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The Monroe Doctrine

George Washington had warned the American people against “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.” President Monroe, writes Arnold Whitridge, further developed “the thesis of non-entanglement.”

Americans, south as well as north, have always taken for granted the far-reaching importance of the Monroe doctrine. It is only when, admitting the importance, we push on a little further, to the interpretation of the celebrated doctrine, that we find ourselves lost in the forests of controversy.

Monroe’s momentous enunciation of a foreign policy, contained in the President’s message of December 2nd, 1823, was regarded at the time merely as a corollary to Washington’s Farewell Address, in which Washington had warned the American people against “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.”

Monroe went on to develop the thesis of non-entanglement by declaring that the American continents were henceforth not to be considered subjects for future colonization by European powers. With the existing colonies of any European power the United States would not interfere, but “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.”

The Monroe Doctrine did not recognize the existence of the Red Indian. At any rate, the indigenous population had no rights. All territory not already pre-empted by European nations, or not already carved into independent republics, belonged potentially to the United States. If that was not stated in so many words, it was certainly implied.

It was also implied that the United States would regard any attack upon a South American republic as an attack upon herself. Such an amalgam of national self-interest and international altruism was bound to produce misunderstanding and controversy.

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