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Monroe Doctrine

Monroe Doctrine

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The Monroe Doctrine was first set out in a speech by President James Monroe on December 2, 1823. The ideas are grounded in much earlier thinking, such as the "Farewell Address" of George Washington, in which he inveyed against close political association with European states, and in the first inaugural address of Thomas Jefferson. The idea of an exceptional status for the United States and for the Western Hemisphere had been launched before Monroe`s address to Congress.By 1822, only Bolivia remained as a Spanish colony in Latin America. When European war clouds appeared in April 1823, the United States feared that Spain`s Caribbean colonies might be ceded to either France or Britain, which was a disturbing prospect.Secretary of State John Quincy Adams sent a letter to Hugh Nelson, the American minister to Spain, outlining his concerns:

Such indeed are, between the interests of that island andof this country, the geographical, commercial, moral, andpolitical relations, formed by nature, gathering in the processof time, and even now verging to maturity, that in lookingforward to the probable course of events for the short periodof half a century, it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the annexation of Cuba to our federal republicwill be indispensable to the continuance and integrity ofthe Union itself.

At the same time, American interests in the northwest part of North America were becoming of more concern. Both the United States and Britain had explored from the south, while Russia had explored the Alaska coast and was looking to the south. In July, 1823, Adams made his concerns known to Russian minister in Washington.When France crossed the Pyrenees to help put down a rebellion against the Spanish monarch, Britain worried that this might lead to a joint French-Spanish expedition to retake the Latin American colonies for Spain. The British foreign minister George Canning communicated with the American minister in London, Richard Rush, and suggested that a joint declaration opposing such a development would serve both their interests. Rush passed the word back to John Quincy Adams.The British put their ideas into a formal proposal which Canning presented to Rush in August, 1823. Rush sent it to President Monroe, who sought the advice of Jefferson and Madison. Jefferson responded that while America should avoid involving itself in strictly European matters, European non-intervention in this hemisphere was of sufficient importance that the United States would be well advised to accept the British offer.Not the pro-British Federalist his father was, John Quincy Adams was not persuaded by the British expressions of friendship. In meetings of Monroe`s cabinet in early November, Adams argued that the interests of the United States would be better served by a unilateral declaration. Monroe agreed, and put the declaration into his December 2 speech before Congress.There were actually two parts to Monroe`s speech. One dealt with actions of the Russian government with respect to access to Alaska by ships of other nations. The United States objected to this.The second related to the former Spanish colonies in Latin America, which had taken advantage of the mother country’s distraction by the Napoleonic Wars and achieved for independence in the early years of the 19th century. By the early 1820s, monarchical elements were in control in continental Europe and rumors about the restoration of the Spanish empire began to fly. This was not good news for the United States, which resented European involvement in its backyard, nor was it met with approval by Britain, which profited richly from Latin American trade.British foreign minister George Canning proposed to the American government that a joint warning be issued to continental Europe. President Monroe considered the British proposal, but eventually accepted John Quincy Adams’ counsel that America craft an independent statement.In his message to Congress, Monroe set forth the following principles, which would later become known as the Monroe Doctrine:

  • The Western Hemisphere was no longer open for colonization
  • The political system of the Americas was different from Europe
  • The United States would regard any interference in Western hemispheric affairs as a threat to its security
  • The United States would refrain from participation in European wars and would not disturb existing colonies in the Western Hemisphere

The immediate impact of the Monroe Doctrine was mixed. It was successful to the extent that the continental powers did not attempt to revive the Spanish empire, but this was on account of the strength of the British Navy, not American military might, which was relatively limited.Designed to counter an immediate threat to American interests, Monroe`s position did not instantly become a national doctrine. In fact, it largely disappeared from the American political consciousness for a couple decades, until events in the 1840`s revived it. The efforts of Britain and France to involve themselves in the annexation of Texas, Britain`s disputes in Oregon and potential involvement in California, led to a revival, which President Polk put into words in a speech on December 2, 1845, the 22nd anniversary of the original.In his annual message to Congress in 1845, Polk reiterated the statement in terms of the prevailing spirit of Manifest Destiny and applied it to British and Spanish ambitions in the Yucatan. Against this, John C. Calhoun, a member of Monroe`s cabinet in 1823, argued against raising a statement in response to a specific situation into a permanent principle. In opposition to the position taken by Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan, Calhoun replied:

