Borderlines in Borderlands


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James Madison and the Spanish-American Frontier, 1776-1821

J. C. A. Stagg

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In examining how the United States gained control over the northern borderlands of Spanish America, this work reassesses the diplomacy of President James Madison. Historians have assumed Madison’s motive in sending agents into the Spanish borderlands between 1810 and 1813 was to subvert Spanish rule, but J. C. A. Stagg argues that his real intent was to find peaceful and legal resolutions to long-standing disputes over the boundaries of Louisiana at a time when the Spanish-American empire was in the process of dissolution. Drawing on an array of American, British, French, and Spanish sources, the author describes how a myriad cast of local leaders, officials, and other small players affected the borderlands diplomacy between the United States and Spain, and he casts new light on Madison’s contribution to early American expansionism.

J. C. A. Stagg is professor, Department of History, and editor in chief, The Papers of James Madison, at the University of Virginia. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.

“In this authoritative account of American-Spanish relations on the Southern borderland during Madison’s administration, J.C.A. Stagg has brought a fresh and fair-minded approach to some old issues. His fascinating narrative combines high level policy-making and diplomatic maneuverings in Washington with all the grubby filibusters, plots, rebellions, and free-lance operations that took place on the ground along the Gulf Coast. This is old-fashioned archive-based history at its best.”—Gordon S. Wood, Brown University

“Stagg writes for the first time an overall, integrated account of the disputes, struggles, and negotiations along the Spanish-American frontier, stretching from Florida to Texas.”—Ralph L. Ketcham, Syracuse University

“A bold but measured effort to set straight the historical record on President Madison’s thinking, strategies, and diplomacy on southeastern boundary issues.”­—Jack Rakove, Stanford University



"Scholars of the early republic have long respected J.C.A. Stagg as a historian's historian. Borderlines in Borderlands reaffirms his reputation, and offers a powerful contribution to the continuing reassessment of James Madison's underestimated presidency."—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

"[Never] has any scholar immersed him/herself as completely in the fourth president's writings. Stagg should be commended for such a close reading of Madison's words."—Gene Allen Smith, American Historical Review

"Few historians are as familiar with the documentary record of the period, and arguably no scholar knows James Madison as well as Stagg. The result is a fine book ably argued and soundly researched. It enriches our understanding of this complex episode and will encourage the ongoing discussion of its meaning and importance."—David S. Heidler, The Journal of Military History

“There is hardly a more suitable scholar than J. C. A. Stagg to examine James Madison’s frontier policy. . . . Stagg has produced a work relevant not only for students of Madison but also for those of Atlantic and borderland history.”

—Robert J. Alderson, Journal of American History

"The current volume focuses on Madison's actions in expanding the US territorial imperative into neighboring Spanish possessions along the Gulf Coast in the first two decades of the 19th century. Stagg provides a powerful, articulate reinterpretation of Madison's role in these events, challenging the more traditional viewpoint that the Virginian proved relatively ineffective in terms of successfully engaging these problems."—L. T. Cummins, Choice

"Stagg provides a new level of detail and understanding." —Jesus F. de la  Teja, Western Historical Quarterly

"Professor Stagg, the editor-in-chief of the Papers of James Madison at the University of Virginia, here provides us with a tightly written history of the policies of Madison...toward Spain's provinces on the United States' southern border."--Walter Nugent, Journal of American Studies

"J.C.A. Scaggs...[one] of the most practice Madison scholars, offer[s] new contributions to the historiography that help complete our understanding of this most revered yet often criticized statesman...This is a seminal work."--David Pennington, Journal of the Early Republic

“[An] excellent diplomatic history.”—Virginia Magazine

ISBN: 9780300139051
Publication Date: February 3, 2009
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
4 maps
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