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  • - On December 2, 1823, U.S. President James Monroe

  • was giving his annual State of the Union Address

  • to Congress when he threw in a couple of remarks

  • about the United States' relationship

  • with the powers of Europe.

  • He said, "The American continents,

  • "by the free and independent condition

  • "which they have assumed and maintained,

  • "are henceforth not to be considered as subjects

  • "for future colonization by any European powers.

  • "In the wars of the European powers

  • "in matters relating to themselves

  • "we have never taken any part,

  • "nor does it comport with our policy to do so.

  • "We owe it, therefore, to candor

  • "and to the amicable relations existing

  • "between the United States and those powers to declare

  • "that we should consider any attempt on their part

  • "to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere

  • "as dangerous to our peace and safety."

  • So, basically, in one fell swoop,

  • James Monroe told the crowned heads of Europe

  • to stay out of the Americas.

  • He said, "As far as I'm concerned,

  • "the era of colonization is over."

  • Stop giving us the side-eye.

  • Stop looking at your maps and trying to decide

  • where you might place a little colony next.

  • No more European colonization in the Americas.

  • What's more, don't interfere.

  • The Americas are the United States' concern

  • so we don't want the powers of Europe

  • to meddle in any of the affairs

  • of Latin America or South America.

  • You can keep your system,

  • and by system, Monroe meant monarchy,

  • out of the Americas.

  • This is the hemisphere of democracy.

  • So, this is an incredibly bold statement.

  • Let's not forget here that the United States

  • is not exactly a world power in 1823.

  • They could, at best, be said to be a minor power,

  • even in the Americas.

  • The United States is not a major world military power,

  • it's not a major world Navy power.

  • Let's remember that in this era,

  • having a strong Navy was tantamount to being able

  • to take over the world.

  • They're kind of a second-rate nation

  • in a second-rate part of the world.

  • So, what was the response when the United States

  • made this incredibly bold assertion

  • that they would not permit any more colonization

  • or interference in the Americas from Europe?

  • Mmm...

  • Crickets.

  • Nobody really cared.

  • To the established powers of Europe,

  • the United States was no more than a little mosquito,

  • buzzing around, maybe making a lot of noise,

  • a bit annoying, but pretty easy to swat.

  • No matter how much noise the United States made,

  • the only thing that mattered to

  • the great powers of the world was whether or not

  • the United States could enforce the Monroe Doctrine,

  • which with such a weak military presence,

  • they certainly could not.

  • Nevertheless, the Monroe Doctrine became

  • a key facet of American foreign policy

  • throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century.

  • It became a justification for Manifest Destiny

  • and would play a major role in the foreign policies

  • of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  • So, where did the Monroe Doctrine come from?

  • Well, let's take a minute to look at some of the

  • major world events of the time period

  • and the major players who brought the Monroe Doctrine about.

  • All right, dateline 1820.

  • It has been a bad couple of years for monarchy in Europe.

  • For one thing, the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution

  • have been convulsing the powers of Europe

  • for several years.

  • By 1815, the Revolution has more or less finished

  • and the monarchies of Europe have been reinstated.

  • But, this revolutionary fervor

  • coming from the French Revolution,

  • coming also from the American Revolution,

  • has started to spread.

  • So, movements for independence are now taking hold

  • in South America.

  • There's a Chilean movement for independence,

  • Argentinian movement for independence,

  • Venezuelan movement for independence.

  • So, they've kind of caught the democracy bug.

  • The people in the United States are cheering

  • for their southern brethren, saying,

  • "Excellent work, picking up democracy,

  • "breaking away from old-fashioned, monarchical,

  • "tyrannical Europe.

  • "We're totally on your side."

  • But it's easier to make an independence movement happen

  • when the home country is distracted with another war,

  • aka the Napoleonic Wars.

  • Once the Napoleonic Wars are over,

  • the monarchies of Europe start saying,

  • "Hmm, you know what?

  • "Since Spain is in control of these nations,

  • "now Spain has the time and energy

  • "to consider maybe putting down these revolutions."

  • So, they're no longer distracted by war,

  • and they have the manpower and the bandwidth

  • to think about maybe trying to reinstate, or secure,

  • Spanish rule in South America where nations

  • have been in the process of revolution.

  • Now, we don't know the extent to which

  • Spain was actually planning on

  • putting these revolutions down,

  • but we do know that the United States and England

  • were very concerned that the monarchies

  • of the continent-- France and Spain--

  • might join together and try to put down

  • all of these revolutions.

  • Now, wouldn't they want that?

  • Well, for the most part, it kind of came down to markets.

  • If you think back to early American colonial society,

  • the economic system was known as mercantilism.

  • Mercantilism is the practice of

  • colonies kind of existing to enrich the mother country.

  • So, all trade goes through the home country.

