Roosevelt Corollary


Roosevelt Corollary
   President Theodore Roosevelt ’s codicil to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which ordained that the Western Hemisphere was the domain of the United States and that it would police the area to the exclusion of other powers. The corollary built on the Monroe Doctrine’s original premise that the Western Hemisphere should not be within Europe’s sphere of influence but has variously been described as skewing, reinterpreting, and perverting its original intent. It was formally espoused in his annual message to Congress on December 6, 1904. Roosevelt stated that adherence to the Monroe Doctrine “may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrong doing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”
   Roosevelt’s Corollary bore the hallmarks of his sense of mission and keen historical interest in the role of the United States in the Western hemisphere. As such it was a manifestation of a wider conception of United States security attributed to the thinking of Alfred Thayer Mahan, which placed an emphasis on security beyond the immediate shores of the nation. After the Royal Navy’s withdrawal from the region, the president shared Mahan’s view of an implicit agreement with Great Britain based on shared values and an Atlanticist outlook.
   Following the conclusion of the Spanish-American war of 1898, which had seen the United States post its intent to use military force in the area, Roosevelt was motivated by a desire to protect the Panama Canal. This became a rationale itself for preventing a European presence in the approaches to the canal that stretched throughout the Caribbean and to the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. Roosevelt was also concerned that the internal weaknesses of the Latin American Republics, particularly in the field of economics following European pressure to collect debts in the 1902–1903 Venezuelan affair and in 1903 in the Dominican Republic, could provide a rationale to the Europeans to insist on intervention. This reinforced in Roosevelt’s mind the importance of legitimating America’s capacity to intervene across the region.
   For Roosevelt this was not new. In May 1904, Secretary of State Elihu Root had read a letter from the president to the Cuba Society of New York stating “Brutal wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of a civilized society, may finally require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the United States cannot ignore this duty.” In these words it is possible to both Roosevelt’s zeal and a benevolent quality to his corollary, despite it having imperial overtones at the same time. This latter quality did not go unnoticed in Latin America and gave rise to considerable anti-American feeling when the United States subsequently intervened militarily. For good or ill, therefore, the Roosevelt Corollary marked United States assuming an unchallenged position of preeminence in the Western Hemisphere.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Marks, Frederick W. Velvet on Iron: The Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979;
    Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex. New York: Random House, 2001;
    Ricard, Serge. “The Roosevelt Corollary.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 36/1 (2006).
   J. SIMON ROFE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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