Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed by President James Monroe on December 2, 1823 when he delivered a message to Congress. This doctrine supported the independent nations of the Western Hemisphere against any interference from Europe "for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny." According to this doctrine, the American Continents were "henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." This statement made clear the United States would not allow new colonies to be created in the Americas nor would it permit existing colonies to enlarge their borders. The countries of Russia, Austria and Prussia were the three leading absolute monarchies in Europe and had pledged themselves to "put an end to the system of representative government, in whatever country it may exist in Europe." The United States feared that these three powers might try to do the same in the Americas. Most of the Spanish colonies in America declared independence while Spain was involved in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. As they became independent, they formed themselves into republics with constitutions resembling that of the United States. Brazil chose to keep its monarchy when it became independent from Portugal. There was a rumor that France might join the Holy Alliance (Russia, Austria and Prussia) in an attempt to restore the Spanish colonies. This rumor bothered both Great Britain and the United States. There was some discussion about issuing a joint warning against aggression by European nations in the Americas. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison favored the joint warning. Jefferson said, "With Great Britain on our side, we need not fear the whole world." John Quincy Adams argued that the United States should make an individual warning because Great Britain would prevent European interference whether or not they had an agreement with the United States. The United States would thus have the advantage of a joint agreement without actually having an agreement. An American declaration would apply to Great Britain as well as other European countries. Monroe decided to have America make a declaration by itself. Britain wanted to protect its right to trade with all the American colonies and feared that their trade would be limited or eliminated if Spain and/or France took over the colonies. Fear of the British Navy protected the rights of the smaller American nations more than the Monroe Doctrine did until the late 1800's except right after the Civil War when the United States Army and Navy were still strong. The United States began in the 1880's to enlarge its new Navy of modern steel ships and had enough power to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Great Britain and other countries ignored the doctrine until the 1890's. In some ways the Monroe Doctrine weakened the relationships between the United States and Latin American countries. The very nations that were being protected resented the United States for assuming superiority over them. The United States used the Monroe Doctrine only a few times during the 1800's: in 1845 in a dispute with Great Britain over Oregon; in the 1860's when France intervened in Mexico; a threat in 1895 against Great Britain if the British would not arbitrate their dispute with Venezuela. President Theodore Roosevelt claimed that the Monroe Doctrine required the United States to stop European nations from interfering. Using this policy the United States sent troops to the Dominican Republic in 1905, into Nicaragua in 1912, and into Haiti in 1915. President Woodrow Wilson continued Roosevelt's policy when he interfered in a Mexican revolution. President Herbert Hoover made a tour of South America before taking office in 1929, and the Hoover Administration moved away from the policy of United States intervention in Latin America. President Franklin D. Roosevelt abandoned the practice of intervening and sought to expand trade with Latin America countries as well as to gain their cooperation in defending North and South America from countries outside the Western Hemisphere. Armed Forces from the United States were gradually withdrawn from the smaller American countries during the Hoover and Roosevelt years. The American republics became closer during World War II from fear of Nazi aggression. The Organization of American States was set up in 1948 in Bogotá, Columbia. The Monroe Doctrine is not the same as isolationism (staying out of international political and economic affairs). It was George Washington who suggested in his Farewell Address that the United States should stay out of European affairs. The Monroe Doctrine states that the United States will play an active role in what happens in the Western Hemisphere. Facts and quotes for this post came from an article by Mark T. Gilderhus in the World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, pp 739-740.