on The Diplomacy of Trade and Investment I expected to continue much of the same interpretation as in The Awkward Years (i.e., that the late 19th century was largely a preparation for the post-1900 period) which would have agreed with most of The New Empire. However, as I sifted through the sources, I found that they did not conform with this view, so I gradually changed it to the interpretation set forth in the Introduction to The Diplomacy of Trade and Investment. Nevertheless, I continued to cite The New Empire in over a dozen footnotes, mostly in my chapter on the 1890s. I also made use of Hans-Ulrich Wehler's Der Aufstieg des amerikanischen Imperialismus, which largely agrees with LaFeber's interpretation. I have also cited LaFeber's later book, The Search for American Opportunity although I have found it less useful. Leaving my brief treatment of the New Left and the lengthy criticism of that treatment by several contributors, let me turn to more substantial comments on my book. I welcome the group's practically unanimous appreciation of my depth of research and the variety of the sources I used. But I was a little distressed by the statements by Langley, Seth Fein, and Buchenau that these were not enough since I used too few secondary sources beyond 1980-a serious criticism, if accurate. I counted the secondary sources in my bibliography beyond 1980 and found 42-in other words, about two a year. That seems to me an adequate number, especially since the three critics did not mention many specific omissions. Those they did mention were nearly all published in the 1990s, several from 1996 to 1999, when the book was already in the hands of the publisher. (Its publication date was 1998.) Langley implied that I should have used the books in his edited series "The United States and the Americas." I was already familiar with the series, having prepared a detailed publisher's report while it was being considered. I used the volume on Chile by William F. Sater but found the one on Mexico by W. Dirk Raat inadequate on the late 19th century, so I did not use it. Among the other monographs mentioned I found several that I would have used if I had encountered them in time-what author could not say this about a completed work? But I cannot say that they would have required much if any change in my interpretation. Another substantial comment by my reviewers is most forcefully stated by Buchenau and hinted at by Langley, Fein, and perhaps others. This is what they call my failure to appreciate adequately the "pull" factor working on Latin American trade with the U.S. or, put more generally, the Latin American reaction to U.S. influence. According to this criticism, I did not sufficiently use Latin American archives or Latin American secondary accounts. This criticism would have more substance than the others but for one thing: I never intended the book to be a study of Latin American institutions or culture. As the title and Introduction indicate, this is an examination of American trade and investments in the hemisphere-how they grew, how the U.S. government helped or hindered them, and how they fared in foreign settings. (I consistently included Canada on an equal basis, although most contributors, being Latin American specialists, passed quickly over the Canadian chapters.) The subject of the book is not Latin American history, geography, agriculture, mining, government patronage, popular culture, etc., etc., and I included only as much of these matters as I thought necessary to make my points about American trade and investments. If my critics had cited Latin American details or accounts contradicting my account of U.S. trade and investments, their objections might carry more weight. Aissatou Sy-Wonyu, Fein, and John Belohlavek commented favorably on my treatment of Mexico, especially in Chapter 3. I am surprised that others who felt that I undervalued Latin American materials overlooked my detailed treatment of U.S.-Mexican relations during the critical years 1865-1880, when trade and investment replaced annexation as the major theme in these relations. In that section of the book I used many Mexican materials, both archival and secondary, including the papers of Matías Romero, a key figure in that replacement. Fein wondered why Mexico virtually disappeared from my narrative after 1880. I did not drop Mexico entirely from consideration-for example that country figures in the discussion of reciprocity during the 1890s in Chapter 9. In planning my concluding chapter, covering some events of 1900-1914, I decided not to introduce the Mexican revolution of 1910-1920 because I would have had to drop it halfway or become involved with European politics, World War I, and an entirely new period. My decision was not an ideal arrangement but one fairly common in history-writing. Some prominent developments in U.S.-Mexican relations after 1890 point toward the revolutionary years, so I did not emphasize or even include them. My attention to Latin American subjects and materials was sometimes determined in part by the fact that U.S. relations with nations of that area during the 19th century were spotty, except for Mexico, the isthmian transit question, and Cuba. That is, the history of other hemispheric relations lacks broad questions extending over decades and making possible a sustained narrative. The reason for that, of course, is mostly a matter of geography and ease of communication. In the case of Cuba, two early overarching developments permitted a sustained narrative, 1865-1890. These were the expansion of U.S. trade and investment and the vigorous but unsuccessful Cuban efforts at revolution. The former was more germane to the subject of my book, so I gave it priority, although I think I did not slight the Ten Years War and Cuban-Spanish relations. Coming to the second Cuban revolution, 1895-1898, and the Spanish-American War, I continued to follow the policy of inclusion and arrangement I have already laid down-that of emphasizing subjects contributing to a history of American trade and investment in the hemisphere. I have no objection to calling the conflict "the Spanish-Cuban-American War", but the longer term is unwieldy, and I chose to follow the more common practice. Dosal and Langley faulted my treatment of the causes of U.S. intervention in Cuba, but Dosal's criticisms was so much involved in his defense of LaFeber that I had difficulty following him. Both of them would explain U.S. intervention with Luis Perez's simplistic statement that the U.S. acted to prevent Cuban independence rather than to establish it. Certainly many Americans felt this way, including an undetermined number in office, but nothing I have seen supports this line of thought for McKinley or his administration. Without clear evidence on this point, it is impossible to make positive judgments about motives and opinions. The causation of the war is and probably will remain an unanswered question. My account was intended to set forth the business point of view, and I did this at considerable length (pp. 340-354) I do not see that Dosal or Langley-or Pérez, for that matter-had anything pertinent to say on that subject. I did not set out to explain the coming of the war, only the part played by Americans and I felt no obligation either to attack or to defend American intervention. Thus I cannot understand how Sy-Wonyu arrived at the conclusion that "the US was imperial, hegemonic in nature and by necessity," or how Dosal figured out that I had given my readers "an extensive, ill-disguised, and unpersuasive apology for American expansion and intervention." I have tried to indicate what I consider the principal weaknesses of the seven reviews of my book (including Langley's earlier work), but I should thank several of the contributors for their more balanced judgments. By his reader's report David Healy helped to get the book published in the first place; no author could find fault with his appreciative review. John Belohlavek provided the most objective summary of the book's contents, and although he offered only a few value judgments, his fair précis went far to offset some exaggerations of the others. Seth Fein penetrated more deeply than most others into the book's meaning and significance, either to approve or to criticize. Although not offering comments of his own, Tom Schoonover's fair summaries of the others' remarks set up a level playing field for the soccer match. Here are some ideas for independent discussions. Fein's essay contained many excellent ideas, including: How did the problems of the late 19th century foreshadow contemporary international economic problems? More specifically, how has the concept of "free trade" changed since 1900? Might the changing U.S. attitude toward the Mexican revolution, 1910, ff., be a better opening date than 1898-1900 for the new American foreign policy? Did the generally passive, executive leadership, 1865-1900, contribute importantly to the uncertain, tentative foreign policy? Periodization: Which of the following dates makes the most defensible dividing point between the "old" American foreign policy of the 19th century and the "new" policy that succeeded it: 1890? (Beisner) 1898-1900 (conventional) 1910-1912 (Mexican revolution) 1914? (World War I) None of these? Should the present generation of historians try to provide meaning for a generation traumatized by Vietnam?(Langley, 535) Should history be objective or instrumental? (Healy, 3) Copyright (c) 2000 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact H-Net@h-net.msu.edu or H-Diplo@h-net.msu.edu.