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1845

European discussion of a "balance of power" on American continent to check advancement of the United States

President Polk in his first annual message to Congress under date of December 2, 1845, used the following language with reference to the noncolonization principle of the Monroe Doctrine:

The United States, sincerely desirous of preserving relations of good understanding with all nations, can not in silence permit any European interference on the North American continent, and should any such interference be attempted will be ready to resist it at any and all hazards.

It is well known to the American people and to all nations that this Government has never interfered with the relations subsisting between other governments. We have never made ourselves parties to their wars or their alliances; we have not sought their territories by conquest; we have not mingled with parties in their domestic struggles; and believing our own form of government to be the best, we have never attempted to propagate it by intrigues, by diplomacy, or by force. We may claim on this continent a like exemption from European interference. The nations of America are equally sovereign and independent with those of Europe. They possess the same rights, independent of all foreign interposition, to make war, to conclude peace, and to regulate their internal affairs. The people of the United States can not, therefore, view with indifference attempts of European powers to interfere with the independent action of the nations on this continent. The American system of government is entirely different from that of Europe. Jealousy among the different sovereigns of Europe, lest any one of them might become too powerful for the rest, has caused them anxiously to desire the establishment of what they term the "balance of power." It can not be permitted to have any application on the North American continent, and especially to the United States. We must ever maintain the principle that the people of this continent alone have the right to decide their own destiny. Should any portion of them, constituting an independent state, propose to unite themselves with our Confederacy, this will be a question for them and us to determine without any foreign interposition. We can never consent that European powers shall interfere to prevent such a union because it might disturb the "balance of power" which they may desire to maintain upon this continent. Near a quarter of a century ago the principle was distinctly announced to the world, in the annual message of one of my predecessors, that-

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

This principle will apply with greatly increased force should any European power attempt to establish any new colony in North America. In the existing circumstances of the world the present is deemed a proper occasion to reiterate and reaffirm the principle avowed by Mr. Monroe and to state my cordial concurrence in its wisdom and sound policy. The reassertion of this principle, especially in reference to North America, is at this day but the promulgation of a policy which no European power should cherish the disposion to resist. Existing rights of every European nation should be respected, but it is due alike to our safety and our interests that the efficient protection of our laws should be extended over our whole territorial limits, and that it

should be distinctly announced to the world as our settled policy that no future European colony or dominion shall with our consent be planted or established on any part of the North American continent.15

For a discussion of this view of the noncolonization principle of the Monroe Doctrine, see Mr. John Bassett Moore's elaborate analysis of the Doctrine in the Political Science Quarterly for March 1896.16

La Plata (Uruguay)

1846

Pursuant to a treaty concluded through the mediation of England, Brazil and Buenos Aires recognized in 1828 the independence of what now constitutes the present Republic of Uruguay. In 1844, Uruguay was attacked by Buenos Aires. Brazil invoked the intervention of England and France against the attack and to protect the independence of Uruguay, whereupon those countries in 1845 instituted a blockade of the coast of Buenos Aires. Secretary Buchanan, instructing Mr. Harris, our Minister to Argentina, under date of March 30, 1846, made the following comments:

The late annual message of the President to Congress has so clearly presented the great American doctrine in opposition to the interference of European Governments in the internal concerns of the nations of this continent, that it is deemed unnecessary to add another word upon this subject. That Great Britain and France have flagrantly violated this principle by their armed intervention on the La Plata is manifest to the whole world. Whilst existing circumstances render it impossible for the United States to take a part in the present war; yet the President desires that the whole moral influence of this Republic should be cast into the scale of the injured party. We cordially wish the Argentine Republic success in its struggle against foreign interference. It is for these reasons, that although the Government of the United States never did authorise your predecessor Mr. Brent to offer his mediation in the affairs of Great Britain, France and the Argentine Republic, this act has not been publicly disavowed. His example, however, is not to be followed by you without express instructions. An offer of mediation by one nation in the disputes of other nations is an act of too much importance and may involve consequences too serious to be undertaken by a diplomatic agent on his own responsibility.

