Date of Award

Spring 2003

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Kurkpatrick Dorsey


This dissertation argues that U.S. Secretary of State William Seward conceived a diplomatic strategy that enabled the U.S. to oust the French and their puppet emperor, Maximilian, from Mexico in 1867. The genius in Seward's approach lay in accomplishing this goal without committing U.S. forces. Using original diplomatic correspondence, this dissertation shows how Seward capitalized on both the weaknesses of the French, and the strengths of republican Mexico. It demonstrates how Seward bargained for the time needed for his strategy to work, even when many around him were pressing for precipitous action. It argues that Seward's diplomatic strategy succeeded in spite of challenges from both foreign and internal critics. A review of Seward's interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine is included because the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico by France was the first major violation of the tenets of that pronouncement.

The dissertation is neither a Seward biography nor a hagiography. Many of Seward's mistakes are catalogued, such as when he suggested to President Abraham Lincoln in April 1861 that foreign wars might be an antidote to national dissolution. It does assert, however, that in matters broadly related to foreign affairs during the administrations of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, Seward had a masterful command of both strategy and tactics.

In a related vein, the dissertation endeavors to delineate the active role that republican Mexicans played in their own liberation, focussing on the efforts of President Benito Juarez and his Minister in Washington, Don Matias Romero.

Finally, a case is made for Seward's prescience. An avowed expansionist, Seward saw the growing power of the U.S. in economic rather than military terms. Seward can be seen as the father of the concept of U.S. economic hegemony, in that he believed that an expanding industrial economy inevitably brings not only economic benefits, but also social and political ones, a concept that ultimately failed to resonate in Mexico. That fact leads to the question posed in the Conclusion: how could the amicable relations that existed between the U.S. and Mexico after France's departure have deteriorated so badly through most of the twentieth century?