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Monroe Doctrine,principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S. imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.
Origins and Pronouncement
The doctrine grew out of two diplomatic problems. The first was the minor clash with Russia concerning the northwest coast of North America. In this quarrel, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams expressed the principle that the American continents were no longer to be considered as a field for colonization by European powers. That principle was incorporated verbatim in the presidential message. The other and more important part of the doctrine grew out of the fear that the group of reactionary European governments commonly called the Holy AllianceHoly Alliance,
1815, agreement among the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia, signed on Sept. 26. It was quite distinct from the Quadruple Alliance (Quintuple, after the admission of France) of Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, arrived at first in
..... Click the link for more information. would seek to reduce again to colonial status the Latin American states that had recently gained independence from Spain.
Great Britain, which wished to maintain open commerce with the newly formed states, supported Latin American independence. The United States had just recognized the independence of these states, and in Aug., 1823, the British foreign minister, George Canning, proposed to the United States that a joint note be sent by the two governments protesting intervention in the New World by the Holy Alliance. President Monroe consulted with two of his predecessors, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who recommended that Canning's proposal be accepted. Secretary of State Adams dissented. He feared, with some justification, that the British would try to exact a pledge from the United States not to attempt to acquire any territory in Spanish America.
Meanwhile, Canning had secured an agreement with France (which had earlier made the proposal that the Holy Alliance intervene in Latin America), by which France renounced any intention of intervention, thus obviating the need for a joint U.S.-British protest. However, Adams had by then proposed a unilateral action to President Monroe, who finally agreed to this course. The presidential message, therefore, announced that the United States would not interfere in European affairs but would view with displeasure any attempt by the European powers to subject the nations of the New World to their political systems. Thus in a sense the Monroe Doctrine as a dual principle of foreign policy (no colonization and no intervention by European states in the Americas) complemented the policy expressed by George Washington of noninterference in European affairs.
Application and Extension
The doctrine was not ratified by any congressional legislation; it did not obtain a place in international law, and the term Monroe Doctrine did not come into general circulation until the 1850s. Yet the doctrine became important in American policy, particularly when President Polk reasserted its ideas in 1845 and 1848 with respect to British claims in Oregon, British and French intrigues to prevent the U.S. annexation of Texas, and the aspirations of European nations in Yucatán.
The strained relations with Great Britain concerning its sovereignty over several areas in Central America in the 1850s renewed U.S. interest in the doctrine; Great Britain specifically denied its validity. During the Civil War, the doctrine was invoked unsuccessfully after Spain's reacquisition of the Dominican Republic (formerly Santo Domingo). It was also used, somewhat more effectively, to bring pressure on the French government to withdraw support from MaximilianMaximilian,
1832–67, emperor of Mexico (1864–67). As the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, he was denied a share in the imperial government by his reactionary brother, Emperor Francis Joseph.
..... Click the link for more information. , who had established an empire in Mexico under French auspices.
Under President Grant and his successors the doctrine was expanded. The principle that no territory in the Western Hemisphere could be transferred from one European power to another became part of the Monroe Doctrine. As U.S. imperialistic tendencies grew, the Monroe Doctrine came to be associated not only with the exclusion of European (now extended to mean all non-American) powers from the Americas, but also with the possible extension of U.S. hegemony in the area. This condition explains why the Monroe Doctrine, although it was not formally used to justify American intervention, was viewed with suspicion and dislike by Latin American nations.
In 1895, President Cleveland, in a new extension of the Monroe Doctrine, demanded that Great Britain submit to arbitration a boundary dispute between British Guiana (now Guyana) and Venezuela (see Venezuela Boundary DisputeVenezuela Boundary Dispute,
diplomatic controversy, notable for the tension caused between Great Britain and the United States during much of the 19th cent. Of long standing, the dispute concerned the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana (now Guyana); the Venezuelan
..... Click the link for more information. ). Following the Venezuela ClaimsVenezuela Claims.
