What Was Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick Diplomacy?

Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick diplomacy was his policy for international relations during his presidency. The diplomacy received its famous moniker from a quote during a speech by Roosevelt: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

Big Stick diplomacy essentially meant that leaders should strive to keep peace internally while never letting other nations doubt the military power of the United States. Roosevelt put this policy to use several times during his presidency, including when he amended the Monroe Doctrine during the Venezuela crisis. This amendment meant that the U.S. would become involved in Latin America’s affairs with its neighbors if they defaulted on European debt. Roosevelt applied his policy again during the crisis in the Panama Canal and Cuba. The U.S. flexed its powers by setting out a list of standards and rules for Cuba instead of annexation.

Roosevelt also employed his Big Stick diplomacy in dealing with the Anthracite coal strike in 1902. This strike involved 140,000 miners requesting better housing, shorter work days and more pay. When negotiations with the miners failed, Roosevelt brought in the military to do the work of the miners, since he was fearful of what the strike would do to the economy due to a coal shortage. Once the military was running things, the miners succumbed to the negotiations.