1 Introduction



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1 Introduction

In the fifty years surrounding the turn of the nineteenth century, dissident inhabitants of colonial cities from Boston to Buenos Aires condemned, fought, and finally overthrew the European empires that had ruled the New World for more than three centuries, creating new, sovereign states in their stead. These American independence movements emerged from distinctive settings and produced divergent results, but they were animated by strikingly similar ideas. Patriotic political theorists throughout the Americas offered analogous critiques of imperial rule in the years leading up to their rebellions, designed comparable constitutions immediately after independence had been won, and expressed common ambitions for their new nations’ future relations with one another and the rest of the world. This book adopts a comparative perspective on the revolutions that liberated the United States and Latin America, offering a unified interpretation of their most important political ideas. It argues that the many points of agreement it describes amongst revolutionary political theorists in different parts of the Americas can be attributed to the dilemmas they encountered in common as Creoles, that is, as the descendants of European settlers born in the Americas.

The institutions of European imperialism in the Americas placed Creoles in a difficult position. As Europeans within American colonies, Creoles enjoyed many privileges, benefitting in particular from the economic exploitation and political exclusion of the large Indigenous, African, and mixed-race populations that lived in or near their colonies. However, as Americans within European empires, Creoles were socially marginalized, denied equal representation in metropolitan councils and parliaments, and subjected to commercial policies designed to advance imperial interests at the colonies’ expense. Independence offered Creoles an escape from the vagaries of imperial domination, but posed a serious threat to the internal hierarchy of the colonies, so the political theorists that organized and defended rebellions across the hemisphere were forced to confront a question: how could they end European rule of the Americas without undermining Creole rule in the Americas? The ideology of Creole revolution—the set of ideas that, as I shall demonstrate, appeared in all of the American independence movements—emerged from Creole theorists’ efforts to answer this question.

Scholars of American and Latin American political thought have long sought, almost always in isolation from one another, to understand the contradictions central to the ideas they study. How can Americans invoke ideals of liberty and equality so passionately while passing over the oppression and exclusion that their societies impose on indigenous, African, and other non-white populations? What ends are served by the odd mixtures of democratic and undemocratic institutions framed by the Americas’ influential constitutions? Why are Americans so jealous of their own nations’ autonomy, yet so eager to influence events elsewhere in the world? In the pages that follow, I argue that each of these contradictory ideological tendencies first arose as revolutionary Creoles confronted the dilemmas inherent in their independence movements. Seeking a way out from under imperial rule that would not require them to relinquish the privileges imperialism had allowed, Creole political thinkers throughout the Americas embraced an ideology that incorporated both anti-imperialist and imperialist positions at the same time.

Anti-imperial imperialism took on distinct forms as the Creole revolutions progressed, appearing first in defenses of revolution, then in constitutional designs, and finally in foreign policies. Creole patriots justified their rebellions by reference to arguments carefully tailored to impugn some, but not all of the inequalities that characterized their societies, claiming that their right to rule themselves originated in their forefathers’ conquest of the New World. Creole constitutional designers created political systems that, while credibly conforming to revolutionary ideals of popular sovereignty, centralized authority and separated powers in ways that actually limited the political influence that heterogeneous populations could exert. Creole statesmen embarked on projects of territorial expansion and internal colonization, arguing they could only protect and consolidate the Americas’ independence by expanding their new states’ spheres of influence and control of resistant populations. Below, by comparing the political ideas of three carefully chosen Creole revolutionaries, I demonstrate that the institutional context surrounding the American independence movements exerted a decisive influence on their ideologies, producing convergence around anti-imperial imperialism in these three forms even amongst thinkers influenced by very different intellectual traditions.

Showing that the American independence movements were similar in their institutional origins and political ideas, this book challenges established accounts not only of American and Latin American political thought, but also of the Americas’ comparative political and economic development, and the history of inter-American relations. It reconstructs a critical moment of institutional change and evolving hemispheric affairs, a moment when it was not yet inevitable that the United States would become the world’s largest economy and foremost military superpower, or that Latin America would experience persistent political instability and economic underdevelopment, a moment in which all Americans were struggling to resolve similar problems. Recognizing and understanding the Creole revolutions’ many points of ideological convergence prompts us to reconsider the causes of the United States and Latin America’s subsequent divergence, raising a broad set of questions about the long-term legacies of the Americas’ transition to independence.



