Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XLI.

GROWTH OF THE MONROE DOCTRINE.

THE refusal of Great Britain to come to an agreement concerning the boundary of Oregon in 1824 may be ascribed in large part to her denial of a principle of colonization asserted by Monroe in 1823. The story of the origin, growth, and final announcement of the famous doctrine of which this principle is a part—the doctrine which bears the name of President Monroe—is a long one, but the great results to which it has led in our time require that the story, long as it is, should be told.

When France declared war on Great Britain in 1793, and sent Citizen Genet to be her Minister in the United States, our country was called on for the first time to decide once for all what part it should play in the politics of Europe. . The question was a hard one to settle. We were bound to France by ties of gratitude, by a treaty of amity and commerce, and by a treaty of alliance in which we had solemnly guaranteed to his most Christian Majesty, and so to the French Republic as his successor, “the possessions of the French Crown in America.” We were bound to Great Britain by no tie of gratitude and by no treaty of amity and commerce. But the cautious, far-sighted, hard-headed man who filled the presidential chair met the issue squarely, and, taking the politic, not the sentimental, course, issued his proclamation of neutrality.

For that act he was denounced and slandered as no other President from his day down to that of Lincoln was ever slandered. But he held fast to his purpose, and when the time came to retire from office reasserted the policy of not med

dling in the affairs of Europe, and in his farewell address gave reasons for assuming such a position.*

The stormy years of Adams's administration, the expul

*Washington's Farewell Address, September, 1796.—The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be un. wise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of ber friendships or enmities,

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war as our interests, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation ? Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground! Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice ?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Although it is very true we ought not to involve ourselves in the political system of Europe, but keep ourselves always distinct and separate from it if we can, yet to effect this separation, early, punctual, and continual information of the current chain of events, and of the political projects in contemplation, is no less necessary than if we were directly concerned in them. It is necessary, in order to the discovery of the efforts made to draw us in the vortex, in season to make preparations against them. However we may consider purselves, the mari. time and commercial powers of the world will consider the United States of America as forming a weight in that balance of power in Europe which can never be forgotten or neglected. -Williams, Statesman's Manual, vol. i, p. 111.

sion of Pinckney from France, the insult to the X. Y. Z. commissioners, the naval war with France, served but to prove the wisdom of Washington's policy and the soundness of his reasons, and drew from Jefferson on two occasions indorsements both vigorous and precise. On the day he was inaugurated the first time he took occasion to remind his countrymen of the happiness of their lot, of the fact that much of that happiness was due to separation from Europe, and told them that the essential principles of our Government—the principles which should shape his administration-were

peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nationsentangling alliances with none.” *

When Jefferson spoke these words Europe was fast being pacified by Napoleon. But when he met Congress in December, 1803, peace had been broken, the Napoleonic wars had opened, our country was again called on to declare her position toward Europe, and for the second time he asserted his policy of “peace, commerce, and friendship with all—entangling alliances with none." +

Thus, before the days of the Long Embargo and our

[ocr errors]

* Jefferson's Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801.—Kindly separated by Nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen coun. try, with room enough for our descendants to the hundredth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practised in various forms, yet all of them including honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people ? ... It is proper that you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration ... peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.

+ Jefferson's Annual Message, October 17, 1803.-Separated by a wide ocean from the nations of Europe, and from the political interests which entangle them, together with productions and wants which render our commerce and friendship useful to them, and theirs to us, it cannot be the interest of any to assail us, nor ours to disturb them,

struggle for commercial independence, the principle had been announced over and over again that we would not meddle in European affairs. The counterpart of this—the principle that the Old World must not meddle in the affairs of the New—was called forth by the attempt of Spain to get back her lost colonies in South America.

As all the world knows, the overthrow of the French at Waterloo was followed by a second abdication of Napoleon, by a second lifting of the wretched Louis Eighteenth to the throne of France, and by a second meeting of the allied Kings or their representatives at Paris in the autumn of 1815. To the mind of Alexander of Russia, this new triumph over the " Man of Destiny ” was but another signal instance of the mysterious workings of Providence; but another demonstration of the great truth that God in his own good time will confound the policy of the wicked and will raise up those who put their trust in him. So deeply was Alexander convinced of this that he determined then and there to rule henceforth, and, if possible, persuade his fellow-monarchs to rule in strict accordance with the principles of the Christian religion. To accomplish this end the more easily, he persuaded Frederick William, King of Prussia, and Francis, Emperor of Austria, to join with him in a league which he called the Holy Alliance, and to sign a treaty which is commonly supposed to have bound the allies to pull down constitutional government and stamp out liberal ideas. It did nothing of the sort.

It was, in truth, a meaningless pledge, framed in a moment of religious excitement, and well described in its own words, which assert “ that the present act has no other aim than to manifest to the world their unchangeable determination to adopt no other rule of conduct either in the government of their respective countries or in their political relations with other governments than the precepts of that holy religion, the precepts of justice, charity, and peace.”

Considering themselves members of one great Christian family whose real and only sovereign was Almighty God, these three kings announced that they looked on themselves “ as delegates of Providence” sent “ to govern so many branches of the same family,” and would make the Word of

God and the teachings of Jesus Christ their guide in “ establishing human institutions and remedying their imperfections."

That the King, the Emperor, and the Czar had any hidden motive in forming this far-famed Holy Alliance; that they said one thing and meant another; that their intention was less to rule in accordance with the maxims of Christ than to set up and maintain absolute governments; that when they signed that league they knew they were forming a bond of union against the spread of liberal ideas, and even then contemplated a system of meddling in the affairs of other nations -can be sustained by no evidence whatever.

The alliance having been formed, the next step was to invite all the Christian powers of Europe except the Pope to join it. England--whose representative at the congress of the allies, Lord Castlereagh, wrote home that the Emperor Alexander was not perfectly sound in his mind-excused herself. The kings of France, Spain, Naples, and Sardinia, however, signed gladly, and the era of Christian politics was supposed to have opened.

That this little society of Christian monarchs should have any interest for us of to-day is due solely to the fact that their treaty contains the words “Holy Alliance,” and that to it have wrongfully been attributed results which sprang from the quadruple treaty signed two months later by Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain; a new alliance which bound the four powers to do four things-exclude Napoleon forever from power; maintain the Government they had just set up in France; resist with all their might any attack on the army of occupation; and meet in 1818 to consult concerning their common interests, and to take such measures as should then seem to be best fitted to serve the peace and happiness of Europe.

Unhappily, before 1818 came, a great change took place in the political ideas of Europe. The old families were once again safely seated on their old thrones. The old nobility, the old courtiers, were home from their wanderings eager for proscription and confiscation. A reaction set in. Liberalism was checked. Absolutism came again into fashion, and be

« PreviousContinue »