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THE MONROE DOCTRINE IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE POSSESSIONS HELD BY EUROPEAN POWERS IN 1823
President Monroe in his message declared:
With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere."
This provision has been more than once referred to and the principle reiterated.
In connection with the dispute between Great Britain and the Argentine Republic concerning the title to the Falkland Islands, Mr. Bayard, Secretary of State, expressed himself on March 18, 1886, to Mr. Quesada as follows:
As the resumption of actual occupation of the Falkland islands by Great Britain in 1833, took place under a claim of title which had been previously asserted and maintained by that Government, it is not seen that the Monroe doctrine, which has been invoked on the part of the Argentine Republic, has any application to the case. By the terms in which that principle of international conduct was announced, it was expressly excluded from retroactive operation.'
In Mr. Olney's instruction of July 20, 1895, to Mr. Bayard, American Ambassador to England, regarding the British-Venezuelan dispute concerning the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela, the same principle was announced. He said:
The declaration of the Monroe message that existing colonies or dependencies of an European power would not be interfered with by the United States-means colonies or dependencies then existing, with their limits as then existing. So it has been invariably construed, and so it must continue to be construed unless it is to be deprived of all vital force.
This observation of Mr. Olney was made with reference to a suggestion that since Great Britain owned British Guiana, Great Britain was therefore an American state-a suggestion which Mr. Olney repudiated.
With reference to the relationship of the Monroe Doctrine to the territorial integrity of Latin American States as against the encroachments of the colonies held by Europeans, and in reply to an observation by Mr. Niles, Senator from Connecticut, who "brought
'Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. п, p. 218.
MS., Notes to the Argentine Republic, vol. vi, p. 260.
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1895, pt. 1, pp. 559-560.
the subject to the attention of the Senate, as a warning against the responsibilities that might be involved in the views which he understood certain members of the Senate to hold," Mr. Cass, in 1848, expressed himself as follows:
The honorable Senator from Connecticut [Mr. Niles] considers the reiteration of the principle by the present Executive, and perhaps its original annunciation by Mr. Monroe, as the claim of a right to regulate all the affairs of this continent, so far as respects Europeans. But this, sir, is an entire misconception of the whole subject. It has, however, prevailed somewhat extensively, both here and elsewhere, though it seems to me that the slightest consideration of the messages referred to would have corrected, or rather prevented, this flagrant error. Neither of these Presidents, the past nor the present, assumed to interfere with any existing rights of other nations upon this continent. Neither of them called in question their right to hold and improve the colonies they possessed, at their own pleasure. Such an assumption would have been equally obtrusive and ineffectual; and how the opinion could have prevailed that has been advanced, no one can tell; for, in the documents themselves, the true doctrine is cautiously guarded, and existing rights considered as unassailable.*
A corollary of the principle that the Monroe Doctrine should not be applied retroactively so as to affect European colonies existing at the time of its declaration, is to be found in President Grant's message to Congress of December 6, 1869, where, after adverting to the attitude of the United States toward Latin American States, he said:
The United States have no disposition to interfere with the existing relations of Spain to her colonial possessions on this continent. They believe that in due time Spain and other European powers will find their interest in terminating those relations and establishing their present dependencies as independent powers-members of the family of nations. These dependencies are no longer regarded as, subject to transfer from one European power to another. When the present relation of colonies ceases, they are to become independent powers, exercising the right of choice and of self-control in the determination of their future condition and relations with other powers."
* Congressional Globe, 30th Cong., 1st sess., app., p. 614.
'Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. VII, p. 32.
THE MONROE DOCTRINE IS NOT A PLEDGE BY THE UNITED STATES AND DOES NOT CREATE AN OBLIGATION TO BE MET BY THE UNITED STATES
On January 3, 1828, Mr. Clay, Secretary of State, instructing Mr. Forbes, the American Chargé d'Affaires at Buenos Aires, made the following observation as glossed and quoted by Mr. Moore:
The declaration was made by the President as the head of the executive government, and, although there was every reason to believe that the policy which it announced was in conformity with the opinion both of the nation and of Congress, "the declaration must be regarded as having been voluntarily made, and not as conveying any pledge or obligation, the performance of which foreign nations have a right to demand.” 1
In the note of Mr. Bayard to Mr. Quesada of March 18, 1886, already quoted from, the following passage occurs in reference to the suggestion that the United States invoke the Monroe Doctrine in relation to the dispute between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, and with reference to Mr. Bayard's statement that the Doctrine was not retroactive:
If the circumstances had been different, and the acts of the British Government had been in violation of that doctrine, this Government could never regard its failure to assert it as creating any liability to another power for injuries it may have sustained in consequence of the omission."