Well, would it not be better to wait for the emergency in which we would have sufficient interest to interfere, and sufficient power to make that interference influential? Why make any such declaration now? What good purpose can it serve? Only to show to the men that are to come after us that we were wiser and more patriotic than we feared they might be! I cannot, for my life, see a single good likely to result from this measure ...

However, in the 1850`s the principle came to represent not just partisan but national dogma. It was in this period that the word "doctrine" came to be applied to it. In 1861, the United States warned Spain to avoid involvement in the Dominican Republic and was brushed off, but after the triumph of federal armies in 1865 and the failure of Spain`s military efforts in the Dominican Republic, Spain beat a retreat in 1865.The Monroe Doctrine was also invoked by the United States against the involvement of France in the affairs of Mexico. The French had installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria as head of a puppet government in Mexico. Again the United States declared a violation of the Monroe doctrine. The French eventually abandoned Maximilian, who was executed by the Mexicans.Gradually, the Monroe Doctrine was used for purposes that Monroe himself would not have foreseen. It was cited as a reason that the European powers could not build a canal across Panama and, further, that if any such canal were ever built, it would necessarily be under the control of the United States.In 1895, Grover Cleveland attempted to invoke the Monroe Doctrine to compel the British to accept arbitration in a border dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana, and went to far as to threaten to create a commission for this purpose if the British did not agree. Eventually the arbitration took place by mutual consent, but the British, through their foreign secretary Lord Salisbury, made it clear that they rejected the idea that the Monroe Doctrine was a legitimate part of international law.Theodore Roosevelt was never shy about asserting American interests, so it`s not surprising that he devised what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In it, Roosevelt acknowledged that at times, chaos in a small country could necessarily lead to the intervention of a great power, and that in the Western Hemisphere, that great power would always be the United States.The first application of the Roosevelt Corollary was in the Dominican Republic, where the United States compelled that country to give the United States control over its customs, in order to stabilize its finances. This mild application was succeeded by military intervention in Nicaragua and Haiti, as well as the Dominican Republic.In 1917, Elihu Root worried that Wilson`s unrealistic views on the peace that would follow World War I would threaten the Monroe Doctrine. In a speech on January 25, Root stated:

And we stand here with the Monroe Doctrine; we stand her with the Monroe Doctrine against the push and sweep of that might world tendency of national evolution and its progress under the principle that neither faith of treaties or obligation of law nor rule of moraolity should stand in the way of a state that finds its interest to take what it wants for that national interest.How long will the Monroe Doctrine be worth the paper it was written on in 1823 if that condition is to go one? That doctrine is that the safety of the United States forbids any foreign military power to obtain a foothold upon this continent from which it may readily make war upon the united States -- that is the Monroe Doctrine -- it is a declaration of what, in the opinion of the United

Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy that opposed European colonialism in the Americas. It argued that any intervention in the politics of the Americas by foreign powers was a potentially hostile act against the United States. [1] It began in 1823 however, the term "Monroe Doctrine" itself was not coined until 1850. [2]

The Monroe Doctrine was issued on December 2, 1823, at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain had achieved, or were at the point of gaining, independence from the Spanish Empire. It stated that further efforts by various European states to take control of any independent state in the Americas would be viewed as "the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." [3] At the same time, the doctrine noted that the U.S. would recognize and not interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal affairs of European countries.

