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Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine

Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1928).Threats by European powers to occupy the customshouses of defaulting governments in such nations as Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, coupled with the specter of foreign acquisition of military bases in the western hemisphere, led President Theodore Roosevelt to declare in his annual message of December 1904 that “chronic wrongdoing” or “impotence” on the part of neighboring countries might force the United States to exercise “an international police power,” his so‐called Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.

Roosevelt proceeded to exercise such power in Santo Domingo without injury to the national reputation, and William Howard Taft did the same in Nicaragua. But when Woodrow Wilson mounted successive military interventions aimed at installing democratic government in Mexico and elsewhere, U. S. prestige began to erode.

Wilsonian intervention left hard feelings on both sides of the Rio Grande contributing to the isolationism of the 1920s, and one casualty of this shift in sentiment was the Roosevelt Corollary. Impugned by Republicans on the basis of a technicality as outlined by Herbert Hoover's Undersecretary of State, J. Reuben Clark, in a memorandum of December 17, 1928, it was further repudiated by sweeping Democratic pledges of non‐intervention at Montevideo (1933) and Buenos Aires (1936).

Disinterested benevolence was the order of the day. However, the principal reason for the Corollary's demise was geopolitical. No longer was it a matter of forestalling an Anglo‐German naval demonstration such as had occurred in the Caribbean during the years 1902–03 to force payment of the Venezuelan debt. New international machinery for the adjudication of default was in place; Berlin had tasted defeat and London was friendly. The problem facing Franklin Roosevelt and his successors was how to deal with socialist subversion based on a portrayal of the United States as grasping and overbearing. Since such a threat was covered, at least indirectly, by Monroe's original dictum (1823), latter‐day intervention by Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan could be carried out without reference to, or revival of, the Roosevelt Corollary. And so it was.
[See also Caribbean and Latin America, U.S. Military Involvement in the.]


Dexter Perkins , Hands Off: A History of the Monroe Doctrine, 1955;
Samuel Flagg Bemis , The Latin American Policy of the United States, 1967.

Frederick W. Marks III

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