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THE MODERN MEANING OF THE MONROE DOC
By J. M. Callahan, Ph.D., Professor of History and
It is unfair to say that the Monroe Doctrine was a mere pronunciamento based on provincialism and selfishness, and that it has never served any useful purpose.
True, one of its earlier basic ideas was the natural separation between the old and the new world-an idea of two separate spheres which was unwarranted however much it may have seemed desirable to Jefferson in the Napoleonic period of "eternal war" in Europe. This idea of isolation was never a vital principle of the doctrine. The United States was a world power from the beginning and early felt the need of naval bases in the Mediterranean. world power it has rights in Europe, Africa and Asia. True, the Doctrine was largely due to self interest, together with the feeling that the United States was logically the political leader among the American powers. Secretary Adams in his instructions to Rush, on November 29, 1823, said: "American affairs, whether of the northern or southern continent, can henceforth not be excluded from the interference of the United States. All questions of policy relating to them have a bearing so direct upon the rights and interests of the United States that they can not be left to the disposal of European powers animated and directed exclusively by European principles and interests."
The United States, beginning with the transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France in 1801 and the apprehended transfer of Florida from Spain to some other European power in 1811, has steadily opposed any European acquisition of American territory which as a European colony might prove dangerous to American peace and security.
The Monroe Doctrine, based upon this principle, has been preeminently a doctrine of peace especially secured by freeing the Americans from the contests of European diplomacy and politics. In 1905, President Roosevelt said the doctrine as gradually developed and applied to meet changing needs and conditions, and as accepted by other nations, was one of the most effective instruments for peace in the western hemisphere.
Although its policy was based on self interest, the American government under Monroe gave proper consideration to the interests of Latin America. Although in recognizing the independence of Spanish American countries, it had issued a declaration of neutrality, Secretary Adams later (October, 1823) informed the Russian minister that this declaration "had been made under the observance of like neutrality by all the European powers" and might be changed by change of circumstances. The Monroe Doctrine which followed was directly caused by the belief in the right of free peoples to determine their destinies and by it the United States, with unusual courage, became a protector of liberty and self government in the western hemisphere. Its high purpose and convenient usefulness was properly recognized at the time by the weak LatinAmerican republics. It was the outgrowth of the sympathy felt for Latin American peoples who were struggling to free themselves from conditions imposed by European politics and who had been recognized as independent nations by the United States. Monroe, who previously as secretary of state was familiar with Latin American conditions, at first contemplated a bold stand to prevent European interference in Spain itself. After the decision to limit the scope of active opposition to the threatened European intervention in American affairs, he appointed a special secret representative to visit Europe, to watch the operations of European congresses and to furnish reports as a basis of determination of American policy. Luckily he was successful in blocking intervention without resort to more active measures.
The Doctrine has prevented the partition of Latin America,
and without any request of remuneration for the service rendered. Its unselfish purpose and unusual daring, in face of what seemed a serious peril, gave it a well deserved popularity both in the United States and in Latin America countries—many of which have in many instances since endeavored to secure treaty stipulations based upon its principles, or have invited the United States actively to intervene to protect them from the apprehended intervention of European powers or from despots who might prepare the way for European intervention.
In spite of apparent lapses of consistency, illustrated in the case of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty (which was supported as a measure which was expected to free an important part of the continent from European intervention), the basic principles of the Doctrine, interpreted with proper elasticity to meet changing conditions, were asserted with success in other later cases. The most notable cases were the termination of French intervention in Mexico in 1867, and the settlement of the Venezuelan boundary dispute with England in 1895-96-after the famous ClevelandOlney interpretation which resulted in a triumph of the American demand for arbitration, awakened the entire world to the modern meaning of the "menaces of Monroe," and caused someone to regard the Doctrine as an international impertinence. Although originally a mere declaration of Monroe, nobody since the action of the United States in the Venezuelan affair can surely say it has never had the sanction of Congress.
The Doctrine, although based primarily upon the right of Latin American states to govern themselves, has been sometimes erroneously regarded as a doctrine of American expansion. It is not based on territorial conquest-although over half a century ago it was sometimes associated with that idea. It expresses a duty and a sympathy toward Latin America and not a desire for territory. Americans, who logically in their early history established their boundaries on the gulf, for a half century have not been inclined to encroach upon the territories of their neighbors.
It is true that much Latin American suspicion of Ameri
can territorial designs was justified in the decade before the American civil war, when under the influence of American leaders of the southern states, the shibboleth of "Manifest Destiny" was added to the doctrine of national security. In January, 1855, Marcoleta of the Nicaragua legation protested against the projects of the self-styled "Central American Land and Mining company" to encourage immigration to Central America, and especially against the nature of the "schemes devised against Central America by these modern Phoenicians who assume military titles and grasp the sword and musket instead of the ploughshare and ax and shepherd's crook, thinking to make conquest of the golden fleece which they believe to be hung and secreted amidst the briars, forests, thickets and swamps under the by no means attractive and seductive influence of a pestiferous and fevergiving atmosphere." Suspicion was doubtless increased in 1856 by plans for an American protectorate over the Isthmus of Panama, formulated in a treaty (between the United States and New Granada) whose ratification was prevented by a change of administration in the United States and a revolution in New Granada. These suspicions were prominent in producing the project of a LatinAmerican Confederacy of 1856-a proposed alliance which was regarded as antagonistic to the United States, and which caused Dana, the American minister to Bolivia, to propose to the Buchanan administration early in 1857 a clear statement of American foreign policy based upon the Monroe Doctrine, non-expansion in Latin America, and treaties of alliance with the Latin American states, in order to sustain self government in both Americas. In 1858, in connection with the policy of the American government to secure a neutral transit route across Central America, Nicaragua issued a manifesto against apprehended filibustering expeditions from the United States, and by demanding a European protectorate indicated a line of policy which Secretary Cass promptly warned her that the United States had long opposed and would resist by all means in her power, for reasons "founded on the political circum
stances of the American continent which has interests of its own."
It is true that, after the Gadsden purchase, persistent efforts were made under the administrations of Pierce and Buchanan, not only to extend American influence and domain in the West Indies, but also to solve the Mexican problem by additional reduction of Mexican territory-or by the establishment of an American protectorate which was expected to result in new acquisitions to the stronger country. These efforts, largely based on the danger of European influence and apprehended European intervention in Mexico, closed with the beginning of the American civil war and with the arrival of the long-predicted European intervention in Mexico.
Under Seward, the American government sought only to preserve Mexico from the Confederates and from permanent European occupation, and the American senate refused to enter into any arrangement by which a proposed mortgage on lands of Mexico might have resulted in new annexations. Later, although Mexico feared American expansion toward the southwest and hesitated to coöperate in the construction of railroads across the international boundary, the United States government remained true to the assurances of Seward in Mexico after the expulsion of Maximilian. It sought no acquisition of territory in Mexico; and much less did it desire territory in Latin America farther south, except in connection with the later projects for the construction of the interoceanic canal whose benefits would be shared by Latin America and the entire world.
The part taken by the United States in Cuba and in the Venezuelan controversy with the European allies has revealed to Latin America the true feeling of the government of the United States. It has shown them that the mother republic is sincerely and earnestly interested in the success of republican government throughout this hemisphere. It has shown that the purpose of the older republic in relations with Latin America is not one of conquest, but one of sympathy, coöperation, and assistance. The true policy of the American government since the civil war was