Monroe Doctrine 2 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents 207 (1823)

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MONROE DOCTRINE 2 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents 207 (1823)

The United States, the first true revolutionary nation, became, in 1823, the guardian of the emerging revolutionary states of the New World. The American constitutional ideal of republican, limited government, founded on natural rights and social compact, stood in opposition to the constitutional system of Europe, based on hereditary privilege. The countries of the Western Hemisphere, becoming independent in the early nineteenth century, would, in rejecting the European system, seem naturally to embrace the American ideal.

john quincy adams, secretary of state to President james monroe, perceived the threat to the Americas from the reactionary Concert of Europe and the Holy Alliance. Adams formulated, and Monroe announced, a policy of resistance to any attempt to restore European hegemony in the Americas. Although Adams counseled use of diplomatic channels, Monroe, on the advice of Secretary of War john c. calhoun, announced the doctrine in his 1823 State of the Union Message.

The proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine was a significant assertion of executive power in foreign affairs. Although Monroe's address repeatedly stressed America's neutrality in European wars and in the colonial revolutions against Spain, his declaration 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" was a clear warning that American interests would be vindicated by force, if necessary. The President, therefore, committed the country to potential military action outside its borders and announced the fact to Congress rather than asking for congressional authorization.

The Constitution, of course, makes no provision for so sweeping an assertion of executive authority over foreign affairs or so general a commitment of American power abroad. Yet the Monroe Doctrine swiftly became part of the unwritten constitution, the accretion of customs and precedents that fill the constitutional lacunae.

Dennis J. Mahoney


Perkins, Dexter 1955 A History of the Monroe Doctrine. Boston: Little, Brown.

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Monroe Doctrine 2 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents 207 (1823)

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Monroe Doctrine 2 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents 207 (1823)