  • That means that the home country is going to be making sure

  • that the colonies are not trading

  • with any other international partners

  • because they want to be the ones who are enriched

  • by the natural resources of the colonies.

  • So, when Chile and Argentina and Venezuela

  • revolt from Spain,

  • it means that their markets are now opened up

  • to the United States and to England.

  • So, England and the United States are not eager

  • to see these new nations be returned

  • to their colonial status because,

  • thanks to mercantilism, they're not going

  • to be able to trade with them anymore.

  • With this idea in mind,

  • the British Foreign Secretary,

  • a man named George Canning,

  • approached the American Secretary of State,

  • John Quincy Adams,

  • and he said,

  • "Why don't we make a joint proclamation

  • "between the United States and Great Britain

  • "saying that the powers of Europe

  • "should not interfere in the New World.?

  • And John Quincy Adams thought,

  • "Hmm, I'm not sure if I like you British folks."

  • Remember that the War of 1812 had not taken place

  • too long beforehand.

  • The United States was not quite ready

  • to be friends with the United Kingdom yet.

  • And they were a little bit afraid that

  • if the United States made a joint declaration with England

  • that it would seem a little bit like

  • a flea on the back of a rottweiler saying,

  • "Don't mess with us or we'll bite you!"

  • The United States didn't have nearly the strength

  • to actually make an equal partnership

  • so it might have looked a little bit like

  • they were hiding behind the British in a joint declaration,

  • but J.Q.A. thought this actually still sounded

  • like a pretty good plan so he floated the idea

  • to President James Monroe.

  • Now, there's kind of a

  • movement of nationalism going on at this time

  • in the United States.

  • Even though the United States

  • didn't technically win the War of 1812,

  • they kind of felt like they had.

  • So, they're busy kind of creating

  • a new nationalist rhetoric in the United States.

  • They're feeling pretty good about themselves.

  • They stood up to their old foe of Great Britain, and won.

  • Or, at the very least, didn't lose,

  • but to them it was kind of the same thing.

  • So, John Quincy Adams crafts for James Monroe

  • what will become known as the Monroe Doctrine.

  • Now, Monroe is not only concerned about

  • the possibility of European powers coming down here

  • and trying to start fights with each other

  • over the fate of South America.

  • Monroe was also worried about Russia,

  • who had recently made some territorial claims in Canada,

  • saying that their territory should come

  • all the way down there.

  • The Russians have started putting some forts

  • on the coast of California,

  • close to modern day San Francisco.

  • So, Monroe sees the old monarchical powers of Europe

  • sort of encroaching both from the north and the south here.

  • And so, in 1823, he makes the announcement

  • of the Monroe Doctrine.

  • He says, "No more colonization.

  • "Russia, get out of there.

  • "And no more interference, in general.

  • "So, don't try to turn these new republics

  • "back into colonies under the rule of monarchies.

  • "In fact, just keep your monarchy

  • "out of our hemisphere altogether."

  • Monroe makes this statement completely outside

  • of the relationship with the United Kingdom

  • so it doesn't have this kind of riding on the coattails

  • feeling of being allied with Britain.

  • But nevertheless, the only way that the United States

  • can actually count on the Monroe Doctrine being enforced

  • is because the British Navy is so incredibly powerful.

  • I'm going to draw a very bad boat here.

  • Nobody who heard about the Monroe Doctrine thought,

  • "Ah, man, we better not make the United States angry."

  • What they thought was,

  • "Ah, man, we better not make the British Empire angry."

  • Because they knew that the British Navy,

  • which wanted neutrality of the seas,

  • which wanted to be able to continue

  • to have these trade relationships

  • with new nations in South America,

  • would defend the neutrality and the independence

  • of South America by proxy,

  • and by doing so, kind of enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

  • So, this is interesting.

  • You could think of this as being a little bit weaselly

  • on the part of Monroe, declaring that the Americas

  • should remain free of the influence of Europe,

  • but counting on the United Kingdom to enforce it.

  • Or you could think of it as perhaps

  • a brilliant policy maneuver.

  • I don't know.

  • Certainly, the nations of South America and Latin America

  • appreciated this declaration of independence

  • for the Americas coming from the United States,

  • but they certainly knew that it was more about

  • the United States making sure that

  • they, themselves, were protected than wanting

  • to have a real equal partnership with South America.

  • So, the Monroe Doctrine really didn't amount to much

  • for most of the 19th century.

  • It was certainly a justification

  • as the United States continued to push west

  • in their quest of Manifest Destiny,

  • but it will become increasingly important

  • in the 20th century as the United States

  • steps onto the world stage with things like

  • the Spanish American War,

  • under the auspices of William McKinley,

  • and making famous Theodore Roosevelt, saying that

  • the Caribbean is the province of the United States,

  • and the nations of Latin America and South America.

  • They're only to be dealt with through the United States.

  • So, you can see the Monroe Doctrine as