President James Monroe first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to the Congress. The doctrine asserted that the New World and the Old World were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence. [4] The separation intended to avoid situations that could make the New World a battleground for the Old World powers so that the U.S. could exert its influence undisturbed. [5] By the end of the 19th century, Monroe's declaration was seen as a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets. The intent and effect of the doctrine persisted for more than a century, with only small variations, and would be invoked by many U.S. statesmen and several U.S. presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

After 1898, the Monroe Doctrine was reinterpreted in terms of multilateralism and non-intervention by Latin American lawyers and intellectuals. In 1933, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. went along with this new reinterpretation, especially in terms of the Organization of American States. [6]

The Reason For the Monroe Doctrine

During the War of 1812, the United States had reaffirmed its independence. And at the war’s end, in 1815, there were only two independent nations in the Western Hemisphere, the United States, and Haiti, a former French colony.

That situation had changed dramatically by the early 1820s. The Spanish colonies in Latin America began fighting for their independence, and Spain’s American empire essentially collapsed.

Political leaders in the United States generally welcomed the independence of new nations in South America. But there was considerable skepticism that the new nations would remain independent and become democracies like the United States.

John Quincy Adams, an experienced diplomat and the son of the second president, John Adams, was serving as President Monroe’s secretary of state. And Adams did not want to become too involved with the newly independent nations while he was negotiating the Adams-Onis Treaty to obtain Florida from Spain.

A crisis developed in 1823 when France invaded Spain to prop up King Ferdinand VII, who had been forced to accept a liberal constitution. It was widely believed that France was also intending to assist Spain in retaking its colonies in South America.

The British government was alarmed at the idea of France and Spain joining forces. And the British foreign office asked the American ambassador what his government intended to do to block any American overtures by France and Spain.

Monroe Doctrine, 1823

In his December 2, 1823, address to Congress, President James Monroe articulated United States’ policy on the new political order developing in the rest of the Americas and the role of Europe in the Western Hemisphere.

The statement, known as the Monroe Doctrine, was little noted by the Great Powers of Europe, but eventually became a longstanding tenet of U.S. foreign policy. Monroe and his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams drew upon a foundation of American diplomatic ideals such as disentanglement from European affairs and defense of neutral rights as expressed in Washington’s Farewell Address and Madison’s stated rationale for waging the War of 1812. The three main concepts of the doctrine—separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe, non-colonization, and non-intervention—were designed to signify a clear break between the New World and the autocratic realm of Europe. Monroe’s administration forewarned the imperial European powers against interfering in the affairs of the newly independent Latin American states or potential United States territories. While Americans generally objected to European colonies in the New World, they also desired to increase United States influence and trading ties throughout the region to their south. European mercantilism posed the greatest obstacle to economic expansion. In particular, Americans feared that Spain and France might reassert colonialism over the Latin American peoples who had just overthrown European rule. Signs that Russia was expanding its presence southward from Alaska toward the Oregon Territory were also disconcerting.

For their part, the British also had a strong interest in ensuring the demise of Spanish colonialism, with all the trade restrictions mercantilism imposed. Earlier in 1823 British Foreign Minister George Canning suggested to Americans that two nations issue a joint declaration to deter any other power from intervening in Central and South America. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, however, vigorously opposed cooperation with Great Britain, contending that a statement of bilateral nature could limit United States expansion in the future. He also argued that the British were not committed to recognizing the Latin American republics and must have had imperial motivations themselves.

The bilateral statement proposed by the British thereby became a unilateral declaration by the United States. As Monroe stated: “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” Monroe outlined two separate spheres of influence: the Americas and Europe. The independent lands of the Western Hemisphere would be solely the United States’ domain. In exchange, the United States pledged to avoid involvement in the political affairs of Europe, such as the ongoing Greek struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire, and not to interfere in the existing European colonies already in the Americas.

