Not in My Backyard…Get Off My Lawn!!

Today in History, December 2, 1823:

President James Monroe announces in his State of the Union address what will become known as the Monroe Doctrine…telling the European powers that America would not interfere in European conflicts (we didn’t want to and did not have the means anyway), and that America would police the western hemisphere…Europeans were to stay out. We couldn’t really enforce this doctrine at the time, but it was to England’s benefit…so the Royal Navy did so for us.

In 1904, when European powers attempted to collect on supposed debts the Americas, Theodore Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Corollary again told outsiders that if there were problems in finances in Western Hemisphere countries, the US would handle it.

The Doctrine has been tested repeatedly over the years, most notably and dangerously during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the Soviet Union attempted to place nuclear missiles 90 miles off America’s southern shores. President Kennedy responded with a Naval Embargo, and after a few days Soviet leaders blinked.

Where Else Would We Find Him?

Today in History, February 21, 1848:

“Where else would we find him?”

Former President, former Secretary of State, Former US Senator from Massachusetts, current Representative to the House John Quincy Adams, collapses after suffering a stroke while vehemently stating his opinion on the House floor.

Adams had, by most reports, been a mediocre President.

However he had authored the Monroe Doctrine telling European nations that America was in charge of police actions in the Western Hemisphere; he had served as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England); had negotiated the ceding of Florida to the US from Spain; had acted as the attorney for the slaves in the Amistad Trial; stated his vehement abolitionist views, and served 17 years in the House after his Presidency…because that’s what a servant to the people was supposed to do.

His contemporaries were not surprised that he would die while serving the people. He was carried to the office of the Speaker of the House, where he would die two days later. What an example!

The Monroe Doctrine…The Original “Get Off My Lawn!”

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.”

The Corrupt Bargain…

Today in History, December 1: 1824 –

The Presidential election had involved 4 candidates; Andrew Jackson, who by far won the most popular votes and the most Electoral College votes, but not a majority amongst the candidates. So, in accordance with the 12th Amendment, on this date the vote for President went to the House of Representatives.

The House, after much deliberation…elected John Quincy Adams President. The problem? One of the other candidates was Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who threw his support behind Adams, causing his win. Clay, “ironically”, was then appointed to the coveted position of Secretary of State under Adams. At that time in our history, becoming Secretary of State almost guaranteed you the Presidency at some point.

The Jackson Democrats claimed (probably correct) a “Corrupt Bargain”, which tainted Adams’ Presidency…minimizing any success he experienced and almost guaranteeing what happened in 1828…the landslide election of Jackson to the Presidency.

The Amistad Trial

Today in History, February 24: 1840 – US Representative John Quincy Adams, a former President, begins his defense of slaves aboard the Amistad, a Spanish slave ship which was transporting them to Cuba to be sold. The slaves killed the ship’s Captain and forced the crew to sail them back to Africa…the crew instead took them to the US. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, where Adams argued for their return to their home. He won the argument….but not the funds to return them. The funds would have to be raised from sympathetic Americans.

Adams would continue to serve in the House until he collapsed at his desk, and died two days later on February 23, 1848. Several of his decendants would serve prominently in the government. 

“Where Else Would We Find Him?”

Today in History, February 21: 1848 – “Where else would we find him?” Former President, former Secretary of State, Former US Senator from Massachusetts, current Representative to the House John Quincy Adams, collapses after suffering a stroke while vehemently stating his opinion on the House floor. Adams had, by most reports, been a mediocre President. However he had authored the Monroe Doctrine telling European nations that America was in charge of police actions in the Western Hemisphere; he had served as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England); had negotiated the ceding of Florida to the US from Spain; had acted as the attorney for the slaves in the Amistad Trial; stated his vehement abolitionist views, and served 17 years in the House after his Presidency…because that’s what a servant to the people was supposed to do. His contemporaries were not surprised that he would die while serving the people. He was carried to the office of the Speaker of the House, where he would die two days later. What an example!