Monroe Doctrine Summary
The Monroe Doctrine was established by President James Monroe in 1823. Monroe warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. The purpose of the Doctrine was to prevent European colonization and the establishment of puppet regimes in the Americas. Although the Doctrine was not well-enforced early on, it became a basic tenet of American foreign policy. Over time, the principles of the Doctrine were invoked in various disputes with European powers and interventions in Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Doctrine was extended by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 with the “Roosevelt Corollary,” which justified U.S. intervention in the region as an international police power. The Monroe Doctrine continues to be a part of American Foreign Policy.
Monroe Doctrine Facts
- The Monroe Doctrine was presented to Congress on December 2, 1823, by President James Monroe in his Annual Message to Congress.
- Monroe declared that the United States would not tolerate any further colonization or involvement in the Western Hemisphere by European powers.
- The Doctrine had three main principles: separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe, non-colonization, and non-intervention.
- Over time, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked and strengthened over time to justify U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Roosevelt Corollary.
- The Doctrine was symbolically invoked during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Monroe Doctrine History and Overview
The Monroe Doctrine was established by President James Monroe in 1823 and created a cornerstone of American Foreign Policy. As Spanish colonial rule diminished in the Western Hemisphere, independent countries were established in Latin America. However, other European nations, including Great Britain and France, attempted to gain influence in the region. The Doctrine may have been written by Monroe’s Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, but undoubtedly had input from Monroe.
Monroe introduced the concepts in the Monroe Doctrine to Congress on December 2, 1823, during his seventh Annual Message to Congress. Monroe and Adams based the policy on principles that were established in President Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality and Washington’s Farewell Address, which essentially recommended the United States should not involve itself in European affairs. The same principles had been applied to President James Madison and his decision to go to war with Great Britain, which led to the War of 1812.
The three main principles of the Monroe Doctrine are:
- Separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe
- Non-colonization by European nations in the Western Hemisphere.
- Non-intervention of European nations in the Western Hemisphere.
The policy was designed to separate the New World from the monarchies and regimes in Europe. Monroe warned the European nations against interfering in the affairs of the newly independent Latin American states or potential United States territories.
By the mid-1800s, the Monroe Doctrine, combined with the concept of Manifest Destiny, encouraged Americans to spread across the continent. As Americans moved West, the United States annexed Texas, went to war with Mexico, and signed treaties with Mexico and Great Britain that established a nation that stretches from “sea to shining sea.”
In the late 1800s, America’s economic and military power enabled it to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which played a role in the outbreak of the Spanish-American War (1898). After Theodore Roosevelt was elected the 26th President of the United States in 1901, he altered and extended the Monroe Doctrine with the “Roosevelt Corollary.”
The Roosevelt Corollary was established in December 1904, justifying U.S. intervention in Latin America. It stated that the United States would intervene as a last resort to ensure other nations in the Western Hemisphere fulfilled their obligations to international creditors, as long as intervention did not violate the rights of the United States or invite “foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations.”
As a result of the Corollay, the United States increasingly used military force to restore stability to nations in the region. Roosevelt declared that the United States might “exercise international police power in ‘flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence.’” Over time, the policy had little to do with relations between the Western Hemisphere and Europe, but the United States did use it to justify intervention in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
Throughout the 20th Century, the Monroe Doctrine continued to influence U.S. Foreign Policy in the Western Hemisphere, focusing on maintaining stability and preventing the spread of Communism during the Cold War. The Doctrine was invoked symbolically during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when the United States used naval and air power to enforce a quarantine around Cuba in response to the Soviet Union’s deployment of missile-launching sites on the island. Today, the Monroe Doctrine remains a significant part of American Foreign Policy.
Monroe Doctrine Frequently Asked Questions
The main principles of the Monroe Doctrine were non-colonization, non-intervention, and the idea of separate spheres of influence for the Americas and Europe. The Doctrine warned European nations against further colonization or puppet regimes in the Western Hemisphere and sought to create a clear break between the New World and Europe. The United States pledged to avoid involvement in the political affairs of Europe and not to interfere in the existing European colonies already in the Americas. The Doctrine provided a foundation for American foreign policy such as neutrality in European affairs.
President James K. Polk invoked the Monroe Doctrine during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The Doctrine prohibited European powers from acquiring territories in the Americas through peaceful transfers but allowed territorial transfers to be made to the United States. This meant that Polk could acquire Texas from Mexico and justify it under the Monroe Doctrine. Furthermore, Polk warned European powers not to interfere in the internal politics of the Americas. Polk was concerned over potential European interference in Texas and in Mexico generally, as well as British interests in the Oregon Territory. By invoking the Monroe Doctrine, Polk warned European powers not to militarily or politically in the region. The United States’ victory in the Mexican-American War forced Mexico to transfer over half its territory to the United States, including present-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. The acquisition, known as the Mexican Cession, strengthened belief in Manifest Destiny, which lent additional support to the Monroe Doctrine.
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine fundamentally changed the original message of the Doctrine. While the Monroe Doctrine was essentially passive, warning European powers to stay out of the affairs of the Western Hemisphere, the Roosevelt Corollary was more assertive and gave the United States the power to intervene in the internal affairs of Latin American nations. The Corollary justified U.S. intervention in the region in order to protect U.S. interests, asserting that the United States had the right to use military force to restore internal stability to nations in the region. This inversion of the original message of the Doctrine shifted the focus from preventing European colonization to the United States taking on the role of regional policeman in Latin America. As a result, the United States used military force to intervene in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked as a symbol of American resolve to prevent the Soviet Union from placing nuclear missiles in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy used the Doctrine to justify the United States naval and air quarantine of Cuba and demand the removal of the missiles. The Soviet Union ultimately agreed to withdraw the missiles, and the crisis was resolved peacefully.
Monroe Doctrine Significance
The Monroe Doctrine is important to United States history because it established a policy that the United States would not allow European involvement in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine helped establish the United States as a dominant power. Combined with Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine contributed to American expansion across the continent. The Monroe Doctrine remains an important part of American Foreign Policy.
Monroe Doctrine AP US History (APUSH) Study Guide
Use the following links and videos to study the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War for the AP US History Exam.
Monroe Doctrine APUSH Definition
The Monroe Doctrine is a policy created by President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to eliminate European influence in the Western Hemisphere. The policy was modified by President Theodore Roosevelt as a way to justify American involvement in Latin America.
American History Central Resources and Related Topics
- President James Madison
- President James Monroe
- John Quincy Adams
- Texas Annexation
- Mexican-American War — Causes
- Mexican-American War — History and Overview
- Mexican-American War — Timeline
- Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion
- The United States in World War I — History and Overview
Monroe Doctrine APUSH Video
This video provides an overview of the Monroe Doctrine for the AP US History Exam.