The Monroe Doctrine: Meanings and Implications

By Gilderhus, Mark T. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2006 | Go to article overview

The Monroe Doctrine: Meanings and Implications


Gilderhus, Mark T., Presidential Studies Quarterly


The Monroe Doctrine as articulated before the U.S. Congress in 1823 established a rhetorical style associated many years later with similar pronouncements during the Cold War and after. Typically couched in the language of idealism and high principle, such affirmations of presidential purpose often purported to advance the cause of humankind, or at least a substantial portion thereof, by upholding values such as freedom, democracy, and peace. Such language sometimes served as a cover for less ennobling purposes connected with the defense of strategic and economic interests and usually contained some kind of threat to take countermeasures if other nations went beyond what the United States regarded as the appropriate bounds. The Monroe Doctrine also instituted a pattern by affirming defensive objectives.

Over the years, James Monroe's doctrine took on various meanings and implications, depending upon shifting policies and preferences, but nevertheless consistently served as a mainstay in the articulation of U.S. goals and purposes in the Western Hemisphere. Three stood out among them. Policy makers wanted to keep out the Europeans, to safeguard order and stability in areas of special concern, and to ensure open access to markets and resources. To be sure, the means of implementation varied from time to time, but the pursuit of these objectives remained much the same. Underlying them, another constant projected a sense of racist condescension. Usually viewed as unruly children in need of discipline and direction, according to a prevailing assumption among U.S. policy makers, Latin Americans could not function without paternalistic oversight and supervision.

The Monroe Doctrine emerged in response to the exigencies of European politics at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In efforts to put the world back together again, the Great Powers, that is, the Austrians, Prussians, Russians, and British, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1815 formed the Quadruple Alliance, an alignment committed to peace, order, and the status quo. Three years later, it turned into the Quintuple Alliance with the admission of France, a newly rehabilitated monarchy under the restored Bourbon kings.

For good reason in the aftermath of the French upheaval, European leaders feared the threat of revolution more than most things. Consequently at the Congress of Troppau in 1820, they agreed forcibly to put down insurrectionist activities whenever and wherever necessary. Soon after, in 1821, Austrian armies suppressed a series of revolts in Italy. A year later French forces took action against an uprising in Spain. The Europeans also supported the Ottoman Turks in efforts to snuff out a rebellion in Greece. Such actions caused John Quincy Adams, the U.S. secretary of state, to wonder whether the Great Powers also might harbor similar ambitions in the New World, possibly to reinstate the Spanish American empire.

The Latin American wars for independence inspired a great deal of interest among citizens of the United States. Indeed, many, such as Congressman Henry Clay of Kentucky, regarded them as conscious attempts to emulate the American Revolution. As Clay observed in 1818, Latin American leaders such as Simon Bolivar and Joss de San Martin have "adopted our principles, copied our institutions and ... employed the very language and sentiments of our revolutionary papers." Such perceptions probably attributed too much importance to the U.S. example and not enough to indigenous circumstances, but nevertheless they indicated high levels of popular enthusiasm.

For U.S. leaders, in contrast, realpolitik governed official reactions. The negotiation of the 1819 Transcontinental Treaty with Spain leading to the acquisition of the Floridas preoccupied Secretary Adams. Premature recognition of the newly independent Latin American states might alienate Spanish leaders and ruin his diplomacy. While wishing Spanish Americans well, he put scant faith in their ability to establish "free or liberal institutions of government. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
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.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

The Monroe Doctrine: Meanings and Implications
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access 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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.