What Did the Monroe Doctrine State?


Quick Answer

The Monroe Doctrine stated that North and South America were no longer open to European colonization and any effort to subjugate countries in the western hemisphere was an attack on the United States. It stipulated that the United States would avoid interfering in internal European affairs or existing European colonies.

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Full Answer

President James Monroe issued the declaration during his address to Congress in December 1823. Although Great Britain initially suggested a joint declaration, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who wrote the doctrine, convinced Monroe that the statement should be made by the United States alone. At the time, a number of nations in Central and South America had become newly independent from Spain, and Russia was seeking control of territory in northwest North America. Although initially meant to address specific issues, the Monroe Doctrine became a key factor in U.S. foreign policy decisions about the western hemisphere.

Initially, the United States had little power to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Although Great Britain supported it, most other nations ignored it. Latin American countries welcomed the doctrine as a gesture of alliance. Later presidents used it to justify U.S. expansion. For instance, President James Polk invoked it when encouraging the western expansion known as manifest destiny, and President John Tyler used it in asserting U.S. influence over Hawaii. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary, which asserted that the United States had the right to intervene in the affairs of Latin American countries to thwart European influence.

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