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THE MONROE DOCTRINE*
HE Monroe Doctrine should not be considered
from any purely academic standpoint, but as a broad, general principle of living policy. It is to be justified not by precedent merely, but by the needs of the nation and the true interests of Western civilization. It, of course, adds strength to our position at this moment to show that the action of the national authorities is warranted by the actions of their predecessors on like occasions in time past, and that the line of policy we are now pursuing is that which has been pursued by all our statesmen of note since the Republic grew sufficiently powerful to make what it said of weight in foreign affairs. But even if in time past we had been as blind to the *national honor and welfare as are the men who at the present day champion the anti-American side of the Venezuelan question, it would now be necessary for statesmen who were both far-sighted and patriotic to enunciate the principles for which the Monroe Doctrine stands. In other words, if the Monroe Doctrine did not already exist it would be necessary forthwith to create it. Let us first of all clear the question at issue by brushing away one or two false objections. Lord Salisbury at first put in emphatic words his refusal in any way to recognize the Monroe Doctrine as part of the law of nations or as binding upon Great Britain. Most British statesmen and publicists followed his lead; but recently a goodly number have shown an inclination to acquiesce in the views of Lord Salisbury's colleague, Mr. Chamberlain, who announces, with bland indifference to the expressed opinion of his nominal chief, that England does recognize the existence of the Monroe Doctrine and never thought of ignoring it. Lord Salisbury himself has recently shown symptoms of changing ground and taking this position; while Mr. Balfour has gone still further in the right direction, and the Liberal leaders further yet. It is not very important to us how far Lord Salisbury and Mr. Chamberlain may diverge in their views, although of course, in the interests of the English-speaking peoples and of peace between England and the United States, we trust that Mr. Chamberlain's position will be sustained by Great Britain. But the attitude of our own people is important; and it would be amusing, were it not unpleasant, to see that many Americans, whose Americanism is of the timid and flabby type, have been inclined eagerly to agree with Lord Salisbury. A very able member of the New York bar remarked the other day that he had not yet met the lawyer who agreed with Secretary Olney as to the legal interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine. This remark was chiefly interesting as showing the lawyer's own limitations. It would not have been made if he had met the Justices of the Supreme Court, for instance; but even on the unfounded supposition that his remark was well grounded, it would have had little more significance than if he had said that he had not yet met a dentist who agreed with Mr. Olney. The Monroe Doctrine is not a question of law at all. It is a question of policy. It is a question to be considered not only by statesmen, but by all good citizens. Lawyers, as lawyers, have absolutely nothing whatever to say about it. To argue that it can not be recognized as a principle of international law, is a mere waste of breath. Nobody cares whether it is or is not so recognized, any more than any one cares whether the Declaration of Independence and Washington's farewell address are so recognized.
* The Bachelor of Arts, March, 1896.
The Monroe Doctrine may be briefly defined as forbidding European encroachment on American soil. It is not desirable to define it so rigidly as to prevent our taking into account the varying degrees of national interest in varying cases. The United States has not the slightest wish to establish a universal protectorate over other American States, or to become responsible for their misdeeds. If one of them becomes involved in an ordinary quarrel with a European power, such quarrel must be settled between them by any one of the usual methods. But no European State is to be allowed to aggrandize itself on American soil at the expense of any American State. Furthermore, no transfer of an American colony from one European State to another is to be permitted, if, in the judgment of the United States, such transfer would be hostile to its own interests.
John Quincy Adams, who, during the Presidency of Monroe, first clearly enunciated the doctrine which bears his chief's name, asserted it as against both Spain and Russia. In the clearest and most emphatic terms he stated that the United States could not acquiesce in the acquisition of new territory within the limits of any independent American State, whether in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, by any European power. He took this position against Russia when Russia threatened to take possession of what is now Oregon. He took this position as against Spain when, backed by other powers of Continental Europe, she threatened to reconquer certain of the Spanish-American States.
This is precisely and exactly the position the United States has now taken in reference to England and Venezuela. It is idle to contend that there is any serious difference in the application of the doctrine to the two sets of questions. An American may, of course, announce his opposition to the Monroe Doctrine, although by so doing he forfeits all title to far-seeing and patriotic devotion to the interests of his country. But he can not argue that the Monroe Doctrine does not apply to the present case, unless he argues that the Monroe Doctrine has no existence whatsoever. In fact, such arguments are, on their face, so absurd that they need no refutation, and can be relegaied where they be long-to the realm of the hair-splitting schoolmen. They have no concern either for practical politicians or for historians with true historic insight.
We have asserted the principles which underlie the Monroe Doctrine, not only against Russia and Spain, but also against France, on at least two different occasions. The last and most important was when the French conquered Mexico and made it into an Empire. It is not necessary to recall to any one the action of our Government in the matter as soon as the Civil War came to an end. Suffice it to say that, under threat of our interposition, the French promptly abandoned Maximilian, and the latter's Empire fell. Long before this, however, and a score of years before the doctrine was christened by the name Monroe, even the timid statesmen of the Jeffersonian era embodied its principle in their protest against the acquisition of Louisiana by France, from Spain. Spain at that time held all of what is now the Great West. France wished to acquire it. Our statesmen at once announced that they would regard as hostile to America the transfer of the territory in question from a weak to a strong European power. Under the American pressure the matter was finally settled by the sale of the territory in question to the United States. The principle which our statesmen then announced was in kind precisely the same as that upon which we should now act if Germany sought to acquire Cuba