- Monroe Doctrine
- (1823)A sphere-of-influence statement enunciated by and named for James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, in his annual message of 1823. The statement was occasioned by encroachments by Russia in the northwest of North America and alarm over a possible intervention by the Quadruple Alliance - Russia, Prussia, Austria, Britain - to assist Spain in regaining her former Latin American possessions. It stated that “the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers,” and further cautioned that “we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.” Additionally, it pledged American non-interference in the “still unsettled” affairs of Europe. In point of fact, the actual authorship of the pronouncement against European colonization and interference in the New World belongs to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. James Monroe’s warning did not worry the Old World unduly at the time. The continental powers had no concrete plans in November and December 1823 for reconquering the lost Spanish colonies, and British disapproval of use of force against the newly independent Latin American republics was actually more effective in cold-showering any serious thought of a European intervention. The Monroe Doctrine was laid to rest for two decades until President James K. Polk reactivated it as a defensive measure in 1848 by proclaiming American opposition not only to colonization and reconquest by Europe, but also to any cession of territory in the Western Hemisphere to a European power. This new interpretation reflected both expansionist momentum and American uneasiness over the fate of the Western territories, which coincided with renewed European encroachments -real or imagined - in the Yucatán and the Caribbean. The doctrine had evolved into the geopolitical expression of two of the myths that most influenced U.S. foreign policy: exceptionalism and mission. It was shortly to become a national principle. Napoleon III’s Mexican ambitions and Maximilian ’s short-lived reign from 1864 to 1867, like Spain’s reoccupation of Santo Domingo in 1861–1864, caused the United States to reassert the Monroe Doctrine vigorously during the Civil War years. The 1860s and 1870s saw its consolidation into diplomatic dogma first with William Seward’s repeated protests against France’s designs in Mexico and Spain’s scheming in the Caribbean, and next with Ulysses S. Grant’s and Hamilton Fish’s insistence on the no-transfer principle. In later years the ever-increasing interest in an isthmian canal would lead to the gradual substitution of the Monroe Doctrine for international law in the Western Hemisphere. By 1895, the doctrine had become the affirmation of American preeminence in the New World - the outcome of the Venezuelan Crisis being evidence that Great Britain, despite the irritation of the Foreign Office, tacitly approved of that supremacy.Exceptionalism and messianism finally triumphed with the proclamation and application of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which explicitly turned the Caribbean into the United States’ “backyard.” As a matter of fact, in his annual message of December 1904, Theodore Roosevelt enunciated not simply a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine but a wholly new diplomatic tenet: the United States was to act as policeman of the Western Hemisphere; it was to put to use the right of interference it continued to deny the European powers. Of course, U.S. interventionism had been at work in Latin America long before the 1904 pronouncement that was to legitimate it. But the great North American republic for the first time, as the 26th president was well aware, was now strong enough to monopolize interference in the New World; not only did it possess industrial and agricultural might, but it had acceded to world power status in 1898 at the close of the splendidly profitable Spanish-American War. This new condition called for a new diplomacy, especially in that part of the globe where the United States was predestined by geography to play a leading role. Monroe’s doctrine had the weakness that nowhere was American preeminence clearly stated. A “corollary” was needed to remedy that omission and give the hitherto defensive dictum a markedly assertive coloration.The catalysts for this were no other than Germany’s aggressiveness in the Venezuela affair of 1902–1903 and the projected isthmian canal, which by 1904 had become a reality thanks to the controversial acquisition of the Canal Zone, for Roosevelt had “taken” Panama the year before. It was out of the question to tolerate more European interventions in the Caribbean; the protection of the approaches of the future waterway, the defense, in other words, of the Panamanian lifeline, demanded that the latter be turned into an American lake. Despite its toning down in 1923 and 1928 and notwithstanding its official repudiation at the 1933 and 1936 pan- American conferences, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine remained in force unofficially and continued to guide hemispheric policy in both World Wars and during the Cold War.See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Collin, Richard H. Theodore Roosevelt’s Caribbean: The Panama Canal, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Latin American Context . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990;LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860–1898. 1963. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press Paperbacks, 1987;Merk, Frederick. The Monroe Doctrine and American Expansionism . New York: Knopf, 1966;Perkins, Dexter. A History of the Monroe Doctrine . Boston: Little, Brown, 1963;Ricard, Serge. “Monroe Revisited: The Roosevelt Doctrine, 1901–1909.” In Marc Chénetier and Rob Kroes, eds . Impressions of a Guilded Age: The American Fin de Siècle . Amsterdam: Amerika Instituut, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1983;Smith, Gaddis. Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine . New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.SERGE RICARD
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.