J. B. Duroselle and

Ian J. Bickerton

Tracing the history of treaties entered into by the United States provides an illuminating insight into the changing nature, concerns, and direction of United States foreign relations. Given that the Constitution provides that the Senate must be advised and give consent before their ratification, treaties also provide a revealing insight into the ever-changing relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government, as well as domestic politics and foreign relations.

Thus we see the Republic in its early years enter a series of treaties of amity and trade with European powers, followed in the nineteenth century by further commercial treaties (with their corollaries, freedom of the seas in time of war, provision for the safety of shipwrecked sailors, access to major communication routes), and treaties delineating the nation's expanding boundaries as well as defining its legal relations with indigenous Americans. Despite its own successful interventionist policy of military and economic expansion—especially in Central America and the Pacific—in the first half of the twentieth century the United States was reluctant to enter the most destructive conflict Europe had yet seen, and the Senate succeeded in limiting American involvement in international legal arrangements designed to prevent its recurrence. Following a second round of world war, in the latter half of the twentieth century, and reflecting a widespread American fear created by a ideologically polarized and increasingly militarized world, the United States entered a series of collective security alliances and arms—especially nuclear arms—limitation treaties. Reflecting renewed American efforts to establish global hegemony, the United States also embarked upon a number of economic agreements in the latter part of the twentieth century to break down what Washington regarded as restrictive trade barriers.

With the transformation of numerous former European colonies in Africa and Asia into independent states and a tremendous increase in the world's population in the second half of the twentieth century, the changed nature of international relations and the role of the United States in world affairs can be traced in the appearance of new kinds of treaties dealing with such matters as human rights, ecology and the environment, and the utilization of outer space. As the twenty-first century began much of U.S. foreign relations and domestic politics was taken up with determining how to respond to these new challenges.


Bemis, Samuel F. John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy. New York, 1949.

——. Pinckney's Treaty: America's Advantage from Europe's Distress. New Haven, Conn., 1960.

——. Jay's Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy. New Haven, Conn., 1962. All three Bemis books provide an excellent background to the early treaties.

Byrd, Elbert M. Treaties and Executive Agreements in the United States, Their Separate Roles and Limitations. The Hague, 1960. Good on the treaty-making process.

Caldwell, Lynton Keith. International Environmental Policy: Emergence and Dimensions. 2d ed. Durham, N.C. 1990.

DeConde, Alexander. Entangling Alliance: Politics and Diplomacy Under George Washington. Westport, Conn., 1958.

——. The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War With France, 1797–1801. New York, 1966. Both DeConde works clearly set out the issues that shaped early attitudes toward treaties.

DeConde, Alexander, ed. Isolation and Security: Ideas and Interests in Twentieth-Century American Foreign Policy. Durham, N.C., 1957. Examines the domestic factors at work between the wars.

Duroselle, Jean Baptiste. From Wilson to Roosevelt: Foreign Policy of the United States, 1913–1945. Cambridge, Mass., 1963. Helpful for World Wars I and II.

Ferrell, Robert H. Peace in Their Time: The Origins of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. New Haven, Conn., 1952. Careful and scholarly.

Fisher, Louis. Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President. 4th ed. Lawrence, Kans., 1997. A survey that contains useful material on treaty ratifications.

Jackson, John H. The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations. Cambridge, Mass., 1997. An introduction to trade law and policy by a supporter of GATT and the WTO.

Kaufman, Natalie Hevener. Human Rights Treaties and the Senate: A History of Opposition. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1990. Forceful attack on Senate opposition to human rights treaties, including the Genocide Convention.

Kimball, Warren F. The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939–1941. Baltimore, 1969. Indispensable on the turning point toward cooperation.

Lake, David A. Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century. Princeton, N.J., 1999. A political scientist examines the tension that surrounded the question of whether the United States should act unilaterally or cooperatively through treaties in twentieth-century foreign relations.

Leopold, Richard. The Growth of American Foreign Policy: A History. New York, 1962. Although it does not go beyond the 1950s, this survey provides helpful structural details on the relationship between treaties and foreign relations.

Malloy, William M., comp. Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements Between the United States and Other Powers, 1776–1909. 2 vols. Holmes Beach, Fla., 1996. A comprehensive collection of nineteenth-century treaties.

Paterson, Thomas G., J. Garry Clifford, and Kenneth J. Hagan. American Foreign Relations: A History. 2 vols. Boston, 2000. A particularly useful survey of United States foreign relations for this topic.

Pletcher, David M. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. Columbia, Mo., 1973. Remains the classic examination of these episodes.

Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. 2 vols. Lincoln, Neb., 1984. Traces the stages of government policy toward Native Americans.

Rosenne, Shabtai. Developments in the Law of Treaties, 1945–1986. Cambridge, 1989. Technical lectures on legal aspects of how treaties have developed since World War II.

United States Department of State. Treaties in Force: A List of Treaties and Other International Agreements. Washington, D.C., annually since 1950. The most up-to-date list (by topic and country) of treaties to which the United States is a signatory.

United States Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations. "Implications of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change." Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 105th Congress, 2d Session, 11 February 1998 (Washington D.C., 1998). One of a series of congressional publications on hearings before Congress on the Kyoto Protocol.

Van Cleave, William R., and S. T. Cohen. Nuclear Weapons, Policies, and the Test Ban Issue. New York, 1987. Critical of test ban treaties.

Zupnick, Elliott. Visions and Revisions: The U.S. in the Global Economy. Boulder, Colo., 1999. A strong defense of the U.S. role in globalization.

See also Ambassadors, Executive Agents, and Special Representatives ; Arms Control and Disarmament ; Collective Security ; Congressional Power ; The Constitution ; Economic Policy and Theory ; Environmental Diplomacy ; Human Rights ; International Law ; Presidential Power ; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy ; Tariff Policies .

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