Today in History, December 2: 1823 – The Monroe Doctrine. European powers had, in recent years, settled wars and were once again turning their attention westward…Russia had declared that the northwest American continent was theirs. In his 7th annual address to Congress, President James Monroe made it clear that while the US would not interfere with current foreign colonies in the western hemisphere, any additional attempts at colonization would draw American ire…
“….We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States….”
It would be some time before Monroe’s statement of policy would be known as the “Monroe Doctrine”, but it would set the standard for American foreign policy for two centuries. The British wanted to make a joint statement in regards to the policy, wanting to secure their interests in the Americas. Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who drafted the statements, refused, still lacking trust of the British after the War of 1812. The Royal Navy would nonetheless enforce the Doctrine for years until the US was powerful enough to do so herself.
Presidents from James K. Polk (Texas independence), US Grant (Venezuela conflict), Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine), and John F. Kennedy (Russian missiles in Cuba), and Ronald Reagan (Contra affair) have invoked the Monroe Doctrine in foreign policy incidents. Recently Presidents seem to have put the Doctrine aside (Soviet influence in Venezuela, giving up the Panama Canal, which is now primarily under Chinese control), but the future will someday be history; and I’m not convinced Monroe’s far reaching, prescient policies will not be utilized again, more in cooperation with our neighbors rather than as a “big brother.”