jamesmonroe
James Monroe.

President James Monroe has been known for centuries as the architect of a fundamental foreign policy doctrine: the Monroe Doctrine.

In 1823, President Monroe set forth the components of his doctrine. See James Monroe, “Seventh Annual Message,” (Dec. 2, 1823), Presidential Messages, II, 207-20.

First, President Monroe proclaimed that the Americas “are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power.” Id.

Second, he declared that America “would regard any European political intervention in the Western Hemisphere as ‘dangerous to our peace and safety.'” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 115 quoting James Monroe, “Seventh Annual Message,” (Dec. 2, 1823), Presidential Messages, II, 207-20.

Third, applying the same isolationist rationale to Americans, he declared that America “resolved that it would not intervene in European wars or ‘internal concerns.'” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 115 quoting James Monroe, “Seventh Annual Message,” (Dec. 2, 1823), Presidential Messages, II, 207-20.

Finally, John Quincy Adams added a fourth component: “the United States also forbade Spain to transfer any of its New World possessions to any other European power.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 115.

The creation of the Monroe Doctrine represented the new role of America in the world. It had carved out its own “sphere of influence,” and it was going to set rules within that sphere that other nations would have to respect or otherwise face American scrutiny and potentially American force. See id.

Looking at the domestic implications of the Monroe Doctrine, Americans were turning their focus, which to that point had been ever-focused on Europe, to America and its direct neighbors. As Americans had developed the confidence necessary to claim a sphere of influence, they also had developed a confidence in America. The country was rapidly growing, its neighbors, including Native Americans, were putting up resistance but ultimately conceding to America’s growing power in the world.

While after the War of 1812 the Monroe Doctrine was a valued component of foreign policy, it would continue to be treasured for generations to come, even playing a part in fostering reluctance for America to enter war in the Twentieth Century.

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