During U.S. President James Monroe's message to Congress on December 2, 1823, he stated that North Central and South America (the American continents) were no longer open for colonization by European powers and that the U.S. would view with displeasure any European intervention in the Americas. Later President James K. Polk used this doctrine to justify his ranting about Canada, Oregon, Yucatan, California and so on.

Conversely, President Teddy Roosevelt stated in 1904 that any disturbances in Latin America might result in U.S. intervention to preclude European action. This apparent duality was seen by some as an excuse for U.S. imperialism in the region.

Also contained in the doctrine was a promise that the U.S. would not interfere in wars or internal affairs between European powers. This was the source of much of the U.S. reluctance to join WWI.

Expression by President James Monroe setting forth the policy of the United States with regard to other countires meddling in the western hemisphere. Delivered in the form of a message to the governments of Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal. The following are the effective words that constitute the Monroe Doctrine.

" The government of the United Sates has been desirous, by this friendly proceeding, of manifesting the great value which they have invariably attached to the friendship of the emperor and their solicitude to cultivate the best understanding with his government."

"In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in the arrangments by which they may terminate, the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects of future colonization by any European power."

"We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare 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. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.

The dirty not-so-secret of the Monroe doctrine is that it rested in large part on a British naval commitment, as the Royal Navy was the only force large enough to patrol the Atlantic. During the independence struggles of the various Latin American republics, it suited Britain to keep the resources of these former colonies of European empires independent and their resources hence beyond the reach of Britain's European rivals. The immediate goal of the Americans in the Monroe doctrine - to keep the new republics independent - was the same. Still smarting from the War of 1812, the Americans resisted a joint statement or co-ordinated joint action with the British, but the doctrine would not have been credible without Britain's interest in upholding it.

One of the verities of American diplomacy, and particularly early American diplomacy, has been an opposition to any system based on the balance of power. The Monroe doctrine was aimed at preventing the export of this "system" to the Western hemisphere, meaning that power politics would not intrude into the New World and the U.S. could remain aloof from European conflicts. Allowing European countries to compete for dominance in the Western hemisphere would have risked power struggles in the New World and also obliged Americans to concern themselves with the balance of power in the Old.

With a continent laid open before them, the national energies of Americans were absorbed with manifest destiny; steering clear of the dark ways of Europe hence served practical and ideological purposes for a people whose national identity was based on a rejection of Europe. It also blurred the fact that the supposedly "isolationist" early republic was in fact engaged in an expansionist foreign policy on the frontier that would have impressed any realpolitiking prince.

Mon*roe" doc"trine.

See under Doctrine.


© Webster 1913.

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