Back to the video list: North American History


The Monroe Doctrine was a major guideline for U.S. foreign policies over nearly two centuries. It all started with the address of the nation held by President Monroe in 1823.






  • Date: 02 Dec 1823
  • Location: Washington, USA
  • Event: State of the Union Address


Parties & Persons Involved

  • James Monroe (1758 – 1831), U.S. President
  • John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848), U.S. Secretary of State


Historical Context– USA

  • 1803: Louisiana Purchase (& British cession) – USA gain territory west of the Mississippi from France
  • 1812 – 1815: British-American War – USA fail to conquer Canada
  • 1819: Adams-Onis Treaty – USA gain Florida from Spain
  • Politically unstable phase & extensive territorial gains for the USA
  • 1817 – 1825: Presidency of Monroe is seen as the “Era of Good Feelings“ with societal settlement & economic growth


Historical Context– International Situation

  • 1809 – 1825: Spanish colonies in Latin America gain independence & become republics
  • 1814: Congress of Vienna – Restoration of the absolutistic regimes in Europe
  • Threat that Spain will retake her colonies with support from other European powers
  • Aug – Sep 1823: Because of economic interests the British foreign minister Cannings proposes a British-U.S. declaration which strengthens the independence of the South American republics
  • The USA do not want to be a British sidekick & issue their own declaration
  • 02 Dec 1823: President Monroe declares the Monroe Doctrine during the State of the Nation Address


Monroe Doctrine


  • The USA will not interfere with politics in Europe or in the existing colonies
  • No further (re-) colonialisation & interference in the Americas by European powers – otherwise the USA will intervene


Reasons for the Monroe Doctrine

  • Economic reasons: Improving the trade relations to Latin America
  • Territorial reasons: Securing the territorial expansion by issuing an independent declaration
  • Security reasons: Preventing European powers to become competition in the Americas (again)
  • Ideological reasons: Supporting the republican movements
  • Individual reasons: Adams needs to make a name for himself (next U.S. President)


Monroe Doctrine – Further Developments

  • Until the end of the 19th century: Isolationist & defensive understanding to prevent European interferences in the Americas
  • 1904: Roosevelt Corollary – sole right of the USA to intervene in the Americas being the regional hegemon
  • Mar 1947: Truman Doctrine – “it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures“
  • Nov 2013: U.S. Secretary of State Kerry says the Monroe Doctrine is “dead“


Consequences & Impact

  • The Monroe Doctrine is a central guideline of U.S. policy but is differently interpreted
  • Further development of the Monroe Doctrine:
    • Isolationist position (19th century)
    • Interventionist position with an American reach (1st half of the 20th century)
    • Interventionist position with a global reach (2nd half of the 20th century)
  • The British support of the Monroe Doctrine is an essential basis for the Special Relationship