1.1 Comparing Revolutions

Despite their geographic and historical proximity, comparative studies of the American independence movements have not been common. Scholars have usually approached the revolutions that liberated the United States and Latin America using different interpretive frameworks, with the result being that when they are compared at all, the American independence movements have been compared to different sets of non-American rebellions and revolts, rather than to each other. The concept of the ‘Creole revolution’ that I develop here offers a new, unified interpretive framework capable of explaining features of the ideology of the American independence movements that more established alternatives have ignored or misunderstood.

The tendency to separate the American and Latin American independence movements began early. In a series of letters written after his retirement, the Massachusetts patriot, political theorist, and U.S. President John Adams reflected on the extraordinary period of global history he had observed during his career in politics. Even as he was “plunged head and ears in the American revolution from 1761 to 1798 (for it had been all revolution during the whole period),” he had been “eye-witness to two revolutions in Holland” and “ear-witness to some of the first whispers of a revolution in France.” Taken together, he wrote, the “last twenty-five years of the last century, and the first fifteen years of this, may be called the age of revolutions.” Adams pointedly declined to list, as events definitive of this age, the colonial rebellions that had already shaken off Spanish rule in the Southern Cone, and which would soon demolish the entire mainland edifice of the Spanish American empire. The problem, for Adams, was that the “people of South America [were] the most ignorant, the most bigoted, the most superstitious of all the Roman Catholics in Christendom.” The idea that “a free government, and a confederation of free governments, should be introduced and established among such a people, over that vast continent, or any part of it” appeared to Adams “as absurd as similar plans would be to establish democracies among the birds, beasts, and fishes.”1 In other words, Adams’ anti-Catholic prejudices, common amongst Englishmen of his era, made it impossible for him to conceive of Spanish Americans’ struggle for independence as of a piece with the broader age of revolutions that Adams credited himself and his fellow North Americans with initiating.

Adams’ “age of revolutions” proved a durable analytical apparatus. His European contemporaries, including figures like Alexis de Tocqueville and Edmund Burke, wrote about England’s Glorious Revolution, the independence movement of the United States, and the French Revolution as passages, more or less tortured, to the modern world.2 Later scholars retained the same basic set of comparisons even as they refined the categories they used it to illustrate, describing the Glorious Revolution, the North American independence movement, and the French Revolution as paradigmatic “bourgeois” or “democratic” revolutions,3 and tracing the intellectual lineage of “republican” political ideas from Ancient Greece, through Renaissance Italy and seventeenth-century England, to the rebellious colonies of British America.4 Even authors who have insisted on the United States’ “exceptionalism” have done so with reference to Europe, arguing that the “absence of feudalism” in American history made the political constellation that arose in the independence movement utterly unlike any European analogue.5 From the first, then, the independence movement of the United States has been treated as either an exemplary or an exceptional event in a broadly north Atlantic “age of revolutions”: a wave of agitation unified, primarily, by Enlightened philosophies and anti-monarchical aims.

Latin Americans have rarely been regarded as important participants in this period of upheaval.6 Instead, their roughly contemporaneous break with European rule has been treated as the consequence of an early or “incipient” nationalism: a sense of separate, American identity and a resulting desire for independence, which formed gradually over the course of the colonial period and crystallized in the decades surrounding the turn the nineteenth century.7 According to this view, Spanish Americans came to think of themselves as Peruvians or Chileans, for example, rather than as Spaniards, and then sought independence for these administrative subunits of the Empire in order to bring political sovereignty into alignment with their new national identities. This concern with nationalism, as opposed to anti-monarchism, has long governed scholarship on the ideology of Latin America’s independence movements. The clearest evidence of its influence is a literature organized according to the national boundaries that divide the region today.8 In the rare instances when this approach has inspired comparative inquiry, it has pointed scholars toward the twentieth century anti-colonial movements of Asia and Africa. Like these later uprisings of colonized peoples, the Latin American independence movements overthrew a foreign ruler, creating a “model” of “national liberation” that subsequent freedom fighters would follow.9 After achieving independence, Latin American political thinkers confronted a set of political and economic difficulties akin to those experienced by other “post-colonial” societies. Ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, the Latin American countries assumed a place on the global periphery, as primary-goods producers frequently subject to foreign interventions.10 Though a few works analyze the independence movement of the United States using something like the incipient nationalism thesis, they have, for the most part, done so, again, in order to emphasize the qualities that made it fundamentally exceptional—and ultimately exceptionally successful—amongst the larger group of nations that emerged from imperial rule.11

Thus, as I noted, the dominance of different interpretative frameworks in the literatures on the independence movements of the United States and Latin America has limited comparative study, but this is not their only flaw. Both the “age of revolutions” thesis and the “incipient nationalism” thesis fail to account for certain distinctive features of the American independence movements, and both lead to problematic depictions of the societies that independence produced in the Americas.

