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The Law of Nations in Early American Foreign Policy

Theory and Practice from the Revolution to the Monroe Doctrine

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Willem Theo Oosterveld

In The Law of Nations in Early American Foreign Policy, Willem Theo Oosterveld provides the first general study of international law as interpreted and applied by the generation of the Founding Fathers. A mostly neglected aspect in the historiography of the early republic, this study argues that international law was in fact an integral part of the Revolutionary creed.

Taking the reader from colonial debates about the law of nations to the discussions about slavery in the early 19th century, this study shows the zest of the Founders to conduct foreign policy on the basis of treatises such as Vattel’s The Law of Nations. But it also highlights the deep ambiguities and sometimes personal struggles that arose when applying international law.