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GabeStudy Break

On Dec. 2, 1823, President James Monroe boldly asserted during his annual message to Congress that the “American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers” and 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.” These phrases, along with the reasoning behind them, become known as the Monroe Doctrine.

But what do you really know about the Monroe Doctrine? When has it been invoked in foreign policy?  Has it actually stopped colonization in the Western Hemisphere, or used for other purposes?

Created and shaped by Monroe’s Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, the Monroe Doctrine joined George Washington’s Farewell Address as a cornerstone of American foreign policy.  While concerned about the actions of Russia, Spain and France, Adams and Monroe also wanted to protect a growing American economy from European mercantilism.

As summarized by, newspapers in Dec. 1823 passionately debated the significance of the Monroe Doctrine, but over time, became largely forgotten. The international reaction to the Doctrine was tepid at best, since it was well known that the United States didn’t have much of a military to back up these words. For example, when the British reasserted their sovereignty over the Falklands in 1833, the United States could only muster a feeble protest.

President James K. Polk invoked the Doctrine in 1845 and 1848 to warn Britain and Spain from establishing footholds in Oregon, California and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and to argue that no European nation interfere with the United States as it expanded into the west (later known as the Manifest Destiny, but that’s a discussion for another day).  After the Civil War, it was successfully invoked against the French to withdraw its puppet kingdom from Mexico.

After 1870, the interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine broadened considerably as the United States grew as a world power.  President Theodore Roosevelt added his Corollary in 1904, which stated that the United States would intervene as a last resort to ensure that other nations in the Western Hemisphere fulfilled their obligations to international creditors, and did not violate the rights of the United States or invite “foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations.”

Does the Monroe Doctrine still exist, or was Secretary of State John Kerry right in declaring back in 2013 that the Monroe Doctrine is a thing of the past?  How did the Monroe Doctrine make the United States into the nation it is today?

Read the actual words of the Monroe Doctrine to help you decide.