In order to establish an analogy between the Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, and the British North American independence movement, proponents of the age of revolutions thesis tend to deemphasize the fact that the latter was, inescapably, a rebellion directed by the inhabitants of a collection of colonies against an empire, stressing anti-monarchical currents of its ideology instead.12 This makes it difficult, though, to account for patriotic Americans’ loyalty to their monarchs, which persisted even in the late stages of their disenchantment with empire, or their embrace of quasi-monarchical institutions after independence had been won. The age of revolutions thesis also tends to pass over the “peculiar institutions” present in British North America but absent in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, reducing the important roles that concerns with African slavery and Indigenous expropriation played in the ideology of the independence movement, and in the political struggles of the early republic.13

The incipient nationalism thesis, meanwhile, implies incorrectly that, prior to their independence movements, Latin Americans had already adopted national identities corresponding to the states that the endemic infighting of the nineteenth century would eventually produce.14 As a result, it cannot explain the ubiquitous, though mostly unsuccessful, efforts Latin Americans made to unify former colonies after winning independence. The incipient nationalism thesis also exaggerates the extent to which the Creole leaders of the Latin American independence movements rejected their own European identities in favor of nationalist alternatives that incorporated African and Indigenous Americans on equal terms, assuming, again incorrectly, that the valorization of mestizaje and democracia racial that emerged later in Latin American political thought preceded or accompanied the region’s independence.15

Ultimately, I shall argue, The American independence movements did not oppose European rule because it was either monarchical or foreign. Their leaders did not aim to usher in a new era of human history or to rectify the historical injustice of European conquest. Indeed, they initially demanded nothing more than to be recognized as the subjects of legitimate monarchs, and to have the rights they bore as the descendants of the Europeans who conquered the New World respected in their respective metropoles. When what was perceived as intransigence in the face of these demands finally convinced Americans to seek independence, they were anxious to escape European rule without relinquishing the privileges that their European ancestry had given them. Thus, far from eliminating all of the monarchical and imperial institutions from the independent societies they created, after independence Americans maintained or reshaped institutional inheritances in ways that served their interests.

If the age of revolutions thesis neglects the American independence movements’ imperial context, then, the incipient nationalism thesis mischaracterizes it. The empires Europeans installed in the Americas differed importantly from the ones they built later in Asia and Africa, stationing large, permanent settler populations overseas instead of ruling “indirectly” through indigenous intermediaries. As the interdisciplinary literature on “setter colonialism” has suggested, with the passing of generations, this form of imperialism produced a distinctive political dynamic: a “triangular” system of interaction amongst metropolitan, indigenous, and settler populations with conflicting interests in the abolition, reform, or maintenance of the institutions that structured their societies.16 Building upon this observation, here I will argue that the key to understanding the distinctive ideas of the American independence movements is to understand how they reflected the distinctive interests that the movements’ leaders pursued. The American independence movements were Creole Revolutions, formed and led by the descendants of European settlers born in the Americas. Creole leadership, I claim, made the ideas of the American independence movements more like one another than has usually been acknowledged, and more like one another than like the European, Asian, and African revolutions with which they are usually compared.


1.2 Comparing Revolutionary Ideas

To support this unorthodox interpretation of the American independence movements, I adopt an approach inspired by the growing field of comparative political theory. In recent years, political theorists have devoted greater attention to traditions of political thought that have traditionally been excluded from their canon. Studies of East and South Asian, Islamic, African, and Latin American political thinkers have uncovered both surprising areas of consensus across cultures we often assume are worlds apart, and stark disagreement on ideas we often assume should command universal assent.17 These important findings suggest that even as it improves our understanding of unfamiliar political ideas, comparative political theory will also revitalize normative political theorizing, exposing long-settled opinions to new challenges and undermining the intellectual hegemony that has accompanied western Europe and North America’s economic and military dominance of the rest of the world.18 These are central motivations for the present study. Despite its immense internal attractions and clear potential as a source of critical insights, Anglophone political theorists have little knowledge of Latin American political thought. Here, by examining a range of influential Latin American political thinkers alongside their better-known British American counterparts, I hope to arouse interest in some rich, but unfamiliar ideas, while also gaining new perspective on some canonical texts.