Monroe Doctrine

“The Monroe ‘doctrine’ was by no means a hollow statement. It neatly encapsulated and gave public expression to goals Monroe and Adams had pursued aggressively since 1817. That it was issued at all reflected America’s ambitions in the Pacific Northwest and its renewed concerns for its security. That it was done separately from Britain reflected the nation’s keen interest in acquiring Texas and Cuba and its commercial aspirations in Latin America. It expressed the spirit of the age and provided a ringing, if still premature, statement of U.S. preeminence in the hemisphere. It publicly reaffirmed the continental vision Adams had already privately shared with the British and Russians: ‘Keep what is yours but leave the rest of the continent to us.'” –George Herring, From Colony to Superpower, p. 157

Discussion Questions

  • It was Secretary of State John Quincy Adams who played the critical role in formulating what is now known as the Monroe Doctrine. What were Adams’s key diplomatic and strategic goals while he served Monroe and then as he led the nation during his own one-term presidency that defined what Herring labels above as “the spirit of the age”? How central was the Monroe Doctrine to these goals?
  • Andrew Jackson succeeded Adams as president in 1829, but he been influential in shaping American strategic policy since 1814. Did the Jackson presidency thus simply continue the earlier expansionism of the Jeffersonians? How central was defending the Monroe Doctrine among the priorities of the Jackson administration?

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History Lessons: Five Myths about America’s Rise

Beijing assumes that America’s rise in its hemisphere was assured, and uses such as model to claim dominance over East Asia. It ignores the complicated history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Chinese officials are increasingly invoking examples from American history to justify their efforts to dominate the South China Sea and establish a broader sphere of influence throughout the Indo-Pacific theater. Beijing, they contend, is merely following America’s model as it rose to power in the nineteenth century. There is little difference, Chinese leaders argue, between China’s assertion of the nine-dash line and the President James Monroe's proclamation of his eponymous doctrine which in 1823 warned Europe not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, with some American scholars in agreement, warning that the rejection of a similar Chinese sphere of influence by the United States could be considered hypocritical.

These assertions, shared by both Chinese and Americans are based, however, on a series of historical myths that have long misrepresented the impact of the Monroe Doctrine on the creation of an independent Latin America, the nature of American power and influence in the Western Hemisphere, the ambitions of its national objectives throughout the nineteenth century, and most important of all, its relationship with Great Britain. Their acceptance has allowed China to ignore the truly salient lessons it should take from America’s experience facing Great Britain, namely that rising powers must walk a dangerous tightrope as they ascend in a world already dominated by a great power.

Myth No.1: The United States Was the Rising Power in the Nineteenth Century

To most Americans, the rise of the United States had to have been the central story of the nineteenth century. However, this belief is incorrect. While the rise of the United States was obviously important, it played a secondary role in the emergence of Great Britain with its expanding commercial empire laying the foundations for the global economic system until World War II.

In 1815 the Duke of Wellington led an allied army to victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, ending 125 years of warfare between Britain and France. The new era of peace enabled Great Britain to become the first global superpower. Over the next hundred years, Britain would use its vast naval power to establish the world’s first global economy and a worldwide system of bases and “choke points” to control international trade. During the 1840s Britain began its experiment in free trade with the repeal of the “corn laws”—a series of tariffs designed to protect British agricultural production—unlocking enormous economic benefits to the British economy and allowing British commerce to dominate the world.

Britain would soon develop a global commercial and financial network that brought both Latin America and East Asia into its “informal empire.” The switch from sail to steam power in the mid nineteenth century further enhanced Britain’s global dominance as the great maritime powers became dependent on Welsh anthracite, the highest-grade coal for maritime use in the world. Britain sparked the first global telecommunications revolution by connecting the world with a network of undersea telegraph cables encased in a rubbery, waterproof substance called gutta percha, which Britain held the monopoly.

Far from a state in decline as many argue, Great Britain at the turn of the twentieth century would remain the world’s leading power with the Royal Navy and the city of London its most powerful instruments. British bankers financed 75 percent of the world’s investments, 50 percent of the world’s trade flowed on British ships, and 80 percent of its global communications on British cables. It would take two world wars to shake the foundation of British power and open the door for the United States.

