United States president Theodore Roosevelt announced the Roosevelt Corollary, an addendum to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, in response to European nations that were trying to force Venezuela to repay its debts. Roosevelt threatened to send naval ships to Venezuela if those nations sought to forcibly collect the debt. Stability must be preserved, Roosevelt said in his 1904 annual message to Congress, even if it requires an “exercise of international police power.” The Roosevelt Corollary, based on the 1901 Platt Amendment, became the cornerstone of U.S. policy in Latin America. Herbert S. Parmet
In 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt claimed, in what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary, that the United States could intervene in any Latin American nation guilty of internal or external misconduct. Roosevelt’s statement was precipitated by Germany, Britain, and Italy, which were trying to force Venezuela to repay debts to those countries. Roosevelt involved the United States in settling the matter. The corollary was part of President Roosevelt’s address to Congress that year. Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine set a precedent and therefore justified subsequent U.S. intervention in Caribbean states during the administrations of Presidents William Taft and Woodrow Wilson. By the 1920s Latin American countries were protesting U.S. involvement.
In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, then governor of New York and candidate for vice president of the United States on the Republican ticket, told a men’s club in Chicago that “our country calls out not for the life of ease, but for the life of strenuous endeavor.” He argued that the United States should build its military power in order to be able to control events in the West Indies, the Philippines, and elsewhere. This outlook is an example of Roosevelt’s “big stick” policy, which he put into practice when he became president in 1901. It held that the United States needed to be strong enough to mold affairs in other countries, and that the threat of force would back up diplomacy. This article reflects the conventions and biases of the era in which it was written.
In the 1920s and the 1930s, the United States reduced the doctrine’s scope by favoring action in concert with the other American republics. The Platt Amendment, which was part of the U.S. treaty with Cuba in 1903 and which provided for U.S. involvement in the rule of Cuba, was revoked in 1934. This emphasis on acting with other nations, or Pan-Americanism, continued during and after World War II with the Act of Chapultepec (1945) and the Rio Pact (1947), which declared that an attack on one American nation was an attack on all. The formation of the Organization of American States in 1948 was designed to achieve the aims of the Monroe Doctrine through Pan-Americanism. Subsequently, however, fear of Communism in Latin America prompted the United States to return to unilateral actions against Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1961), and the Dominican Republic (1965), without consulting its Latin American allies.
The administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) openly espoused the Monroe Doctrine once again as it resisted Communism in the Americas. This reaffirmed the original intent of the Monroe Doctrine to prevent European expansion in the Americas. Despite this position, Reagan supported Britain’s claim to the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) off the coast of Argentina in 1982.
Perhaps the most important event of Monroe’s administration was the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine. The doctrine resulted from two problems. Adams was concerned over moves by Russia to establish colonies in the Oregon country. At the same time, Britain feared that the Holy Alliance, consisting of Austria, Prussia, France, and Russia, was ready to help Spain recover its colonies in Latin America. The British had obtained trading advantages in the new Latin American republics, and these very profitable arrangements would end if the republics were restored to Spanish rule. The British foreign secretary, George Canning, proposed that the United States join Britain in warning the Holy Alliance not to intervene in the western hemisphere.
Adams had a firm reply to the Russian threat. As he reported later, he told the Russian diplomatic representative in Washington, D.C., that “we should contest the right of Russia to any territorial establishment on this continent, and that…the American continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial establishments.” Thus, Adams stated one principle of the Monroe Doctrine more than a year before Monroe stated it himself.
His answer to Britain was equally forceful. President Monroe at first was willing to go along with Canning’s proposal, but Adams argued against it. Adams believed that the United States should determine its own policy. “It would be more candid,” he said, “as well as more dignified, to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cock-boat in the wake of the British man-of-war.”
Monroe was persuaded that Adams’s stand was right, and in 1823 the president announced the Monroe Doctrine. The doctrine contained two important principles. First, North and South America were no longer open to European colonization. Second, Europe must not “interfere in the internal concerns” of any nation in the western hemisphere. The first of these principles came directly from Adams.