Page images

making known their joint disapprobation of contrary projects; that it would at the same time put an end to all jealousies of Spain as to her remaining colonies, and to the agitation prevailing in the colonies themselves by showing that England and the United States. were determined not to profit by encouraging it." 19

Prior to the formal recognition of South America, the United States had repeatedly expressed the wish to proceed in the matter hand in hand with Great Britain,20 but that act placed the United States on an altogether different footing from England. Canning seemed to forget in the wording of his proposal that the United States had already, in the most formal manner, acknowledged the independence of the Spanish colonies. In reply Mr. Rush reminded him of this fact and of the desire of the United States to see the colonies recognized by England. In other respects, he believed that the views unfolded by Mr. Canning in his note were shared by the United States, but he added that he had no authority to avow these principles publicly in the manner suggested.

As soon as Rush's first dispatch was received President Monroe realized fully the magnitude of the issue presented by the proposal of an Anglo-American alliance. Before submitting the matter to his cabinet he transmitted copies of the dispatch to ex-Presidents Jefferson and Madison and the following interesting correspondence took place. In his letter to Jefferson of October 17th, the President said:

I transmit to you two despatches which were receiv'd from Mr. Rush, while I was lately in Washington, which

19 Rush's "Residence at the Court of London," p. 412.

20" Letters and Despatches of Castlereagh," Vol. XI, p. 458. Bagot's reports of interviews with Adams.

[ocr errors]

involve interests of the highest importance. They contain two letters from Mr. Canning, suggesting designs of the holy alliance, against the Independence of So. America, & proposing a co-operation, between G. Britain & the U States, in support of it, against the members of that alliance. The project aims, in the first instance, at a mere expression of opinion, somewhat in the abstract, but which, it is expected by Mr. Canning, will have a great political effect, by defeating the combination. By Mr. Rush's answers, which are also enclosed, you will see the light in which he views the subject, & the extent to which he may have gone. Many important considerations are involved in this proposition. 1st Shall we entangle ourselves, at all, in European politicks, & wars, on the side of any power, against others, presuming that a concert, by agreement, of the kind proposed, may lead to that result? 2a If a case can exist in which a sound maxim may, & ought to be departed from, is not the present instance, precisely that case? 3d Has not the epoch arriv'd when G. Britain must take her stand, either on the side of the monarchs of Europe, or of the U States, & in consequence, either in favor of Despotism or of liberty & may it not be presum'd that, aware of that necessity, her government has seiz'd on the present occurrence, as that, which it deems, the most suitable, to announce & mark the commenc'ment of that career.

My own impression is that we ought to meet the proposal of the British govt. & to make it known, that we would view an interference on the part of the European powers, and especially an attack on the Colonies, by them, as an attack on ourselves, presuming that, if they succeeded with them, they would extend it to us. I am sensible however of the extent & difficulty of the question, & shall be happy to have yours, & Mr. Madison's opinions on it.21

Jefferson's reply dated Monticello, October 24th, displays not only a profound insight into the international situation, but a wide vision of the possibilities involved. He said:

1 Hamilton, "Writings of James Monroe," Vol. VI, pp. 323-325.

The question presented by the letters you have sent me, is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of Independence. That made us a nation, this sets our compass and points the course which we are to steer through the ocean of time opening on us. And never could we embark on it under circumstances more auspicious. Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America, North and South, has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should therefore have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. While the last is laboring to become the domicil of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom. One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this pursuit; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the bands, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free government, and emancipate a continent at one stroke, which might otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty. Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on earth; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship; and nothing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause. Not that I would purchase even her amity at the price of taking part in her wars. But the war in which the present proposition might engage us, should that be its consequence, is not her war, but ours. Its object is to introduce and establish the American system, of keeping out of our land all foreign powers, of never permitting those of Europe to intermeddle with the affairs of our nations. It is to maintain our own principle, not to depart from it. And if, to facilitate this, we can effect a division in the body of the European powers, and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely we should do it. But I am clearly of Mr. Canning's opinion, that it will prevent instead of provoking war. With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of

our two continents, all Europe combined would not undertake such a war. For how would they propose to get at either enemy without superior fleets? Nor is the occasion to be slighted which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so flagitiously begun by Bonaparte, and now continued by the equally lawless Alliance, calling itself Holy.22

Madison not only agreed with Jefferson as to the wisdom of accepting the British proposal of some form of joint action, but he went even further and suggested that the declaration should not be limited to the American republics, but that it should express disapproval of the late invasion of Spain and of any interference with the Greeks, who were then struggling for independence from Turkey.23 Monroe, it appears, was strongly inclined to act on Madison's suggestion, but his cabinet took a different view of the situation. From the diary of John Quincy Adams, Monroe's secretary of state, it appears that almost the whole of November was taken up by cabinet discussions on Canning's proposals and on Russia's aggres!sions in the northwest. Adams stoutly opposed any alliance or joint declaration with Great Britain. The composition of the President's message remained in doubt until the 21st, when the more conservative views of Adams were, according to his own statement of the case, adopted. He advocated an independent course of action on the part of the United States, without direct reference to Canning's proposals, though substantially in accord with them. Adams defined his

12 Ford, "Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Vol. X, pp. 277-278. " Hamilton, "Writings of James Madison," Vol. IX, pp. 161-162.

position as follows: "The ground that I wish to take is that of earnest remonstrance against the interference of the European powers by force with South America, but to disclaim all interference on our part with Europe; to make an American cause and adhere inflexibly to that." 24 Adams's dissent from Monroe's position was, it is claimed, due partly to the influence of Clay, who advocated a Pan American system, partly to the fact that the proposed coöperation with Great Britain would bind the United States not to acquire some of the coveted parts of the Spanish possessions, and partly to the fear that the United States as the ally of Great Britain would be compelled to play a secondary part. He probably carried his point by showing that the same ends could be accomplished by an independent declaration, since it was evident that the sea power of Great Britain would be used to prevent the reconquest of South America. by the European powers. Monroe, as we have seen, thought that the exigencies of the situation justified a departure from the sound maxim of political isolation, and in this opinion he was supported by his two predecessors in the presidency.

The opinions of Monroe, Jefferson, and Madison in favor of an alliance with Great Britain and a broad declaration against the intervention of the great powers in the affairs of weaker states in any part of the world, have been severely criticised by some historians and ridiculed by others, but time and circumstances often bring about a complete change in our point of view. Since our entrance into the great world conflict several writers have raised the question.

** W. C. Ford, "Genesis of the Monroe Doctrine," in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, second series, Vol. XV, p. 392.


« PreviousContinue »