Mr. Pakenham on the 7th November, last, placed in my hands the copy of a despatch from Lord Aberdeen to himself under date the 3d of October, last, with which you shall be furnished. From this it would appear that Great Britain and France in their armed intervention have no view to territorial aggrandisement on the La Plata. It will be your duty closely to watch the movements of these two Powers in that region; and should either of them in violation of this declaration attempt to make territorial acquisitions, you will immediately communicate the fact to this Government."

15 Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. IV, pp. 398–399. Vol. XI, pp. 1 et seq.

16

17

MS., Instructions, Argentine Republic, vol. xv, pp. 23-25; Moore, International Law Digest, vol. vI, p. 422.

That portion of President Polk's message to which Mr. Buchanan refers reads as follows: (Mr. Polk had been speaking of the rival claims of Great Britain and ourselves to Oregon.) He said:

It is well known to the American people and to all nations that this Government has never interfered with the relations subsisting between other governments. We have never made ourselves parties to their wars or their alliances; we have not sought their territories by conquest; we have not mingled with parties in their domestic struggles; and believing our own form of government to be the best, we have never attempted to propagate it by intrigues, by diplomacy, or by force. We may claim on this continent a like exemption from European interference. The nations of America are equally sovereign and independent with those of Europe. They possess the same rights, independent of all foreign interposition, to make war, to conclude peace, and to regulate their internal affairs. The people of the United States can not, therefore, view with indifference attempts of European powers to interfere with the independent action of the nations on this continent. The American system of government is entirely different from that of Europe. Jealousy among the different sovereigns of Europe, lest any one of them might become too powerful for the rest, has caused them anxiously to desire the establishment of what they term the "balance of power." It can not be permitted to have any application on the North American continent, and especially to the United States. We must ever maintain the principle that the people of this continent alone have the right to decide their own destiny. Should any portion of them, constituting an independent state, propose to unite themselves with our Confederacy, this will be a question for them and us to determine without any foreign interposition. We can never consent that European powers shall interfere to prevent such a union because it might disturb the "balance of power" which they may desire to maintain upon this continent. Near a quarter of a century ago the principle was distinctly announced to the world, in the annual message of one of my predecessors, that

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

This principle will apply with greatly increased force should any European power attempt to establish any new colony in North America. In the existing circumstances of the world the present is deemed a proper occasion to reiterate and reaffirm the principle avowed by Mr. Monroe and to state my cordial concurrence in its wisdom and sound policy. The reassertion of this principle, especially in reference to North America, is at this day but the promulgation of a policy which no European power should cherish the disposition to resist. Existing rights of every European nation should be respected, but it is due alike to our safety and our interests that the efficient protection of our laws should be extended over our whole territorial limits, and that it should be distinctly announced to the world as our settled policy that no future European colony or dominion shall with our consent be planted or established on any part of the North American continent."

"Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. IV, p. 398,

1848

Yucatan

A serious Indian outbreak having occurred in Yucatan, the authorities of that region offered to transfer to the United States "the dominion and sovereignty" of the country. The authorities at the same time made a like offer to Great Britain and Spain. With reference to this situation, President Polk in a special message to Congress under date of April 29, 1848, said:

Whilst it is not my purpose to recommend the adoption of any measure with a view to the acquisition of the "dominion and sovereignty" over Yucatan, yet, according to our established policy, we could not consent to a transfer of this dominion and sovereignty" either to Spain, Great Britain, or any other European power. In the language of President Monroe in his message of December,

66

1823

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. In my annual message of December, 1845, I declared that

Near a quarter of a century ago the principle was distinctly announced to the world, in the annual message of one of my predecessors, that "the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power." This principle will apply with greatly increased force, should any European power attempt to establish any new colony in North America. In the existing circumstances of the world, the present is deemed a proper occasion to reiterate and reaffirm the principle avowed by Mr. Monroe, and to state my cordial concurrence in its wisdom and sound policy.18