In 1902, due to civil strife and to gross mismanagement during the administration of Cipriano Castro, Venezuelan finances were chaotic. Great Britain, Germany, and Italy were determined to seek redress for unpaid loans and sent a joint naval expedition to the
..... Click the link for more information. question, Theodore Roosevelt expounded (1904) what came to be known as the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine; he stated that continued misconduct or disturbance in a Latin American country might force the United States to intervene in order to prevent European intervention. This frankly imperialistic interpretation met much resistance in Latin America but was used extensively during the administrations of Presidents Taft and Wilson to justify intervention in the Caribbean area.
The Monroe Doctrine was so deeply embedded in U.S. foreign policy by the end of World War I that Woodrow Wilson asked for a special exception for it in the Covenant of the League of Nations in 1919. By the end of the next decade the doctrine had become much less important, and its imperialistic aspects were being played down in an effort to foster better relations with Latin America. In the Clark memorandum of Dec., 1928, the U.S. State Department repudiated the Roosevelt corollary.
Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the doctrine was redefined as a multilateral undertaking to be applied by all the nations of the hemisphere acting together, and emphasis was placed on Pan-AmericanismPan-Americanism,
movement toward commercial, social, economic, military, and political cooperation among the nations of North, Central, and South America. In the Nineteenth Century
..... Click the link for more information. . Nevertheless, in the 1950s and 60s the specter of unilateral intervention in Latin America was again raised, especially by the involvement of the United States with developments in Guatemala, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. For the most part, however, the United States has continued to support hemispheric cooperation within the framework of the Organization of American StatesOrganization of American States
(OAS), international organization, created Apr. 30, 1948, at Bogotá, Colombia, by agreement of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,
..... Click the link for more information. .
See A. Alvarez, The Monroe Doctrine (1924); P. Bradley, A Bibliography of the Monroe Doctrine (1929); D. Perkins, A History of the Monroe Doctrine (rev. ed. 1963); F. Merk, The Monroe Doctrine and American Expansionism (1966); C. M. Wilson, The Monroe Doctrine; an American Frame of Mind (1971); G. Smith, The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945–1993 (1994); J. Sexton, The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth Century America (2011).
a declaration of the principles of US foreign policy proclaimed in a message to Congress by President J. Monroe on Dec. 2, 1823. The doctrine was elaborated in response to a threat of intervention by the Holy Alliance in Latin America to restore Spain’s dominion. Secretary of State J. Q. Adams is credited with writing the president’s message.
Monroe’s message expressed the principle of the division of the world into European and American systems and enunciated the idea of a US policy of nonintervention in the internal affairs of the European countries. It also proclaimed the corresponding principle of European nonintervention in the internal affairs of the countries of North and South America. As the message pointed out, “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.” This was the origin of the principle “America for Americans.”
The US emphasized its neutrality in the struggle of the former Spanish colonies against the metropolitan power. At the same time, however, the concluding section of the Monroe Doctrine attempts to substantiate the principle that the growth of US power depends on the annexation of new territories and the formation of new states. This is evidence of the expansionist aspirations of the US regarding the Latin American countries.
In the name of the Monroe Doctrine the US seized more than half of Mexico’s territory in a predatory war (1846—48). With the transition to imperialism, the expansionist tendencies of the Monroe Doctrine were developed further in the Olney doctrine (1895) and in the Roosevelt Corollary (1904), which directly asserted US pretensions to the right to exercise “an international police power” in Latin America.
In the 20th century the US has intervened in a number of Latin American countries, including Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Panama. Under the conditions associated with the general crisis of capitalism, the US is striving to use the Monroe Doctrine for its economic and political expansion and in its struggle with the growing national liberation movement in Latin America.
PUBLICATIONSSAnnals of Congress, 18th Congress, 1st session, pp. 12–24.
REFERENCESBolkhovitinov, N. N. Doktrina Monro (Proiskhozhdenie i kharakter). Moscow, 1959.
Perkins, D. A History of the Monroe Doctrine. Boston-Toronto, 1955.
N. N. BOLKHOVITINOV