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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Essays for the Presidency

American Foreign Policy: a Progressive View

Robert M. La Follette, the progressive candidate. Library of Congress

It is historically characteristic of governments devoted to conservative measures and the maintenance of the status quo in domestic matters to develop an aggressive policy in foreign affairs, and similarly for governments whose chief outlook is toward the progressive improvement of existing conditions to seek to disembarrass themselves from the complications of foreign policy. Whether or not much weight should be attached to the popular interpretation of conservative policy as seeking to allay discontent at home by feeding national pride with triumphs abroad, there is an apparent relation between the amount of attention in a democracy which is directed to internal development and reform, and that which can be released to sustain an active interest in external relations. Thus the two great periods of internal development in the United States, one beginning with the administration of Jefferson and the other after the Civil War, were characterized by an indifference toward

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