A glance at a map shows why the United States has always been closely concerned with the Caribbean. The American interest in the Caribbean has many facets, and new dimensions are now being added. The common concerns of the United States and the Caribbean lands continue to increase and warrant careful attention.
Historically, the United States has been actively involved in and concerned about the Caribbean. The area has always played a key role in the Western Hemisphere. It was the scene of Columbus’s voyages of discovery and the jumping-off place for most of the Spanish conquistadors. One of the main areas of European settlement in the New World was in and around the Caribbean basin. It became a rich source of sugar, indigo, spices, and other highly valued tropical products. The lifelines of the immense Spanish empire converged on the Caribbean Sea, and the imperial treasures became the glittering objects of the legendary struggle between the British buccaneers and the Spanish. Many of the Caribbean lands, Jamaica for one, were valued more than the colonies along the Atlantic coast of the North American mainland. The Caribbean lands were important objectives in the recurrent European struggles, and many changed hands as the tides of imperial conquest shifted.
Even before independence, there were growing ties between the American colonies and the Caribbean lands. The complementary climates produced a natural exchange of goods that led to increasing trade among the colonies despite British mercantilist doctrines. In fact, the British effort to suppress this trade constituted an important practical element among those disputes that produced the American Revolution. After independence, the era of American sailing ships and Yankee traders produced a further vigorous commercial inter-course between the new U.S. and the Caribbean.
American interest in the Caribbean became very direct after the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. For this vast new...
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