How The Monroe Doctrine Turned Into American Imperialism

Jacob Grandstaff
7 min readOct 28, 2022

When President James Monroe issued his Monroe Doctrine in 1823, he intended it to keep European colonial powers from dominating Latin America or interfering in its political affairs. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Doctrine, eight decades later, turned Monroe’s foreign policy legacy into a weapon of American colonialism — which still sours American relations with Latin America.

That lingering animosity has made coequal relationships and willing cooperation nearly impossible by creating diplomatic difficulties for the US government — which has rarely been able to draw concessions without strong-arming those countries.

It has also created negative relations with immigrants in the US — of which Latin Americans make up a plurality. The atrocities that the American government has committed against these countries for over 12 decades give many a sense of entitlement. That has turned them into political pawns for American political forces and driven domestic division.

Why did James Monroe issue the Monroe Doctrine?

On December 2, 1823, President Monroe laid out the Doctrine in his annual address to Congress. It comprised four principles:

  • The US would not interfere in the political affairs or wars of Europe.
  • The US recognize existing European colonies in the Western Hemisphere and would not interfere with them.
  • The Western Hemisphere was closed to colonization.
  • The US would view any attempt by European powers to recolonize or further colonize portions of the Western Hemisphere as a hostile act.

Monroe’s reasoning rested on fears that European powers–particularly France and Spain–would try to gain a larger foothold in the Western Hemisphere. Most of Spain’s former colonies had recently gained independence, and the US recognized them.

Britain’s Foreign Minister George Canning initially suggested the US and Britain make a joint statement, but Secretary of State John Quincy Adams convinced Monroe that it should be an American doctrine.

Monroe also initially considered commenting on aspects of Europe–such as condemning France’s aggression in…

Jacob Grandstaff

MA in History; Mostly culture, trends, and occasional rants. History blog: