James Monroe's Presidency

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Does the Monroe Doctrine represent a continutation of or a change from President Washington's foreign policy?

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The Monroe Doctrine was a change in the United States foreign policy. George Washington had cautioned us against making alliances with other countries and against making long- term agreements. The Monroe Doctrine went against these ideas to some degree.

The Monroe Doctrine was passed because there was some concern that the European countries that had just lost their colonies in Latin America were going to try to return to recapture them. Thus, president Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine that told the Europeans that they could have no new colonies in the Americas. This was a bold statement for us to make because we didn’t have the military capacity to back this up. Fortunately, the British were more than willing to enforce this for us because Great Britain had a very small presence in Latin America, unlike Spain and Portugal. This was a way for Britain to weaken its rivals. Thus, we depended on the British to enforce this. While this wasn’t a formal alliance, it did create a new level of functioning with Great Britain.

The Monroe Doctrine also began a long-term commitment to Latin America. Theodore Roosevelt added to the Monroe Doctrine in the early 1900s with the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. This said the United States would intervene in Latin America to keep the region stable. To this day, we still hear about the use of the Monroe Doctrine in Latin American countries. Thus, issuing this foreign policy statement has had a very long-lasting effect on our foreign policy. This foreign policy statement represented a shift away from some of George Washington’s foreign policy ideas.

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The Monroe Doctrine was a continuation of Washington's foreign policy.

The main motive behind Washington's foreign policy was to avoid getting the US in to trouble through alliances with other countries.  He felt that the US should not tie itself to any country for the long term but should be free to pursue whatever it saw as its interests at any given time.

The Monroe Doctrine does not violate that rule.  It does not commit the US to come to anyone's defense.  Instead, it is a statement of power and independence.  It tells other countries to stay out of what the US sees as its sphere of influence.

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