The Monroe Doctrine

James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and the last founding father in office, was highly qualified for the problems he would soon face. Before he took on the position, he had plenty of experience in politics. He was also friends with a lot powerful and knowledgeable people, some of whom were previous presidents, like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams. They gave him solid advice on how to deal with three difficult issues that arose during his presidency which would determine the future of the United States for centuries to come.

One such issue addressed Russia’s claim to the Oregon territory, which would shut off trade access through the Western Coast. Monroe stated that he would neither yield or use force, instead opting “to arrange, by amicable negotiation, the respective rights and interests of the two nations.” By not battling it out, but at the same time, not letting Russia freely colonize the continent, the United States managed to peacefully reach a compromise that benefited them in the long run.

The second issue dealt with the possibility of a Holy Alliance intervention in Latin America. The United States enjoyed trading directly with Latin American countries, as opposed to having to go through a European power. Monroe decided to take a strong stance, saying, “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered, and shall not interfere” then adds, “with the governments who have declared their independence, and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration, and on just principles, acknowledged, 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.”

The third and last problem Monroe faced was whether or not to accept Britain’s offer of alliance. Both nations agreed that they wanted to stop any attempts at colonization or re-colonization, advocating free trade. However, Monroe was wary that if the US entered an alliance with Britain, they would be getting involved in European affairs. In the end, he decided he wanted to remain neutral but still maintain friendly relations, saying “”Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers…”

Most of the western world was supportive of the United States’ reaction to the Quintuple Alliance. Citizens and congressmen in America were pleased overall while those in Latin America were satisfied that they gained an ally who would protect their newfound independence. They were also relieved and took it as a optimistic sign that the U.S. did not wish to ally with the British. However, in Europe, matters were different. The members of the Holy Alliance (excluding Britain who supported their decision) disliked how the U.S. was interfering by protecting Latin American countries. Britain, one of the great powers, was also probably a little sore that America, a budding nation, would dare refuse their offer of alliance. At the same time though, Monroe maintained that he wanted to preserve the friendly relationship between the two countries. Finally, the Russians were most likely miffed that Americans did not let them claim the entire Western Coast. They were unhappy that they had to negotiate, a sign that they viewed the United States as a power not to be messed with. However, they were pleasantly surprised that they would not have to deal with an alliance between Britain and the United States because they feared the British Navy.


A Russian diplomat’s reaction to the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine has helped shaped US foreign policy, which is still seen in the present day. It was also a signal that the United States would be taking a stronger role in world affairs, and since its institution, no European power has ever created another colony in the Western Hemisphere again, thanks in part to Great Britain’s enforcement of the doctrine.


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