Journal Article - American Interest

A Special Relationship in Jeopardy

| July/August 2010

The Anglo-American bond, built from cultural affinity, shared values and strategic advantage, is fraying. Can it return stronger from its challenges?

The historic circumstances of America's birth might not have seemed especially propitious for the development of a close alliance with Great Britain. Our origins in an anti-colonial war of national liberation and our founding President's injunction against "entangling alliances" kept us at loggerheads with Britain for more than a century. As historian Edward Crapol has argued, anti-British nationalism runs like a

red skein through American history. . . . A clearly discernible pattern of Anglophobia . . . extends from the Revolutionary patriot cursing English tyranny with its suppression of personal and economic liberties, to the aroused farmer of the 1890s berating British plutocrats and denouncing the shackles imposed by British financial power.

One of America's more colorful turn-of-the-century political figures, Pitchfork Ben Tillman, summarized this view as follows: "America for Americans, and to hell with Britain and her Tories."1

Today such rhetoric is limited to right-wing isolationists like Pat Buchanan and left-wing extremists like Lyndon LaRouche, but in the 19th century Britain-baiting-or "twisting the lion's tail"-was a hardy perennial of the American political scene. Indeed, as late as 1895-96 the two countries almost went to war over conflicting claims in Venezuela and American fears that the Monroe Doctrine and the benefits of U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere were at stake. An act of statesmanship by Lord Salisbury, the British Foreign and Prime Minister, helped quell the crisis, but it is instructive that he did not do so out of any idealistic desire to avoid conflict between fraternal English-speaking peoples....

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1Both quotes taken from Crapol, America for Americans: Economic Nationalism and Anglophobia in the Late Nineteenth Century (Greenwood Press, 1973), p. 4.

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For Academic Citation: Edelman, Eric. A Special Relationship in Jeopardy.” American Interest, vol. V. no. 6. (July/August 2010):