Latin America and the Monroe DoctrineDuring the opening decades of the 19th century, Central and South America turned to revolution. The idea of liberty had stirred the people of Latin America from the time the English colonies gained their freedom. Napoleon's conquest of Spain in 1808 provided the signal for Latin Americans to rise in revolt. By 1822, ably led by Simon Bolivar, Francisco Miranda, Jose de San Martin and Miguel Hidalgo, all of Hispanic America -- from Argentina and Chile in the south to Mexico and California in the north -- had won independence from the mother country.
The people of the United States took a deep interest in what seemed a repetition of their own experience in breaking away from European rule. The Latin American independence movements confirmed their own belief in self-government. In 1822 President James Monroe, under powerful public pressure, received authority to recognize the new countries of Latin America -- including the former Portuguese colony of Brazil -- and soon exchanged ministers with them. This recognition confirmed their status as genuinely independent countries, entirely separated from their former European connections.
At just this point, Russia, Prussia and Austria formed an association called the Holy Alliance to protect themselves against revolution. By intervening in countries where popular movements threatened monarchies, the Alliance -- joined at times by France -- hoped to prevent the spread of revolution into its dominions. This policy was the antithesis of the American principle of self-determination.
The American continents...are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.
We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their [political] 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, and whose independence we have...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 toward the United States.
The Monroe Doctrine expressed a spirit of solidarity with the newly independent republics of Latin America. These nations in turn recognized their political affinity with the United States by basing their new constitutions, in many instances, on the North American model.