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Latin American perspectives a program of comment and analysis about current Latin American problems and their historical setting. The commentator for these programs is Dr. C. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Here now is Dr. Gardiner in the word association game the word Navy calls to mind many things ships afloat submarines under the sea planes in the air and activities all around the world. Indeed in recent months alone one recalls the recovery of an H-bomb off the coast of Spain by the Navy. One remembers the patrolling of waters daily silently but continuing all the time between nationalist and communist China in the straits between Formosa and the mainland. One calls to mind too with the word Navy. The sending of submarines under the polar ice cap and indeed the daily launching of planes for air strikes in Southeast Asia. One remembers to the Navy
hovering so close upon the eastern Mediterranean on the fringe of the Arab-Israeli world and their recent war that the Navy was itself to suffer damage and casualties. One thinks of Navy two in San Juan Puerto Rico Guantanamo Cuba and the Panama Canal Zone as buttressing an American sense of security to the south in the Caribbean. Indeed one thinks of Navy and the space world as the agency that invariably picks up astronauts in their return from outer space. Today though I would like to have us think of Navy in terms of some of the earlier activities to which it had to dedicate its energies. I do so thinking particularly of a recent volume in titled In defense of neutral rights. The subtitle of which is the United States Navy and the wars of independence in Chile and Peru. This volume published by the University of North Carolina
Press is the product of the pen of Edward Baxter Billingsley himself a retired rear admiral and now a trained Latin American historian teaching at an American university. The major events that have shaped United States history have had a definite east west orientation originating in Europe flowing westward to North America still westward across the continent to the Pacific seaboard and finally across the Pacific to the Orient. Consequently the great continent of South America with its rich and dramatic history and its great significance in relation to the United States has been largely ignored by all but a few North American historians. Naval history has followed the same east to west movement with the important exception of studies of the Caribbean and Mexico areas adjacent to the United States. Naval historians have not broken the
pattern to examine the relations of the Navy with Latin America. Usually naval activities in South America are dismissed with a few sentences between accounts of operations in the North Atlantic or the Mediterranean or the Western Pacific. Even the outstanding naval historian Alfred Thayer Mehan seems to have viewed South America more as an inconvenient landmass blocking free access to the Pacific Ocean making the Panama Canal a strategic necessity than as a major part of the Western Hemisphere. One may look in vain through the writings of Mehan for more than a casual mention of Latin America south of the Caribbean and Panama. This is all the more surprising when it is learned that Mehan was serving aboard a ship at Kajal Peru when he received orders to report to the Naval War College to deliver his now famous series of lectures on sea
power. Nevertheless many officers who have gained the plaudits of the nation for their activities in the Mediterranean or the far reaches of the Pacific did spend years of their lives off the shores of South America performing equally vital service in the protection of United States interests. During the final phases of the wars of independence for Latin America a succession of outstanding naval officers performed this service in the remote Pacific as well as in the more publicized Atlantic and Caribbean areas. They had little or no direct effect on the gaining of independence by Latin America rather finding themselves in meshed in problems that found their efforts all directed to the support of the United States interests. They were indeed one sided in their view. That is pro United States rather than pro Latin American. They loyally supported and indeed perhaps
strengthened traditional American policies of freedom for mutual trade. Concentrating his attention on the activities of a succession of naval commanders one of whom was Captain Biddle another Captain Downs a third captain Ridgeley a fourth Captain Stuart and none of which names vie with that of John Paul Jones Park Chester Nimitz and a naval history but nonetheless concentrating his attention on the career naval officers Mr. Billingsley points out between the years 18 17 and 18 25. The various difficulties encountered in carrying out the assignments the Navy had to maintain neutrality and to protect United States Commerce and neutral rights difficulties that these naval commanders and their ships resolved in favor of commercial interests. In the
constantly shifting political scene during the period covered the naval commanders were usually unable to satisfy either side completely with the Royalists the Spaniards trying to hold Latin America as empire. They were generally more successful partially because of the royalist skill in diplomacy and partially because they were dependent more dependent on the neutral shipping. Most of the commanders problems centered on the Patriots those who were battling for Latin American independence initially sympathetic toward the Democratic ideals of the revolutions. The United States commanders nevertheless soon became disenchanted with the average Latin American patriot in their desire to achieve victory. And because of the unstable conditions of their newly formed governments the Patriots often acted in ways that the US
