The United States and Europe, 1815-1823: A Study in the Background of the Monroe Doctrine

By Edward Howland Tatum Jr. | Go to book overview

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY

The Historiography of the Monroe Doctrine

THE USUAL EXPLANATION of the Monroe Doctrine, that fear of the Holy Alliance and of Russian aggressions on the Northwest Coast called it forth, has exercised a deadening influence on the writing of histories of American foreign policy. The simplicity of this explanation and the engaging facility with which it may be presented have led nearly all writers to adopt it as historically true. It would be a most valuable and illuminating study that would trace in detail the steps by which this formula has become fixed. The limits of this essay will permit only a brief indication of the way in which this idea has gained currency and a general criticism of the best-known accounts of the formation of the Monroe Doctrine with reference to the false assumptions based upon this erroneous premise.

The sources of the conventional interpretation are English. The first suggestions that the United States and the New World were in danger of attacks by the Holy Alliance appear in the English press in 1823, particularly in the article in The Edinburgh Review in February. The text of the notorious "Treaty of Verona" which seemed to confirm the reality of Continental designs was first printed in the London Morning Chronicle, a Tory publication, and was copied into the American press from that source. These views were soon reflected in the United States, and the essay which appeared in The North American Review in October presented them to the public. The effectiveness of this article was enhanced by the hints which Can

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