Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE MONROE DOCTRINE

2

"TH

[ocr errors]

to

'HE American continents, by the free

and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as sub“jects for future colonization by European powers.

We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system

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 consid

eration, and on just principles, acknow"ledged, 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 towards the United States.

Thus, in 1823, did President James Monroe, acting under the influence of his able Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, enunciate a doctrine which has been the most universally accepted foreign policy that we have ever had. No one questions the fact that the enunciation of this policy of “America for Americans,” and our firm adherence to it for so many years, has had a very decided effect

upon the history of the western hemisphere.

In the trenchant words of Mr. Root: “The famous declaration of Monroe arrayed the organized and rapidly increasing power of the United States as an obstacle to European interference and made it forever plain that the cost of European aggression would be greater than any advantage which could be won even by successful aggression.

“That great declaration was not the chance expression of the opinion or the feeling of the moment; it crystallized the sentiment for human liberty and human rights which has saved American idealism from the demoralization of narrow selfishness, and has given to American democracy its

true world power in the virile potency of a great example. It responded to the instinct of self-preservation in an intensely practical

people.

Its significance was immediately recognized in Europe. As early as January 13, 1824, an Austrian counsellor of state commented on the Doctrine as follows: “The message of the President of the United States is an epoch-making act in the history of our times. Every line of it deserves to be considered with the most earnest attention. Not only the present attitude of that mighty and productive federation towards Europe, but also the relation of both American continents to the Old World are here enunciated with a clarity and a precision which end all doubts and duplicities. (See Appendix I.]

“The separation of America from Europe has been completed irrevocably. If the re-conquest of the colonies on the continent or their voluntary return to the old rule had not already become impossible, this opposition of the North American people, which has so long been developed and which has only now been openly declared would alone

be sufficient to banish all thoughts of it.”

There have been times when ambitious European monarchs would have liked nothing better than to help themselves to poorly defended territory in what is now termed Latin America. When the Doctrine was originated, the Holy Alliance in Europe was contemplating the overthrow of republican government in Spain, and unquestionably looked with extreme aversion at the new republics in South and Central America, whose independence we were then engaged in recognizing. Russia was reaching out beyond Alaska. The firm declaration of this policy of exclusion, backed up by England's attitude toward the Holy Alliance, undoubtedly operated to give the American republics sufficient breathing-space to enable them to get on their feet and begin the difficult process of working out their own salvation,-a process which was rendered all the more difficult by reason of Hispanic racial tendencies, of centuries of autocratic colonial government, and of geographical conditions which made transportation and social intercourse extremely arduous.

Journeys across Peru even to-day may be beset with more difficulties than were journeys from Missouri to California sixty years ago, before the railroads. It still takes longer to go from Lima, the capital of Peru, to Iquitos, the capital of Peru's largest province, and one which the Putumayo atrocities have recently brought vividly to our notice, than it does to go from London to Honolulu.

Had it not been for the Monroe Doctrine, the American republics would have found it very much more difficult to maintain their independence during the first three-quarters of a century of their career. And this notwithstanding the fact that the actual words Monroe Doctrine

were rarely heard or

seen.

In 1845, without mentioning this shibboleth by name, President Polk declared that the United States would not permit any European intervention on the North American continent. This, as Professor Coolidge has brought out,* pushed the theory further

* See for an able exposition of the Monroe Doctrine, Professor A. C. Coolidge's The United States as a World Power (Macmillan).

« PreviousContinue »