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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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5465. MONROE DOCTRINE, Jefferson and.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5465. MONROE DOCTRINE, Jefferson and.—

The question presented by the letters [339]


Page 585
you have sent me, is the most momentous
which has 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
domicile 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 provoke 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. But
we have first to ask ourselves a question.
Do we wish to acquire to our own confederacy
any one or more of the Spanish provinces?
I candidly confess, that I have ever
looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition
which could ever be made to our system
of States. The control which, with
Florida Point, this island would give us over
the Gulf of Mexico, and the countries and
isthmus bordering on it, as well as all those
whose waters flow into it, would fill up the
measure of our political well-being. Yet, as
I am sensible that this can never be obtained,
even with her own consent, but by war; and
its independence, which is our second interest
(and especially its independence of England ),
can be secured without it. I have no
hesitation in abandoning my first wish to
future chances, and accepting its independence,
with peace and the friendship of England,
rather than its association, at the expense
of war and her enmity. I could
honestly, therefore, join in the declaration
proposed, that we aim not at the acquisition
of any of those possessions, that we will not
stand in the way of any amicable arrangement
between them and the mother country;
but that we will oppose, with all our means,
the forcible interposition of any other power,
as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other
form or pretext, and most especially, their
transfer to any power by conquest, cession,
or acquisition in any other way. [340] I should


Page 586
think it, therefore, advisable, that the Executive
should encourage the British government
to a continuance in the dispositions
expressed in these letters, by an assurance
of his concurrence with them as far as his
authority goes; and that as it may lead to
war, the declaration of which requires an
act of Congress, the case shall be laid before
them for consideration at their first meeting,
and under the reasonable aspect in which
it is seen by himself. I have been so long
weaned from political subjects, and have so
long ceased to take any interest in them,
that I am sensible I am not qualified to offer
opinions on them worthy of any attention.
But the question now proposed involves consequences
so lasting, and effects so decisive
of our future destinies, as to rekindle all
the interest I have heretofore felt on such
occasions, and to induce me to the hazard of
opinions, which will prove only my wish to
contribute still my mite towards anything
which may be useful to our country. [341]
To President Monroe. Washington ed. vii, 315. Ford ed., x, 277.
(M. Oct. 1823)

See Policy.


The letters were those of Mr. Rush, our minister
at the Court of St. James's, in which he communicated
to President Monroe the proposition of Mr.
Canning that the United States and England should
issue a joint declaration announcing that, while the
two governments desired for themselves no portion
of the Spanish-American colonies, then in revolt
against Spain, they would not view with indifference
any foreign intervention in their affairs, or their acquisition
by a third power. The declaration was
intended to be a warning to the allied powers, Russia,
Prussia and Austria, the members of the Holy


The subjoined extract from President Monroe's
Message to Congress on Dec. 2d, 1823, embodies the
Monroe Doctrine:

“In the wars of European powers, in matters relating
to themselves, we have never taken any part,
nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is
only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced
that we resent injuries or make preparations
for our defence. With the movements on this hemisphere
we are, of necessity, more immediately connected,
and by causes which must be obvious to all
enlightened and impartial observers. The political
system of the allied powers [the Holy Alliance] is
essentially different in this respect from that of
America. This difference proceeds from that which
exists in their respective governments. And to the
defence of our own, which has been achieved by the
loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by
the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and
under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity,
this whole Nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore,
to candor and to the amicable relations existing
between the United States and those powers to declare
that 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.
With the existing colonies or dependencies of any
European power we have not interfered, and shall
not interfere. But with the Governments who have
declared their independence and maintained it we
have, on great consideration and on just principles,
acknowledged, we could not view any interposition
for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling
in any other manner their destiny, by any European
power, in any other light than as the manifestation
of an unfriendly disposition towards the United
States. Our policy in regard to Europe, which was
adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so
long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless
remains the same, which is not to interfere in the
internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider
the Government de facto as the legitimate Government
for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it,
and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and
manly policy; meeting in all instances the just
claims of every power, submitting to injuries from
none. But in regard to these continents, circumstances
are eminently and conspicuously different.
It is impossible that the allied powers should extend
their political system to any portion of either continent
without endangering our peace and happiness;
nor can any one believe that our Southern brethren,
if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own
accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we
should behold such interposition, in any form, with


Morse, in his Life of Jefferson (p. 235), says: “It
is curious to note that in the course of this business
(navigation of Mississippi), there was already a
faint foreshadowing of that principle, which many
years afterwards was christened with the name of
Monroe. For a brief time it was thought, not without
reason, that so soon as hostilities should break
out between England and Spain, the former power
would seize upon the North American possessions of
the latter. Jefferson wrote to Gouverneur Morris:
`We wish you, therefore, to intimate to them (the
British ministry) that we cannot be indifferent to
enterprises of this kind. That we should contemplate
a change of neighbors with extreme uneasiness.
That a due balance on our borders is not less desirable
to us than a balance of power in Europe has
always appeared to them'.”—Editor.