At the same time, though, I aim to advance beyond existing approaches in this exciting new field. For the most part, comparative political theorists have confined themselves to the interpretive-historical task of establishing what a given piece of non-western political thinking argues and the evaluative-philosophical task of asking whether what it argues is compelling. They have not taken advantage of the comparative method’s unique capacity to accomplish the social scientific task of explaining why the political thinkers they study thought what they did, rather than something else. In other words, they have not used the comparisons they make to identify the factors that cause ideological convergence or divergence amongst political thinkers or across traditions of political thought. In this book, I compare the ideas of three carefully chosen Creole revolutionaries in order to argue that the contradictions characteristic of American independence movements’ ideology were caused by the contradictions inherent in their Creole protagonists’ institutional situation.

Of course, this formulation raises some difficult questions: in what sense can political ideas be said to have been caused? What is entailed in explaining why a given thought appeared where and when it did? I propose a minimal, and, I hope, minimally controversial answer to these questions: political ideas are caused by the background problems that their thinkers set out to solve. Explaining why a political thinker thought what he or she did involves reconstructing the background problem that he or she wished to solve.19 These background problems are, in turn, products of an interaction between a thinker’s political context and the intellectual tradition he or she brings to bear upon that context. By political context I mean the existing institutions that impinge upon a political thinker’s life, especially the institutions that structure the advantages or disadvantages that he or she enjoys relative to other members of society, and thus the interests that he or she has in the maintenance, abolition, or reform of those institutions.20 By intellectual tradition I mean the inherited concepts that shape a thinker’s perceptions of his or her political context, the philosophical commitments that influence his or her evaluations of that context, and the very language that he or she uses to express these perceptions and evaluations.21

Different thinkers may be more or less explicit about the background problem or problems that caused them to think about politics in the way that they did. Indeed, they may even be more or less conscious of those problems, depending on how deeply they interrogate their own interests, presuppositions, prejudices, and inherited vocabulary and concepts. Thus, often, the background problems to which a text responds cannot be simply read out of the text itself; they must, rather, be inferred, and it is here that comparison becomes useful. John Stuart Mill described what remains the basic logic of the comparative method in 1843, describing two ways of choosing cases for comparison that make causal inference possible. Mill’s “Method of Agreement” involves comparing cases that are as different as possible in all respects, but which all display the phenomenon or outcome one aims to explain. His “Method of Difference”, by contrast, involves comparing cases that are as similar as possible in all respects, but in which the phenomenon or outcome one aims to explain appears in some cases and not in others. Both Methods serve to highlight patterns of variation across cases, and when successful, identify the factor or factors responsible for causing the phenomenon or outcome one aims to explain.22 Both Methods can be used to infer the background problems that caused political thinkers to think what they did: by comparing thinkers situated in similar political contexts but influenced by different intellectual traditions, or by comparing political thinkers influenced by similar intellectual traditions but situated in different political contexts, we can isolate the effects of each factor on their political ideas.

Below, I compare the ideas of three prominent Creole political theorists: Alexander Hamilton of the United States (1755-1804), Simón Bolívar of Venezuela (1783-1830), and Lucas Alamán of Mexico (1792-1853). I have chosen Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán according to Mill’s Method of Agreement.23 Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán came from societies shaped by different versions of the settler colonial model European empires imposed upon the Americas, and they inherited different stations within those societies’ settler elites. Even more importantly, for present purposes, they were each influenced by different philosophical traditions. But, as I shall endeavor to show, Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán all converged on an important set of ideas, defending American independence as a response to the unequal conditions imposed on Creoles by European imperial rule, proposing constitutions designed to protect Creole privileges within independent societies by unifying former colonies and granting executives extensive authority, and seeking to consolidate their states’ sovereignty through territorial expansion and internal colonization. These differences and similarities provide a basis for inferring that Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán’s ideological convergence was caused by the background problems they all faced as Creoles who sought and won independence for their societies.

The colonial predecessors of the United States, Venezuela, and Mexico illustrate the wide range of forms settler colonialism took in the Americas. British rule and a Protestant majority sharply distinguished the United States from its Spanish American counterparts, but the latter were by no means homogenous. Venezuela was in many senses a classic plantation colony, with an economy dominated by the export of agricultural primary goods and a relatively small, relatively rural population, of which a majority were African-American or mixed-race. The colony enjoyed a metropolitan policy of benign neglect for much of its history, permitting its Creole elites extensive autonomy in the oversight of local affairs, and the development of dense illicit networks of trade with European powers other than Spain. Meanwhile, Mexico – known as New Spain before independence – was the crown jewel of Spain’s American possessions, home to roughly half of the empire’s overseas population, densely urbanized, and much more economically diversified than colonial Venezuela. While some slaves were brought to New Spain, indigenous communities and mestizos made up most of the non-European population. Spanish sovereignty was also much more present in New Spain, where for centuries newly-arrived Spanish immigrants married into established Creole families, creating a local ruling class with a distinctly trans-Atlantic, but exclusively Hispanic, character.24

