The Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 constitutes one of the major turning points of American foreign
policy. Generations of American presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to John Kennedy to
Ronald Reagan have invoked it in putting forward foreign policies designed to keep "foreign"
influences out of the Western Hemisphere. Yet, at the time, it was not recognized as such. It put
forward no new foreign-policy principles, nor was it even referred to as the "Monroe Doctrine"
until the 1850s.
As presented to Congress on December 2, 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was made up of three
parts. The first part dealt with noncolonization and was primarily directed at Russia. In 1821
Moscow had issued a warning to other states not to come within 100 miles of Russian America
(Alaska). This edict was interpreted as evidence of renewed Russian interest in pushing the
southern boundary of Alaska deep into the Oregon country, thus establishing a Russian colonial
presence in North America. The next section dealt with the possibility of European interference
in the Americas. Monroe warned the European monarchies that the United States would view
"any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous
to [its] peace and safety." He continued, "[W]e could not view any interposition for the purpose
of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny . . . in any other light as the
manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." Monroe concluded that the
policy of the United States continued to be one of not interfering in the internal concerns of any
European power.
European powers reacted with displeasure, terming the statement arrogant and blustering. Great
Britain reacted with a mixture of support and muted anger. The British had been working on
their own to ensure that France would take no action against the former Spanish colonies in the
Americas. For their part the newly independent states of Latin America responded with caution.
May, Ernest. The Making of the Monroe Doctrine. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
Smith, Gaddis. The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945–1994. New York: Hill and Wang,