Monroe Doctrine

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Monroe Doctrine

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 Alliance 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 Maximilian, 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 Dispute). Following the Venezuela Claims 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-Americanism. 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 States.

Bibliography

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).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Monroe Doctrine
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.