Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Monroe Doctrine & National Policy - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2
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The Monroe Doctrine & National Policy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1981, vol. 4, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Monroe Doctrine & National Policy
“The Monroe Doctrine: Domestic Politics or National Decision?” Diplomatic History 5 (Winter 1981): 53–70.
With the publication in 1949 of Samuel Flagg Bemis' John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy, it seemed that all possible controversies concerning the origins of the Monroe Doctrine had been resolved. After close examination of the Adams family papers, Bemis concluded that the declaration of December of 1823 was the joint work of President Adams and Secretary of State Monroe, motivated by the desire to further the international interests of the fledging American republic. He also shared Perkins's view that the rejection of the British proposal for a joint policy statement stemmed from national and international objectives shared by both the president and his advisors.
Recently, however, Ernest R. May has challenged this view in his book The Making of the Monroe Doctrine. May wants to understand the motives behind the American decision to reject a joint statement with the British. He contends that the reaction of the president and his cabinet was shaped by the domestic political interests of the participants, especially those of three active candidates for the presidency: Secretary of State Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford. May argues that American officials knew that foreign intervention in Latin America was unlikely. As a result, they felt confident that they could trumpet their republicanism in this official statement and do little injury to the interests of the country.
Prof. Ammon reexamines the evidence provided by the Adams papers to ascertain whether May's contentions are well-founded. He concludes that May bases his ideas on circumstantial evidence but that the hard evidence of the papers supports the rival position taken by Bemis and Perkins.
Ammon finds that scanty and contradictory American intelligence reports made intervention in Latin America by the French or Spanish seem a distinct possibility. Thus, the American president and many of his advisors believed that the declaration was a response to an actual threat. Furthermore, the refusal to accept a joint statement with the British was most likely motivated by English reluctance to recognize the new revolutionary republics of Latin America, not by any fear of alienating an anti-British electorate. Monroe's characteristic staunchness in defending unpopular principles (as in the debate over Indian rights) does not suggest expediency.
Finally, Ammon points out that Adams' usual paranoia concerning the motives of political enemies appears only rarely in his description of events leading up to Monroe's statement. While he expresses contempt for the crass opportunism of Secretary of State Crawford, he does not voice the slightest suspicion of Calhoun, another political rival.
This evidence suggests that the Monroe Doctrine resulted essentially from considerations of national policy rather than domestic political struggles.