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Monroe Doctrine

european united nations britain

The Founding Fathers of the United States of America sought to establish a foreign policy that was compatible with the surge of nationalism that engulfed the new country during its first century of independence. The Monroe Doctrine, proposed by President JAMES MONROE in 1823, contributed to the formation of such a policy.

Certain events in 1821 prompted the creation of the doctrine. An insurrection in the colonies under Spanish rule in Latin America resulted in freedom for the colonies, but several European nations threatened to intervene on Spain's behalf and restore the former colonies to Spanish domination. Both the United States and Great Britain saw the advantages of trade with the new Latin American nations and feared further European interference in future disputes. As a result, British Foreign Secretary George Canning approached the U.S. emissary in London, RICHARD RUSH, with a proposal for the formation of a dual alliance to protect the interests of the two countries. According to Canning's plan, the United States and Great Britain would oppose any intervention in the Spanish colonies by any European country except Spain.

President Monroe was agreeable to the terms of Canning's proposition, as were Secretary of War JOHN C. CALHOUN and former Presidents THOMAS JEFFERSON and JAMES MADISON. Secretary of State JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, however, presented an alternative view. Adams believed that Britain's interests in Latin America were sufficiently strong to encourage Britain's defense of those nations whether or not the United States agreed to Canning's proposal. Adams favored the development of a U.S. policy without alliance with Britain.

On December 2, 1823, Monroe presented the terms of the Monroe Doctrine, which Adams had helped to develop. The doctrine contained four significant elements: the American continents were to be regarded as independent, with no further settlement by European nations; the nations of the Western Hemisphere were deemed republics, as opposed to the European system of monarchies; European intervention in the affairs of nations of the Western Hemisphere was prohibited and would be viewed as a threat to the security of the United States; and, conversely the United States promised to refrain from involvement in European affairs.

This undated cartoon from the New York Herald depicts European potentates observing U.S. naval might
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