Deeply shaped by the differences between their societies, Alexander Hamilton, Simón Bolívar, and Lucas Alamán were also biographically dissimilar. Hamilton was the illegitimate offspring of a wandering Scottish nobleman and a French Huguenot exile who met in the Caribbean. He married into the colonial upper class of British North America, and rose quickly up the ranks of first the military and later the political hierarchies of his adoptive country by virtue of his extraordinary energy, administrative genius, and formidable rhetorical talents. Bolívar, meanwhile, was born into Caracas’s Creole elite, inherited a huge fortune and a large estate, and assumed a leadership position in the movement for Spanish American independence virtually from the start, displaying throughout adept military strategy, powerful personal charisma, and a singularly expansive vision of his revolution’s potential world-historical import. Alamán, finally, was the scion of a long-established New Spanish family whose financial fortunes had declined somewhat by the time of his birth. Of the three, only he had an extensive formal education, which made him an indispensable statesman and technocrat during Mexico’s early independence, and then his country’s premier historian in his mature years.25

Perhaps most importantly, Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán differed in their dominant philosophical influences. Hamilton’s political thought evidences deep debts to the authors of the Scottish Enlightenment, especially David Hume, from whom he derived a historical method for learning about politics, a focus on the interaction of individual interests within different institutional settings, and a clear sense of the importance of commerce in international affairs. Bolívar, meanwhile, was steeped in the classical republican tradition developed by figures from Machiavelli to Montesquieu, whose influence is visible in Bolívar’s concerns with the cultivation of civic virtue, his concept of collective liberty, and his attraction to mixed models of government and protective territorial expansion. Finally, Alamán lived long enough to absorb the conservative reaction to the French Revolution, especially the writings of Edmund Burke. He offered a reformist solution, short of independence, to the ‘American question’ at the Cortes of Cádiz, opposed and criticized the largely indigenous rebellion that preceded Mexico’s independence movement, and was keenly aware of the advantages that preserving some colonial political institutions might hold for an independent Mexico.

As we will see, these divergent influences deeply colored each author’s intellectual contributions to his respective country’s independence and early statehood. I do not claim that the American Revolutions were similar in all respects, or that Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán were ideologically identical. Rather, I will show that despite their differences—and especially their philosophical differences—Hamilton, Bolívar, and Alamán’s ideas display a common set of core contradictions: the anti-imperial imperialism that I claim was characteristic of the ideology of Creole Revolution. I argue that they converged in this sense because the social position each occupied as an American Creole imposed similar dilemmas on their revolutionary political ideas.



1.3 Organization of the Book

Chapter Two states at greater length, and provides additional illustration of the main theoretical contentions of the book. I describe the overlapping imperial institutions that structured the interests shared by Creoles in different parts of the Americas, and the changes to these institutions that eventually drove Creoles to seek independence throughout the hemisphere. I argue that Creoles occupied a “contradictory” institutional position, which imparted to them a set of internally adversarial interests, and caused the Creoles that organized and led struggles for independence to develop an ideology that was both anti-imperial and imperial at the same time. I show how anti-imperial imperialism appeared in Creoles’ revolutionary, constitutional, and international political thought, drawing illustrations of its distinctive tenets from intellectual leaders of the independence movements in the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile.

Chapters Three, Four, and Five are dedicated to case studies of Alexander Hamilton, Simón Bolívar, and Lucas Alamán. Each chapter provides enough background history and biography to give readers a sense of the unique paths the United States, Venezuela, and Mexico, respectively, followed to independence, and to contextualize each figure’s political thought. In each case, I also document a characteristically Creole mode of political thinking, showing how the contradictions of anti-imperial imperialism appear within the works of single authors. In Hamilton’s writings, analyses of individual interests and commercial interactions serve as the basis for a critique of British imperialism and a defense of a renewed, American imperial project. For Bolívar, the same, classically republican self-reinforcing cycles of liberty and virtue, tyranny and corruption, justify both Spanish American independence and the conquest and forced assimilation of a continent. Finally, Alamán’s conservative preference for gradual political change provides grounds for the establishment of a New Spanish empire that maintained many of the qualities of the old one. Together, the three case studies are intended to substantiate, in systematic fashion, the general claims made about the ideas of American independence in Chapter Two, but along the way, the concept of the Creole Revolution permits new insights into the political thought of these important individuals, and interventions in the large literatures dedicated to each. This productive feedback between theory and evidence, between an overarching interpretation and its application to specific cases, strongly recommends the comparative method I adopt.

