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The Philadelphian system: sovereignty, arms control, and balance of power in the American states-union, circa 1787–1861

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

Daniel H. Deudney
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Abstract

A rediscovery of the long-forgotten republican version of liberal political theory has arresting implications for the theory and practice of international relations. Republican liberalism has a theory of security that is superior to realism, because it addresses not only threats of war from other states but also the threat of despotism at home. In this view, a Hobson's choice between anarchy and hierarchy is not necessary because an intermediary structure, here dubbed “negarchy,” is also available. The American Union from 1787 until 1861 is a historical example. This Philadelphian system was not a real state since, for example, the union did not enjoy a monopoly of legitimate violence. Yet neither was it a state system, since the American states lacked sufficient autonomy. While it shared some features with the Westphalian system such as balance of power, it differed fundamentally. Its origins owed something to particular conditions of time and place, and the American Civil War ended this system. Yet close analysis indicates that it may have surprising relevance for the future of contemporary issues such as the European Union and nuclear governance.

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Copyright © The IO Foundation 1995

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References

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70. Interstate rendition and extradition was made possible by interstate treaties and compacts, which are remarkably similar to those that sovereign nation-states have employed in recent years to fight criminal activity occurring across international borders. See Moore, John Bassett, A Treatise on Interstate Extradition and Rendition (Boston: Boston Book Company, 1891)Google Scholar; and Nadelmann, Ethan, Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993)Google Scholar.

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102. An even earlier precedent, the union of Scotland with Britain in 1707, was facilitated by the ability of the Scots to send representatives to Parliament in proportion to their numbers and thus participate in the exercise of British power rather than being oppressed by it. For a discussion, see Pryde, George S., The Treaty of Union of Scotland and England (London: Thomas Nelson, 1950)Google Scholar.

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105. Two free-soil state admissions (Minnesota and Oregon) in a row made the Southern position seem irrecoverable without expansion into the Caribbean. See May, Robert E., The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854–1862 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973)Google Scholar.

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118. concludes, Koh, “Growing American hegemony and growing presidential power fed upon one another.” See The National Security Constitution, p. 97Google Scholar. It would be more accurate to say that increasingly intensive American competitive interaction with the rest of the world produced the effect Koh identifies. To the extent the United States' interactive relationship with the rest of the world has been hegemonic, the tendency for interaction to strengthen the President at the expense of Congress has probably been moderated.

119. As Edward S. Corwin observed, “The maintenance of constitutional government in the United States becomes linked with the broader cause of its restoration and preservation elsewhere.” See The Constitution and International Organization (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 5556Google Scholar.

120. For suggestions along these lines, see Pocock, J. G. A., “States, Republics, and Empires: The American Founding in Early Modern Perspective,” in Ball, Terence and Pocock, J. G. A., eds., Conceptual Change and the Constitution (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1988), pp. 5577Google Scholar. The European treaties and settlements were foedera and the American union was foederal, derived from Latin foedus, for covenant or alliance. See Elazar, Daniel, Exploring Federalism (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1985), pp. 115 and 122Google Scholar.

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131. For further thoughts along these lines, see Deudney, Daniel, “Dividing Realism: Security Materialism vs Structural Realism on Nuclear Security and Proliferation,” Security Studies 2 (Spring/Summer 1993), pp. 736CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Deudney, Daniel, “Nuclear Weapons and the Waning of the Real-State,” Daedalus (Spring 1995)Google Scholar, forthcoming.

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