The Great Rapprochement

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The Great Rapprochement, according to historians including Bradford Perkins, describes the convergence of diplomatic, political, military and economic objectives between the United States and Great Britain in 1895-1915, the two decades up to and including the beginning of World War I.

Uncle Sam embracing John Bull, while Britannia and Columbia hold hands and sit together in the background in The Great Rapprochement (1898).

Mixed feelings[edit]

Adam Smith predicted in The Wealth of Nations (1776) that if given representation in Parliament, in a century the Thirteen Colonies would become the center of the British Empire, but the American Revolution that began at that time disrupted the empire's relationship with the new United States.[1] The War of 1812 and disputes along the United States-Canada border continued to cause suspicion between the two countries. The U.S. was seen as a potential threat by the British Empire, and the latter was seen by the former as the antique and aristocratic empire which had once ruled it.

However, the Americans were aware of how much they owed to their British background, and the British institutions had always contrasted favorably against their European counterparts; as early as 1823, the United Kingdom backed up the American Monroe Doctrine, and the two countries cooperated in naval anti-slave trade efforts. The differences that had separated an agrarian and anti-imperialist United States and the industrialized, imperialistic Britain had rapidly diminished after 1860. The United States in 1865 emerged from its civil war a major industrial power with a more centralized government, and emerged from the Spanish–American War (1898) an imperial power with possessions around the globe, and a special interest in the approaches to what in 1914 became the Panama Canal.

By 1901 many influential Britons advocated for a closer relationship between the two countries. W. T. Stead even proposed that year in The Americanization of the World that the British Empire and the United States merge to unify the English-speaking world, as doing so would help Britain "continue for all time to be an integral part of the greatest of all World-Powers, supreme on sea and unassailable on land, permanently delivered from all fear of hostile attack, and capable of wielding irresistible influence in all parts of this planet". The Scottish-born American Andrew Carnegie shared the goal, telling Stead "We are heading straight to the Re-United States".[1] As American Anglophobia declined, London realized the value of a long-term ally that would prevent an upset in Britain's balance of power, which the German Empire and Russian Empire appeared to threaten.

Shared Interests[edit]

Otto von Bismarck remarked at the end of the 19th century that the most significant event of the 20th century would be "The fact that the North Americans speak English".[2] The American culture and language was built upon Britain's. However, Irish Catholics in the U.S. were strongly hostile to Britain (because of the issue of independence for Ireland), and pushed the Democratic Party toward hostile measures, such as the dispute over the Venezuela boundary.[3]

The Spanish-American War[edit]

The most notable sign of a warming in Anglo-American relations was the United Kingdom's actions during the Spanish–American War. Britain had long favored Spanish control over Cuba, because the threat of possession of Cuba by an unfriendly United States might harm British trade in the Caribbean. However, with the warming of Anglo-American relations and a guarantee of Cuban independence by the U.S. in 1898, Britain abandoned this policy and supported the U.S. policy of calling for the independence of Cuba.[4]

At the start of the Spanish–American War, most Continental European powers remained neutral, while warning Spain repeatedly not to provoke a war with the much more powerful U.S. Britain also remained neutral but openly sided with America.[5] During the 90-day war, Britain sold coal to the U.S. Navy and allowed the U.S. Military to use Britain's undersea cables to communicate.[6] When Commodore Dewey's fleet sailed out of Hong Kong's harbor for Manila, the British soldiers and sailors in the harbor cheered for them.[7]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Stead, W. T. (1901). The Americanization of the World. Horace Markley. pp. 396–399,405–407. 
  2. ^ Jasone Cenoz, "English in Europe: The Acquisition of a Third Language"
  3. ^ Michael Edward Brown; Sean M. Lynn-Jones; Steven E. Miller (1996). Debating the Democratic Peace. MIT Press. p. 147. 
  4. ^ Henry Watterson, "History of the Spanish-American War", pg 389
  5. ^ David F. Trask (1996). The War With Spain in 1898. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 45–48. 
  6. ^ http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/foreignpol.htm
  7. ^ The Relations of the United States and Spain: The Spanish-American War "French Ensor Chadwick" pg 156

References[edit]

  • Adams, Iestyn. Brothers Across The Ocean: British Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Anglo-American 'special relationship' (2005).
  • Burton, David H, British-American Diplomacy 1895-1917: Early Years of the Special Relationship (1999).
  • Perkins, Bradford. The great rapprochement: England and the United States, 1895-1914 (1968).
  • James C. Bennett, "The Anglosphere Challenge" (2004).