As the turn of the century came and went, imperialism
was in full sway. While the United Kingdom
tended to its perpetually sunny reign
was flexing its own muscles, and Japan sought to show that is was more than just the new kid on the block
. With the assassination
of recently elected president William McKinley
by a deranged anarchist
, Theodore Roosevelt
was thrust to the helm of the nation. Suiting his personality, he was about to guide the ship of state far clear of the isolationism
course it had more or less followed before. One of the first examples of this new direction in which the rambunctious president was leading the nation was the Roosevelt Corollary.
From old the United States had harbored a certain ingrained hostility to the countries of Europe. This discordiality had its roots in many places, but most clearly made itself evident when things came to Latin America. Relatively early in the history of the country the Monroe Doctrine had been established, firmly laying down the law of non-interference. The European nations, surprisingly enough, had respected this for the most part. By early 1903, however, the Germans and British began to seek a hold over the Caribbean and Latin American countries as bill-collectors; extending their credit with the full knowledge that debts would give them firm control over the region. Roosevelt saw this as a flagrant violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but here a problem arose. The Monroe Doctrine had never really had any teeth, it was just a diplomatic assertion, nothing more. If he was going to stop the British and Germans, it would take more than just words.
For this reason, the president devised what became called the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. It established a policy of "preventative intervention," stopping any outside influences from gaining hold in the region by any means necessary. Now the Doctrine had teeth. He declared that if financial trouble struck the Latin American or Caribbean nations, the United States would graciously step in and assume their customs, debts, and defense. How nice of them. This was, of course, obviously intended to prevent European nations from doing similar to reclaim their assets. No one was going to push the countries of America around, Roosevelt ensured. Well, no one except the United States, that was.
The Roosevelt Corollary was extended from abstraction to concrete action when the United States assumed the tariff collection of the Dominican Republic in 1905. While the arrangement ended a great deal of graft and corruption, it was also a flagrant violation of the Dominican Republic's territorial sovreignty. This bare fact was cushioned somewhat by having the policy attatched to the prestigious Monroe Doctrone. Had Roosevelt simply proposed it himself, without giving it historic weight, the outcries would have been far more vigorous.
Like most things, there were good and bad aspects to the Roosevelt Corollary. It admirably accomplished its goal of preventing the bugaboo of European colonization from spreading further into the independent countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. It also reaped great benefits for American businessmen, who were well assured that their investments would be protected by the 'Big Stick' of Roosevelt's federal government. But as might be expected, it greatly soured relations between the United States and other countries in the Americas. Somehow the knowledge of Big Brother watching over, waiting to swoop in at any time to 'protect' them was not very consoling. The United States gained the reputation of a bully. It pushed the other nations around, ignored their protests, and generally did what it liked just as the imperialistic powers of Europe. While it may not have wholesale taken over the governments of American nations, its presence was still oppressive. The United States did not really recover in the eyes of Caribbean and Latin American nations until the ascension of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the repeal of the Roosevelt Corollary.
Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., Cohen, Lizabeth. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, 11 ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.