Myth No. 2: The Atlantic Ocean Protected a Young United States from Europe’s Great Powers

One of the most enduring—and peculiar—myths in American history is that the “United States is the luckiest great power in history” with a geographical location that has enabled it to remain secure throughout much of its history. This argument is often supported by a quote from Jean-Jules Jusserand, France’s ambassador to the United States from 1902–1924, who enviously explained, “on the north, she has a weak neighbor on the south, another weak neighbor on the east fish, and the west fish.” In fact, the ambassador’s history was astonishingly wrong, an artifact of early twentieth-century European insecurities regarding America’s emergence as a great power and an effort to dismiss America’s rise as a consequence of providence.

Instead, a young United States faced hostile European powers eager to limit the nation’s expansion. British North America (later known as Canada) bordered it to the north and the Spanish Empire to its west and south. Along with France, both nations maintained naval bases only a few hundred miles from America’s shoreline with the easy ability to blockade American commerce and attack U.S. coastal cities. The Royal Navy’s powerful North American squadron operated out of Halifax, Bermuda, and Jamaica, the French maintained naval stations on the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and the Spanish kept bases in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

America’s strategic predicament only worsened as the century progressed. A U.S. military delegation observing the Crimean War (1853–1855) warned that British and French militaries had become so advanced that they could devastate American coastal defenses with floating “ironclad” batteries armed with massive guns, blockade the United States with powerful fleets, and land tens of thousands of troops at strategic points along the East coast, which the United States would be unable to repel. It would not be until the early twentieth century before President Theodore Roosevelt would build a navy that could credibly protect America’s shoreline from possible attack.

Myth No. 3: The Monroe Doctrine Established American Dominance over the Western Hemisphere in the Early Nineteenth Century

On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe transmitted his annual message to Congress, including four paragraphs warning European powers not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe offered a deal the United States would leave Europe to the Europeans if Europe did not intervene against the newly established republics in the Western Hemisphere. He warned that the United States would consider any European effort to restore Spanish power or claim new colonies in the Western Hemisphere “a hostile act against the United States.” The Monroe Doctrine quickly secured its place in American lore as the moment the United States declared the “New World” its sphere of influence ending centuries of European dominance.

The story of the origins of the Monroe Doctrine, is just that, the story of how John Quincy Adams convinced President Monroe to include his famous warning to the European powers in his address to Congress. It is not, however, the story of how Spanish America became independent of Spain and how America established itself as the dominant power (or regional hegemon) over the Western Hemisphere. That tale begins and ends with Great Britain’s role in defining the future of Spanish America following the rebellions sparked by Napoleon’s overthrow of Spain’s King Ferdinand VII in 1808 and his replacement with Napoleon’s brother, Joseph.

Following Napoleon’s catastrophic retreat from Moscow in 1812 Britain’s foreign minister, the Viscount Castlereagh, laid out Britain’s strategy to its European partners: Europe’s powers would not intervene if Spain failed to regain control over its empire in the Americas, nor would they seek colonies of their own. Castlereagh achieved his objective by the 1818 conference at Aix la Chapel when he convinced Russia, Austria, France, and Prussia to reject a Spanish appeal for military assistance following a string of military defeats in the New World. Castlereagh implored Ferdinand VII to emulate Britain’s example following its defeat at Yorktown in 1781 and accept the loss of its colonies.

As only France had the naval power to assist Spain in retaking its lost empire Paris became the focus of Britain’s attention. Following Castlereagh’s death, the new Foreign Minister George Canning summoned the French Ambassador to London, Prince Jules de Polignac, for a series of “interviews” during which he convinced the Ambassador to accept a policy of non-intervention. In October of 1823 Canning and the Prince signed a memorandum of understanding known as the Polignac Memorandum where France declared that it would not intervene to restore Spanish power in the Western Hemisphere. This agreement freed Britain to begin recognition of the new countries following the announcement of the Monroe Doctrine two months later, Canning ordered lithographic copies of the memorandum distributed throughout Latin America to demonstrate Britain’s critical role in their independence.

With Latin America independent, British, French, and even German influence in the New World expanded by leaps and bounds. Both London and Paris had lusted after Spanish America’s wealth since the first galleons laden with gold and silver returned to Spain in the sixteenth century. Soon, the two capitols competed for influence among the new nations of South America building lucrative trade and investment ties throughout the region.