Mr. Dana, in his note 36 to Wheaton's text, states:
The Spanish-American States had appeared to understand Mr. Monroe's message as a pledge," by the United States, to the other American States, of mutual support in maintaining this doctrine; and to consider the United States bound to join with them in some alliance, offensive and defensive, for that purpose. Congress was unwilling to adopt a policy of entangling alliances. A resolution of the House of Representatives declared that the United States ought not to become parties with the Spanish-American republics, or either of them, to any joint declaration for the purpose of preventing the interference of any of the European powers with their independence or form of government, or to any compact for the purpose of preventing colonization upon the continents of America; but that the people of the United States should be left free to act, in any crisis, in such a manner as their feelings of friendship towards these republics, and as their own honor and policy may at the time dictate."
1 Moore, International Law Digest, vol. vI, p. 434.
2 MS., Notes to the Argentine Republic, vol. vI, pp. 260–261.
Wheaton, Elements of International Law, 8th ed. (Dana), p. 100.
In a passage already quoted, Secretary Clay glossing an instruction to Mr. Poinsett, our Minister to Mexico, said:
The United States have contracted no Engagement, nor made any Pledge to the Governments of Mexico and South America, or to either of them, that The United States would not permit the interference of any Foreign Powers, with the Independence or form of Government of those Nations: nor have any Instructions been issued, authorizing any such Engagement or Pledge. It will be seen that the Message of the late President of The United States of the 2d December, 1823, is adverted to in the Extracts now furnished from the Instructions to Mr. Poinsett, and that he is directed to impress its principles upon the Government of The United Mexican States.
All apprehensions of the danger, to which Mr. Monroe alludes, of an interference, by the Allied Powers of Europe, to introduce their Political Systems into this Hemisphere, have ceased. If, indeed, an attempt by force had been made, by Allied Europe, to subvert the Liberties of the Southern Nations on this Continent, and to erect, upon the ruins of their Free Institutions, Monarchical Systems, the People of The United States would have stood pledged, in the opinion of their Executive, not to any Foreign State, but to themselves and to their posterity, by their dearest interests, and highest duties, to resist, to the utmost, such attempt; and it is to a Pledge of that character that Mr. Poinsett alone refers.*
British and Foreign State Papers, vol. XIII, pp. 484–485.
THE MONROE DOCTRINE IS SAID NEVER TO HAVE RECEIVED THE SANCTION OF CONGRESS
In Dana's note 36 to Wheaton's paragraph 67 he makes the following comment with reference to the action of the Congress of the United States regarding the Monroe Doctrine:
It is to be borne in mind that the declarations known as the Monroe Doctrine have never received the sanction of an act or resolution of Congress; nor have they any of that authority which European governments attach to a royal ordinance. They are, in fact, only the declarations of an existing administration of what its own policy would be, and what it thinks should ever be the policy of the country, on a subject of paramount and permanent interest. Thus, at the same session in which the message was delivered, Mr. Clay introduced the following resolution: "That the people of these States would not see, without serious inquietude, any forcible interposition by the allied powers of Europe, in behalf of Spain, to reduce to their former subjection those parts of the continent of America which have proclaimed and established for themselves, respectively, independent governments, and which have been solemnly recognized by the United States." But this resolution was never brought up for action or discussion. It is seen also, by the debates on the Panama mission and the Yucatan intervention, that Congress has never been willing to commit the nation to any compact or pledge on this subject, or to any specific declaration of purpose or methods, beyond the general language of the message.
In the debates on the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, in 1855-56, above referred to, all the speakers seemed to agree to this position of the subject. Mr. Clayton said: 'In reference to this particular territory, I would not hesitate at all, as one Senator, to assert the Monroe Doctrine and maintain it by my vote; but I do not expect to be sustained in such a vote by both branches of Congress. Whenever the attempt has been made to assert the Monroe Doctrine in either branch of Congress, it has failed. The present Democratic party came into power, after the debate on the Panama mission, on the utter abnegation of the whole doctrine, and stood upon Washington's doctrine of non-intervention. You cannot prevail on a majority, and I will venture to say that you cannot prevail on onethird, of either house of Congress to sustain it." Mr. Cass said: Whenever the Monroe Doctrine has been urged, either one or the other house of Congress, or both houses, did not stand up to it." Mr. Seward said: "It is true that each house of Congress has declined to assert it; but the honorable senators must do each house the justice to acknowledge that the reason why they did decline to accept the doctrine was, that it was proposed, as many members thought, as an abstraction, unnecessary, not called for at the time." Mr. Mason spoke of it as having never been sanctioned or recognized by any constitutional authority." Mr. Cass afterwards, in a very elaborate speech (of Jan. 28, 1856), gave his views of the history and character of the doctrine. He placed it upon very high ground, as a declaration not only against European intervention or future colonization, but against the acquisition of dominion on the continent by European powers, by whatever mode or however derived; and seemed to consider it