Chapter Six addresses a puzzle that emerges from the arguments made in earlier chapters: if the Americas were so similar at the time they achieved independence, why are they so different today? When did ideological convergence give way to economic and political divergence. I describe the rise of organized opposition parties within the ranks of Creole revolutionaries, and compare the ideological divisions that underlay partisan conflict in the newly-independent Americas. I suggest that the United States’ relatively peaceful first transfer of authority might have contributed to its relatively stable politics and relatively fast economic growth. In this way, I show how the systematic study of political thought, in general, and the ideology of Creole Revolution, in particular, can help reframe longstanding questions in comparative politics and economic history. The Conclusion traces the divergent intellectual influence that the ideology of Creole Revolution has had in Latin America and the United States up to the present day.


Notes:

1 John Adams to James Lloyd, Quincy, 27 and 30 March 1815, in Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, 10 Volumes (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1856), X, 144-5, 149. The instance for Adams’ reflections on Spanish America was apparently his correspondent’s interest in the efforts of the Venezuelan patriot Francisco Miranda to obtain the United States’ support for an assault on then-Spanish South America, efforts which Adams rebuffed but which were much more warmly received by Alexander Hamilton. I return to these interesting events in Chapter 3.

2 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France [1790] ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien (London: Penguin Books, 2004); and Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [1835] trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

3 R.R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolutions: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800 2 Vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959 and 1964); Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 (London: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1962); Barrington Moore, Jr., The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966); and Perry Anderson, “The Notion of a Bourgeois Revolution” [1976] in English Questions (London: Verso, 1992).

4 Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman: Studies in the Transmission, Development, and Circumstance of English Liberal Thought from the Restoration of Charles II Until the War with the Thirteen Colonies [1959] (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004); Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Enlarged Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Hannah Arendt, On Revolution [1963] (New York: Penguin Books, 2006); Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972) and The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993); J.G.A Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); John M. Murrin “The Great Inversion, or Court versus Country: A Comparison of the Revolution Settlements in England (1688-1721) and America (1776-1816),” in J.G.A. Pocock, ed., Three British Revolutions: 1641, 1688, 1776 (Princeton, 1980), 368-453; and Paul Anthony Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1992).

5 Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since The Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955). For the wide range of theories offered as explanations for the United States’ uniqueness, vis-à-vis Europe, see also: Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996); and Deborah Madsen, American Exceptionalism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).

6 In recent decades, two important exceptions to this rule have appeared. First, a revisionist current in Latin American, and particularly Mexican, intellectual history has scholars tracing the connections between the French Revolution, Spanish liberalism, and the Spanish Americas’ independence movements; see: François-Xavier Guerra, “Revolución Francesa y Revoluciones Hispánicas: Una Relación Compleja” in Modernidad e Independencias: Ensayos Sobre Las Revoluciones Hispánicas Revised and Expanded Edition (Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro, 2009), 35-77; Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “Two Revolutions: France 1789 and Mexico 1810” The Americas, Vol. 47, No. 2 (October, 1990), 161-176; and The Independence of Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Roberto Breña, El Primer Liberalismo Español y los Procesos de Emancipación de América, 1808-1824: Una Revisión Historiográfica del Liberalismo Hispánico (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2006). Second, ‘Atlantic’ and ‘Global’ historians have included Latin America in their description of the “Seismic waves [that] traveled through the Atlantic world after 1775, linking uprisings on either side”; see: Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 158 for the quoted portion; Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996); John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); and the essays collected in David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds., The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c. 1760-1840 (Houndsmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).

7 For the term “incipient nationalism” and the best-known English-language exposition of this thesis, see: John Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions, 1808-1826, 2nd Edition (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1973), 24-37. See also: D.A. Brading, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and the essays assembled in Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden, eds., Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.

8 Often, even works that promise comparison are in fact often comprised of separate chapters dedicated to individual countries’ experiences. For a recent example, see: Patricia Galeana, ed., Historia Comparada de las Américas: Sus Procesos Independentistas (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 2010).

9 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Revised Edition (London: Verso, 1991), 46.

10 Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Walter D. Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011); Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel, Carlos A. Jáuregui, eds., Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate (Durham, Duke University Press, 2008). See:

11 Louis Hartz, ed., The Founding of New Societies: Studies in the History of the United States, Latin America, South Africa, Canada, and Australia (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1964); Thomas C. Barrow, “The American Revolution as a Colonial War for Independence” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Jul., 1968), 452-464; Seymour Martin Lipset, The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979).

