Grand strategy of the master class: Slavery and foreign policy from the antebellum era to the civil war

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the role of Southerners and slavery in US foreign policy from the antebellum era to the Civil War. Studies that explore slavery’s specific impact on foreign policy have generally confined themselves to the ways that slaveholders worked to secure fugitive slave laws, enact restrictions on black sailors, or, at most, fight to add new slave states to the Union. However, the kind of domination that slaveholders desired went beyond the need to reinforce their narrow property rights, or even the desire to expand the amount of territory under slave cultivation. Antebellum slaveholders assumed national Cabinet posts to command the power of the entire United States, and then, crucially, to use that power to strengthen slavery in world politics. If grand strategy is “the intellectual architecture that gives form and structure to foreign policy, " slaveholding leaders were not merely provincial sectionalists but bold and cosmopolitan strategic thinkers. Their profound ideological commitment to slavery did not merely affect domestic politics within a divided republic; it left a deep imprint on the “strategic culture” of American foreign policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRethinking American Grand Strategy
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780190695668
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


  • Antebellum era
  • Antebellum slaveholders
  • Civil war
  • Grand strategy
  • Slaveholding leaders
  • Slavery
  • South
  • Southerners
  • Strategic culture
  • US foreign policy


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