A few days after this message was transmitted to Congress, a bill was introduced in the Senate to enable the President "to take temporary military occupation of Yucatan" (May 4, 1848). The bill was, however, withdrawn by its proponent, Mr. Hannegan, on May 17, 1848, upon the receipt of news that the whites and the Indians had come to an understanding. It was in connection with the discussion of this bill that Mr. Calhoun voiced his well-known opinion that the Monroe Doctrine was no longer operative. In the course of rather an extended speech upon the matter, Mr. Calhoun made the following statements:

I propose to show, in the first place, that the case of Yucatan, even as stated by the President himself, does not come within the declarations of Mr. Monroe, and that they do not furnish the slightest support to the measure reported by the committee.

In the message referred to, that of 1823, Mr. Monroe makes three distinct declarations. The first, and by far the most important, announces that the United States would regard any attempt on the part of the Allied Powers to

18 Ibid., pp. 581–582.

extend their system to this country as dangerous to our peace and safety. To show that the case of Yucatan does not come within this declaration, all that will be necessary is, to explain who were the Allied Powers, the object of their alliance, and the circumstances in which the declaration itself was made. The Allied Powers were the four great continental monarchies-Russia, Prussia, Austria, and France. Shortly after the overthrow of Bonaparte these Powers entered into an alliance called the "Holy Alliance," the object of which was to sustain and extend the monarchical principles as far as possible, and to oppress and put down popular institutions. England, in the early stages of the alliance, favored it. The members of the Alliance held several Congresses, attended either by themselves or their ambassadors, and undertook to regulate the affairs of all Europe, and actually interfered in the affairs of Spain for the purpose of putting down popular doctrines. In its progress the Alliance turned its eyes to this continent, in order to aid Spain in regaining her sovereignty over her re volted provinces. At this stage England became alarmed. Mr. Canning was then Prime Minister. He informed Mr. Rush of the project, and gave to him at the same time the assurance, that, if sustained by the United States, Great Britain would resist. Mr. Rush immediately communicated this to our Government. It was received here with joy; for so great was the power of the Alliance, that even we did not feel ourselves safe from its interpositions. Indeed, it was anticipated, almost as a certain result, that if the interference took place with the Governments of South America, the Alliance would ultimately extend its interference to ourselves. I remember the reception of the despatch from Mr. Rush as distinctly as if all the circumstances had occurred yesterday. I well recollect the great satisfaction with which it was received by the Cabinet. It came late in the year, not long before the meeting of Congress. As was usual with Mr. Monroe upon great occasions, the papers were sent round to each member of the Cabinet, so that each might be duly apprized of all the circumstances, and be prepared to give his opinion. The Cabinet met. It deliberated. There was long and careful consultation; and the result was the declaration which I have just announced. All this has passed away. That very movement on the part of England, sustained by this declaration, gave a blow to the celebrated Alliance, from which it never recovered. From that time forward it gradually decayed, till it utterly perished. The late revolutions in Europe have put an end to all its work, and nothing remains of all that it ever did. Now, by what ingenuity of argument, by what force of sophistry can it be shown that this declaration comprehends the case of Yucatan, when the events which called it forth have passed away forever?

The next declaration was, that we would regard the interposition of any European Power to oppress the Governments of this continent, which we had recently recognized as independent, or to control their destiny in any manner whatever, as manifesting an unfriendly disposition towards the United States. This declaration, also, belongs to the history of that day. It grew out of the same state of circumstances, and may be considered as an appendage to the declaration to which I have just alluded. By the Governments on this continent, which we had recognized, were meant the republics which had grown up after having thrown off the yoke of Spain. They had just emerged from their protracted revolutionary struggles. They had hardly yet reached a point of solidity, and in that tender stage the Administration of Mr. Monroe thought It proper not only to make that general declaration in reference to the Holy Alliance, but to make a more specific one against the interference of any

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