|U.S. president James Monroe|
In 1823 in response to the long-anticipated successes of the Spanish-American independence movements, U.S. president James Monroe announced a hemispheric policy that later came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine.
Penned principally by secretary of state and future president John Quincy Adams, the doctrine forbade subsequent European colonization in the Western Hemisphere. “The American continents,” Monroe proclaimed, “are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”
The doctrine further implied that the United States would oppose strategic or political alliances between European powers and Latin American nations: “We could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing [the newly independent nations], or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”
An expression of an emergent muscular foreign policy following the victorious War of 1812 with Great Britain, the doctrine applied to all European powers but was aimed specifically at Britain, which had designs on Cuba, and at France, one of Spain’s most important allies in the early 1820s.
The doctrine had important precedent in the thinking of U.S. policy makers. In 1808 Thomas Jefferson, pondering the probable emergence of new nations in the wake of Spain’s collapse, wrote that “We consider [the new Latin American nations’] interests and ours as the same, and that the object of both must be to exclude all European influence from this hemisphere.” The United States provided substantial material aid to the Latin American revolutionaries, despite a formal proclamation of neutrality in 1815.
The year before Monroe announced his hemispheric doctrine, the United States extended diplomatic recognition to the newly independent Latin American nation states of La Plata (later Argentina), Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, and the not-yet-independent nation of Peru.
The first open defiance of the doctrine came in the early and mid 1860s. With the United States embroiled in its own Civil War, France under Napoleon III launched an invasion and occupation of Mexico. After the defeat of the Confederacy in April 1865, the administration of President Andrew Johnson demanded French withdrawal, and Napoleon soon complied.
The Caribbean presented a more nettlesome situation, with every island a European colony (save Hispaniola, divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In the 1880s and 1890s, as U.S. aspirations for hemispheric domination grew, policymakers sought not only to keep European powers out but to establish a positive U.S. right to intervene if warranted. This came in 1904, with President Theodore Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
While the 1823 Monroe Doctrine did not explicitly proclaim U.S. domination of the hemisphere or include any U.S. right to intervene militarily in Latin American affairs, many Latin Americans denounced the doctrine as a fundamental violation of the principle of national sovereignty. A vast polemical literature from south of the U.S. border decries the Monroe Doctrine as a signal expression of Yankee imperialism.