12 For example, in his magisterial intellectual history of the United States’ early republican period, Gordon Wood notes at several points that the British North American Revolution “was no simple colonial rebellion against English imperialism,” each time emphasizing the relatively greater importance of republican ideals in the founders’ motivations. Wood, Creation of the American Republic, 91, 128, and 395. Scholars of Spanish American independence who have adopted the age of revolutions thesis display the same tendency. Jaime Rodríguez, for example, goes even further than Wood, insisting that “Spanish America was not a colony of Spain”, nor Spain itself an “Empire”, and that consequently the Spanish American revolutions are better understood as a “civil war”, a conflict over the future of the Spanish monarchy, than an anti-colonial or anti-imperial conflict. Rodríguez, Independence of Spanish America, xii; 107-168.

13 As Rogers Smith has argued, these accounts “falter because they center on relationships among a minority of Americans—white men, largely of northern European ancestry—analyzed in terms of categories derived from the hierarchy of political and economic status such men held in Europe…But the relative egalitarianism that prevailed among white men [in the early United States]… was surrounded by an array of fixed, ascriptive hierarchies, all largely unchallenged by the leading American revolutionaries.” Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 17.

14 It has proven difficult to find evidence of nationalist identities in the documentary residues of the independence movements, and as a result, in recent years historians of Spanish America have rejected both the incipient nationalism thesis, and related attempts to draw comparisons between American independence and later struggles for national liberation. See: Rodríguez, Independence of Spanish America and Tomás Pérez Vejo, Elegía Criolla: Una Reinterpretación de las Guerras de Independencia Hispano Americanas (Mexico City: Tusquets, 2010). Claudio Lomnitz “Nationalism as a Practical System: Benedict Anderson’s Theory of Nationalism from the Vantage Point of Spanish America” in Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 3-34; Eric Van Young, “The Limits of Atlantic-World Nationalism in a Revolutionary Age: Imagined Communities and Lived Communities in Mexico, 1810-1821” in Joseph Esherick, Hasan Kayalı, and Eric Van Young, Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006); and the essays collected in Sara Castro-Klarén and John Charles Chasteen, eds., Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

15 As Benedict Anderson notes, it is profoundly “puzzling”, that these “colonial provinces, usually containing large, non-Spanish-speaking populations, produce[d] creoles who consciously redefined these populations as fellow-nationals” and regarded “Spain, to whom they were, in so many ways, attached, as an enemy alien”. Imagined Communities, 50.

16 Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (London: Palgrave Macillan, 2010), 17-18. For the literature on settler colonialism, see also: Veracini, “‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept”, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 41, no. 2, (2013), 313-333; and Caroline Elkins and Susan Pedersen, “Settler Colonialism: A Concept and Its Uses” in Elkins and Pedersen, eds., Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2005). A few notable works have used the concept of settler colonialism to the interpret the independence movement of the United States, and even to frame interesting comparisons between the American Revolution and other “settler revolts” in the British colonies of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. See: James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo World, 1783-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Aziz Rana, The Two Faces of American Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010); and Lisa Ford, Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788–1836 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). Unfortunately, these studies have paid little attention to Latin America. I am aware of only two works that place Creole leadership at the center of comparative studies of the independence movements in the United States and Latin America: Anderson, Imagined Communities, 47-65; and Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System, Volume III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730s-1840s Revised and Expanded Edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 191-256. The importance of the Latin American independence movements’ Creole leadership has long been acknowledged; see especially the work of the Venezuelan historian Germán Carrera Damas, Venezuela: Proyecto Nacional y Poder Social (Barcelona: Editorial Crítica, 1986); and De la Dificultad de ser Criollo (Caracas: Grijalbo, 1993). See also my review essay, “The United States as Settler Empire”, settler colonial studies, Volume 1, Number 2 (2012), 150-63.

17 Illustrative examples include: Roxanne L. Euben, Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); Andrew F. March, Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Leigh Jenco, Making the Political: Founding and Action in the Political Theory of Zhang Shizhao (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Karuna Mantena, “Another Realism: The Politics of Gandhian Nonviolence” American Political Science Review vol. 106, no. 2 (May 2012), 455-70; and Diego A. Von Vacano, The Color of Citizenship: Race, Modernity, and Latin American/Hispanic Political Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

