ANYONE who has read the explanations which historians have given for the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine must have been impressed with their basic similarity. There is one conventional interpretation of the background of that policy which has colored them all. However much these accounts may vary in detail, they all agree that the Monroe Doctrine was the result of two factors: the fear that the Holy Alliance would soon extend its extraordinary activities to the New World, and the threat of Russian expansion on the Northwest Coast of this continent. This simple, direct, and plausible theory has attained a degree of authority which is almost unequaled in American historiography. No one has been so bold as to challenge it directly, while most historians have been so dominated by it that they have forced their documentary evidence to fit into its arbitrary pattern.
This conventional interpretation cannot stand the test of a critical examination of American opinion regarding world affairs and of the relation of international politics to the foreign policies of the United States. These two factors, together with the trend of domestic developments within the United States, form the real foundation for a clear understanding of the Monroe Doctrine. This basis is fundamentally sound, for it is composed not of assumptions from superficial evidence but of elements which are an integral part of all international politics. It is the purpose of this study to trace their influence upon the United States from 1815 to 1823 and to indicate clearly their relation to the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine.