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

CHAPTER IX
The Monroe Doctrine, an Independent Foreign Policy

THE MONROE DOCTRINE had its immediate origin in the events of the fall of 1823, but it cannot be divorced from the experiences of the preceding years. It would be very easy to explain the President's message by emphasizing the superficial aspects of the problem, but that would not result in an accurate interpretation. The Monroe Doctrine was the result of forces which had been at work in the United States for years, forces whose influence was becoming evident even before 1820. The developments of the fall of 1823 brought matters to a crisis, revealed the operation of these underlying elements, and made certain a declaration of policy in that year, but they did not "cause" that result. They formed the "incident" which determined the time of the declaration. The important thing to be remembered is that, by June, 1823, the trend of American thought and experience had been so definitely in the direction of an independent, national, republican foreign policy that a formal statement of it was inevitable. Sooner or later, it would have been made. All that was necessary was a provocative "incident."

Let us recall briefly what may be termed the conditioning factors behind the Monroe Doctrine. The unsettled state of Europe, which Monroe likened to that of 1789, was a constant source of concern to Americans. The Continent appeared to be upon the threshold of a new era of internal revolution and international war. There never had been a time in the history of America when war in

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