The Monroe Doctrine

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James Monroe

The American Revolution and the French Revolution inspired a generation of young Creoles in Latin America. Most countries achieved independence from Spain and Portugal in the early 1820s in a series of revolutions. In 1823 the United States asserted a bold foreign policy, the Monroe Doctrine, declaring a special interest in the western hemisphere.

In 1822 President James Monroe had recognized the new countries of Latin America. The young nation supported self-determination and indeed the country was founded on this principle.

The conservative monarchies of Prussia, Russia and Austria had been concerned about revolution ever since the French Revolution in 1789. In 1815 in a reactionary move, they formed the Holy Alliance to cooperate in stemming the tide of change. They resolved to intervene in countries where popular revolutions were imminent. After the successful revolutions in Latin America, they announced that they would assist Spain in restoring its colonies.

Many felt that it was unnecessary for the United States to act. Great Britain was also opposed to the restoration of the colonies, and could be relied upon to protect its trade interests in Latin America. However, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams urged bolder action: "It would be more candid, as well as more dignified, to avow four principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cock-boat in the wake of the British man-of-war." And so Monroe resolved to explicitly declare the American position in Latin America. No attempt to restore the colonies would be tolerated.

President James Monroe, in the annual message to Congress, announced the doctrine on December 2, 1823.

"The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assured and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. 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." full text


The Monroe Doctrine 1823

Part of Uncle Sam Plants the Flag: Imperialism in Latin America exhibit

 Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations by Peter H. Smith

history of United States foreign policy in Latin America beginning with the Monroe Doctrine