U.S. opposes Europe's threats

The time seemed to have come in 1823 for action that would head off the threatened invasion of Latin America by third parties in behalf of Spain. On December 2, Monroe delivered to Congress his annual message, several passages of which constitute the original Monroe Doctrine. The principal points in this declaration were, in Monroe's own words:

  1. "The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers."
  2. "The political system of the allied powers is essentially different ... from that of America... 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."
  3. "With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere."
  4. "In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so."

While the Monroe Doctrine was clarifying American policy in world affairs, domestic interest was centered on the coming presidential campaign. A close contest among five candidates including Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, resulted in the election of the learned, experienced, and statesmanlike but stubbornly intractable John Quincy Adams. A man of extraordinary talents, fine character, and great public spirit, he was handicapped by his icy austerity, brusque manners, and violent prejudices.

During his administration, new party alignments took shape. The followers of Adams assumed the name of National Republicans, later to be replaced by that of Whigs, and the Jacksonians gave a new character to the Democratic Party. Adams governed honestly and efficiently. However, he strove in vain to institute a national system of roads and canals. His administration was one long campaign for the next election, but his coldly intellectual temperament did not win friends, and the election of 1828 was like an earthquake, the Jackson forces so overwhelming Adams and his supporters.

The self-reliant backwoodsmen who had built the commonwealths west of the Alleghenies had written into their constitutions the democratic ideas of the frontier. By 1828, the influence of their philosophy had brought about the enfranchisement of the masses in most of the old states. Since the war of 1812, the west had held the balance of power in the Union. Now the political center of gravity, like the center of population, definitely left the seabord as the youthful democracy of the west came of age. Aided by supporters in the east, it placed Jackson, the very personification of the spirit of the frontier, in the Chief Executive's chair.