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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2, 1823: the Monroe Doctrine

The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered subjects for future colonization by any European powers. 

~ President James Monroe (1758-1831) (7th State of the Union address, 2 December 1823 - the "Monroe Doctrine" (wiki)) 

President James Monroe
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.

~ Ibid. (a more formal statement of the Doctrine)

The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere, and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That is why we have cut off our trade. This is why we worked in the OAS and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. This is why we continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it. 

~ President John F. Kennedy (wiki) (1917-1963) (news conference, 29 August 1962)*

There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust. 

~ Demosthenes (wiki) (ca. 384-322 B.C.) (Second Philippic, sec. 24)

John Quincy Adams,
 author of the Monroe Doctrine
Today is the 192nd anniversary of the proclamation of the "Monroe Doctrine" (wiki) in the Seventh State of the Union address of U.S. President James Monroe (wiki) (served 1817-1825) in 1823. Formulated largely my Monroe's secretary of state, John Quincy Adams  (wiki) (1767-1848),** the Doctrine stated that the American continents were no longer open to European colonization and that the United States would view with displeasure any further European intervention in the Americas.

The Monroe Doctrine consisted of four main points:

1. The United States would remain neutral in European affairs and not get involved in European conflicts.

2. The United States would not interfere with current European colonies in the Western Hemisphere.

3. No European nation would be allowed to establish a new colony in the Western Hemisphere.

4. If a European nation would try to interfere with a nation in the Western Hemisphere, the United States would view that as a hostile act and respond accordingly.

Although never formally recognized in international law, the Doctrine has been successfully invoked regularly times and became a key principle of American foreign policy.*** As imperialistic tendencies grew, however, the Monroe Doctrine was viewed with suspicion by Latin-American countries, who associated it with the possible extension of U.S. hegemony - and it has been used a half-dozen times to justify U.S. intervention in Latin American affairs. 

* N.B. The Cuban Missile Crisis (wiki) followed about a month and a half later.

** Adams succeeded Monroe as the 6th President of the United States in 1825.

*** Perhaps the most flagrant "violation" of the Monroe Doctrine took place in 1862, when France invaded Mexico and installed a puppet government under the emperor Maximilian. President Lincoln was powerless to intervene because of the ongoing U.S. Civil War. Maximilian was deposed and executed in 1867.

Here's a brief video explanation:

The above is based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. If you'd like to be added to his distribution list, leave your email address in the comments.

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