18 For “scholarly” and “engaged” comparative political theory, see Andrew F. March, “What is Comparative Political Theory?” The Review of Politics, Vol. 71 (2009), 531-65. For alternative accounts of the field’s normative importance, see: Anthony J. Parel, “The Comparative Study of Political Philosophy”, in Parel and Ronald C. Keith, eds., Comparative Political Philosophy: Studies Under the Upas Tree 2nd ed. (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2003); Fred Dallmayr, “Beyond Monologue: For a Comparative Political Theory” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 2, No. 2 (June, 2004), 249-257; Leigh Kathryn Jenco, “‘What Does Heaven Ever Say?’: A Methods-centered Approach to Cross-cultural Engagement” The American Political Science Review, Vol. 101, No. 4 (Nov., 2007), 741-55; Farah Godrej, “Towards a Cosmopolitan Political Thought: The Hermeneutics of Interpreting the Other” Polity, Vol. 41, No. 2 (April 2009), 135-65;; Michael Freeden and Andrew Vincent, “Introduction: The Study of Comparative Political Thought”, in Freeden and Vincent, eds., Comparative Political Thought: Theorizing Practices (Oxford: Routledge, 2013); and Melissa S. Williams and Mark E. Warren, “A Democratic Case for Comparative Political Theory” Political Theory, vol. 42, no. 1 (Jan., 2014).

19 Though the language of causality here is new, the connection suggested between political ideas and background problems is not; see, for example, Michael Rosen, “The History of Ideas as Philosophy and History” History of Political Thought, vol. 22, no. 4 (Winter, 2011), 702-5.

20 The effects of “context”, in this sense of the word, on political ideas has traditionally been emphasized in studies influenced by Karl Marx. See: Richard Ashcraft, “On the Problem of Method and the Nature of Political Theory”, Political Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (February, 1975), 5-25; “Political Theory and the Problem of Ideology” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 42, No. 3 (August, 1980), 687-705; “Marx and Political Theory” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (October 1984), 637-671; Neal Wood, “The Social History of Political Theory” Political Theory, vol. 6, no. 3 (Aug., 1978), 345-367; Ellen Meiksins Wood and Neal Wood, “Socrates and Democracy: A Reply to Gregory Vlastos” Political Theory, vol. 14, no. 1 (Feb., 1986), 55-82; and Ellen Meiksins Wood, Citizens to Lords: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (London: Verso, 2008), 1-16. More recently, social scientists working within the “new institutionalist” framework have proposed similar theories. See:

21 The influence of such concepts, commitments, and languages on political ideas has been the central focus of scholars connected to the “Cambridge School” of intellectual history. For influential methodological reflections, see: J.G.A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics, Volume 1: Regarding Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); John Dunn, The History of Political Theory and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and Mark Bevir, The Logic of the History of Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

22 John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Raciocinative and Inductive from J.M. Robson, ed., The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), VII, especially 388-90. The literature on the relevance of Mill’s Methods to social science is, predictably, huge. For influential discussions, see: Charles C. Ragin, The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); and Gary King, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

23 The Method of Agreement suffers from certain difficulties, but serves its purpose well in this application. For the danger of biased inference associated with “selecting on the dependent variable”, see: Barbara Geddes, “How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics” Political Analysis, Volume 2, No. 1 (1990), 131-150; and, for a more general critique, see: Stanley Lieberson, “Small N's and Big Conclusions: An Examination of the Reasoning in Comparative Studies Based on a Small Number of Cases” Social Forces vol. 70, no. 2 (December, 1991), 307-320. Though I cannot claim to have completely avoided the problems identified in these important articles, I seek to mitigate their effects by providing as much evidence as possible for the general interpretation of Creole political thinking that I propose within each individual case study, a method akin to “process tracing”. See: Andrew Bennett, “Process Tracing and Causal Inference” in Henry E. Brady and David Collier, eds., Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards 2nd Ed. (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010), 207-220; and James Mahoney, “The Logic of Process Tracing Tests in the Social Sciences” Sociological Methods Research vol. 41 no. 4 (November 2012), 570-597.

24 For a portrait of the United States on the eve of independence, see: Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 11-94. For Venezuela, see: P. Michael McKinley, Pre-Revolutionary Caracas: Politics, Economy, and Society, 1777-1811 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). For Mexico, see: D.A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. For a comparative discussion of variation in the forms of imperial rule established by the British and Spanish in the Americas, see: J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); and James Mahoney, Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

25 For Hamilton’s biography, see: Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Press, 2004). For Bolívar, see: John Lynch, Simón Bolívar: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006). Unfortunately, we still lack a biography of Alamán in English, though Stanley C. Green, The Mexican Republic: The First Decade, 1823-1832 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987) provides most of the relevant facts. Spanish readers can consult José C. Valadés, Alamán: Estadista e Historiador (Mexico City: José Porrua e Hijos, 1938).




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