commanders interpreted as violations of neutral rights under then existing international law. The result was strained relations with the new governments and problems for President Monroe and his administration. That administration of Monroe consistently upheld the actions of its commanders although to satisfy both the new government and its critics a toll it did on one occasion submitted a naval commander to a court martial. Yet the new government remained resentful that the United States had not contributed more to the winning of the patriot cause. The naval commanders did to a degree receive the thanks however of commercial interests whose property and rights they had successfully defended. It is important to remember that in this period 18 17 18 25 United States was not quite a free agent. In reference to announcing to the
world its enthusiasms its likes and dislikes in reference to the Latin American wars of independence we were naturally in favor of more independent Republican areas in the Western Hemisphere in favor of the dissolution of Empire and the departure of European kings from this hemisphere. But I would remind you that in 817 and for almost a half decade there after the United States was very much concerned about acquiring Florida to acquire Florida we had to stay on speaking terms with Spain. We had to have diplomatic relations that made possible. Eventually the purchase of the area. We could not become pro rebel in Latin America without so enraging Spain that she would no longer talk to us. So the fact is we had a matter of priorities to satisfy. Would we put our own selfish our national interest. The acquisition of Florida first. Or would we put the
humanitarian the altruistic concern about Latin American independence first. Well then as now a nation serves its own purposes and we were courting Spain and so could not go all out courting Latin America. After eight hundred twenty one it will be a different matter. But we actually have in this period of US naval power in the South Pacific off the coast of Peru and Chile two chapters one which finds naval power under wraps in the period before we do acquire Florida when we must remain friendly with Spain. And then after having acquired Florida there was a totally different outlook and a measure of freedom that enters into our relations with Latin America. One of the most pleasant aspects of the naval operations in the Pacific between 18 17 18 25 for the Americans was the Kargil relations that existed with the British Navy. We
sometimes think that that war that bloodletting of 1812 caused a great deal of animosity between the countries for a long long time. Indeed there are some who with a bit of wonder. See our friendship developing in the 1880s or 1890s. But the truth is there was a great deal of friendship between the two naval services in less than 10 years after the War of 1812. For example the US Captain Biddle included British ships and his plans to elude the royal US blockade of alkali so chilling and the US Captain Downes escorted a mix convoy of British and American merchant men through a patriot blockade at a Peruvian port. The British commander was sent to Santa Maria to attempt the rescue of Americans as well as an Englishman from that difficult situation. There may have been bitter
commercial rivalry in the Pacific but Anglo-American naval cooperation blossomed off Chile and Peru during the South American wars of independence. Most United States Naval personnel did go south into the Pacific. Favorable to the patriot cause but they quickly learned that there was a wide gap between the US concept of democracy and its practice in the South American republics. They were shocked at the poverty and misery they saw among the masses. The general lawlessness and disregard for personal and property rights outrage their sense of moral values. They were disgusted by the venality of officials and the evasion of just financial obligations. Some were appalled by the monopoly of the Catholic Church on the religious life of the people by its opulence in the midst of poverty and by the worldliness of its priests and so many American officers
and men in naval service friendly and initially to the patriot cause changed their views as they saw the realities of the Latin American scene. The South Americans very often were unfriendly to the Americans finding the Americans haughty and proud and indeed designating them so believing that they were agents of imperialism. But it became apparent that the US naval forces were not going to extend aid to the patriot cause there were more than a few who stood in their bitterness and resentment declared that the Navy was the advance agent of imperialism. This Latin American sentiment in part lingers to this day. This was a Latin American perspectives with Dr S. Harvey Gardner research professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Join us for our next program on Dr. Gardner We'll examine another aspect of life in Latin America.
Latin American perspectives is produced and recorded by station WSI you Af-Am at Southern Illinois University and is distributed by the national educational radio network.
Latin American perspectives
United States Navy
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the United States Navy and its role in certain independence movements in South America.
Series Description
A series of comment and analysis about current affairs in Latin American countries.
Global Affairs
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Host: Gardiner, C. Harvey (Clinton Harvey)
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-3-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:35
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Chicago: “Latin American perspectives; United States Navy,” 1968-01-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Latin American perspectives; United States Navy.” 1968-01-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Latin American perspectives; United States Navy. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from