Britain and France quickly replaced Spain to become Latin America’s chief political and economic partner—all at the expense of America’s standing in the hemisphere. France appealed to a common “Latin” social, religious, linguistic, and cultural history while Britain used its vast financial and commercial power to tie the new states into its global economic system. During the 1820s alone the City of London approved massive investments in the region totaling twenty million pounds—resulting in Latin America’s first major debt crisis.

Monroe Doctrine Summary

A summary of the Monroe Doctrine which will give you a better idea of its role in the history of the United States and Latin America. Read on.

A summary of the Monroe Doctrine which will give you a better idea of its role in the history of the United States and Latin America. Read on….

The Monroe Doctrine was an American policy put forth by the 5th President of the United States of America, James Monroe. It was a clear cut statement issued by the United States which stated that the United States of America would neither interfere in the conflicts between European nations, nor allow these nations to meddle in the affairs of the ‘New World’ i.e. the hemisphere that included the continents of North America and South America. Monroe Doctrine sent across the message that any attempt by the European nations to colonize the New World would amount to aggression, which would be met by U.S. intervention. It was one of those U.S. policies which had profound effects on various American foreign policies to follow. At the same time, the Monroe Doctrine was also responsible for establishing a cordial relationship between the United States and Great Britain, which was one of the major European powers back then.

Summary of the Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was introduced by James Monroe in a speech before the United States Congress on 2nd December, 1823. It was put forth unilaterally by the United States in response to Great Britain’s proposal of mutually coming up with a policy which would separate the New World from the Old World. (The term ‘Old World’ referred to those regions of the world that were known to Europeans before the Americas were discovered.) For Great Britain, allowing Spain to regain control of its former colonies was not a viable option as it would have hampered their profitable trade with this region. For the United States, it was the question of national security with the newly formed ‘Holy Alliance’ (made up of Austria, Prussia and Russia) trying to gain an upper hand in this region.

The main objective of Monroe Doctrine was to make sure that the European nations don’t succeed in colonizing the newly independent colonies of Latin America. It was introduced at a point of time when quite a few Latin American colonies under the Spanish Empire had become independent, and several were about to become independent. When the United States realized that European colonization of these Spanish colonies in Latin America would be a threat for its national security, President Monroe introduced this policy and made sure that the national security of the country was not threatened. While the Foreign Minister of Great Britain, George Canning, did put forth the proposal of going ahead together, the United States administration under the leadership of Monroe was wary of this, especially after the war of 1812.

Monroe Doctrine didn’t just put a check of European colonization of the Americas, but also asserted that the European nations should stop interfering in the matters of the western hemisphere. It also made it a point to state that the United States would not meddle with the existing European colonies in the Americas, nor would it interfere in the internal matters of the European nations. The policy established two separate spheres of influence for the United States and Europe. However, it did provide a platform for the development of cordial ties between the United States and Great Britain, and thus is considered by many to be a precursor to ‘Special Relationship’ between these two nations. Even though the Latin American nations knew that the Monroe Doctrine was nothing more than a tool of national policy, they did welcome it as they were aware of the fact that it was not possible for the United States alone to wield power in this region without the backing of Great Britain.

The fact that Monroe Doctrine continued for the next two centuries, with a few minor changes here and there, hints at its impact in the geopolitical scenario back then. It did come under fire though, with critics terming it ‘American hegemony’, but that didn’t really matter for the United States or Latin America as both benefited from the same. If it was not for Monroe Doctrine, Latin America would have been nothing but a region plagued by internal conflicts today. It was this policy that provided Latin America with the much-needed protection from European interests, with the United States acting as a protector for this region.

By 1823, almost all Latin American countries have also gained Independence from Spain and Portugal and the United States wanted to ensure that no other large European power would try to move in and conquer the land. Monroe wanted to prevent that the “New World” would, once again, become a battleground for European powers.

  • In 1865 the Monroe Doctrine was invoked when the U.S. provided military and diplomatic pressure to help Mexican President Benito Juarez revolt against the French Emperor Maximilian.
  • Theodore Roosevelt also invoked the policy in 1904, calling it the “Monroe Doctrine” for the first time, stopping European creditors from collecting debts from several Latin American countries.
  • It was also symbolically invoked in 1962 when the Soviet Union started to construct sites in Cuba for missile launching and President John. F. Kennedy used his naval and air forces to quarantine the island.

This article is part of our larger resource on the Colonial America culture, society, economics, and warfare. Click here for our comprehensive article on Colonial America.

The Monroe Doctrine, 1823

President James Monroe’s 1823 annual message to Congress included a warning to European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. This portion of the address is known as the Monroe Doctrine.

The United States was wary of European intervention in Florida, the Pacific Northwest, and Latin America. In 1821, Russia claimed control of the entire Pacific coast from Alaska to Oregon and closed the area to foreign shipping. This development coincided with rumors that Spain, with the help of European allies, was planning to reconquer its former Latin American colonies.

European intervention threatened British as well as American interests. Britain had a flourishing trade with Latin America, which would decline if Spain regained its New World colonies, and had claims to territory in the Oregon country of the Pacific Northwest. In 1823, British Foreign Minister George Canning proposed that the United States and Britain jointly announce their opposition to further European intervention in the Americas.

Secretary of State John Quincy Adams opposed a joint declaration. He convinced President Monroe to make a unilateral declaration of American policy—known as the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe announced that the Western Hemisphere was henceforth closed to further European colonization or puppet monarchs. He also said that the United States would not interfere in internal European affairs.

For much of the nineteenth century, the United States lacked the military strength to prevent European intervention in the New World. But since European meddling threatened British as well as American interests, the Monroe Doctrine was enforced by the Royal Navy. Nevertheless, for the American people, the Monroe Doctrine was the proud symbol of American hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. Unilaterally, the United States had defined its rights and interests in the New World.

An image of the portion of the address known as the Monroe Doctrine is available here.A transcript of the Doctrine excerpted from the newspaper printing is available.


Our policy, in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting, in all instances, the just claims of every power submitting to injuries from none. But, in regard to those continents, circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different.

It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent, without endangering our peace and happiness nor can any one believe that our Southern Brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition, in any form, with indifference. If we look to the comparative strength and resources of Spain and those new governments, and their distance from each other, it must be obvious that she can never subdue them. It is still the true policy of the United States, to leave the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will pursue the same course.

The Library of Congress website contains a variety of digital materials related to the Monroe Doctrine, including manuscripts, government documents, images, and newspaper articles. Provided below is a link to the home page for each relevant digital collection along with selected highlights.

Selected highlights from this collection:

Copies of President James Monroe's Seventh Annual Message to Congress, which contains the Monroe Doctrine, can be found in the Annals of Congress, Senate Journal, and House Journal.

Monroe Doctrine summary: The Monroe Doctrine was first stated by the fifth American President James Monroe during the State of the Union Address to Congress his seventh in a row on December 2, 1823. The Napoleonic Wars served as the inspiration for the Monroe Doctrine. It was based on the American fears related to the possible revival of monarchies in Europe. The main objective of US government was to secure the newly independent colonies of Latin America from European intervention and control.

The Monroe Doctrine stated that the free American continents are not to be subject to future colonization by European powers. The United States intended to remain neutral to existing European colonies in America but strongly opposed the creation of new ones among the Hispanic American republics that recently gained independence. The Monroe Doctrine revealed that any further efforts of countries from Europe to colonize land in North or South America would be regarded as acts of aggression and as such requires American intervention.

At the time the Doctrine was issued, all Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico, had gained independence. The United States wanted to have guarantees that no other European power would move in. The British Empire was on the same page with them because the British also wanted to keep other European powers out of the New World for fear that their trade would be in jeopardy. Since the United States didn’t have much of a navy, the British Royal Navy was mostly the agent of enforcing the Monroe doctrine as part of their efforts to secure the neutrality of the seas.

Watch the video: The Monroe Doctrine 1823 (May 2022).