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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, 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 toward the United States.
The essential point of the Monroe Doctrine was that, in defense of those democratic institutions to which America was committed, the United States would oppose the extension of the European political system to this continent. The most notable attempt to extend the political system of Europe to America occurred during the Civil War, when Emperor Napoleon III, by means of the French army, established an Austrian prince in Mexico on the ruins of her former republican institutions. Against this enterprise the United States protested vigorously, and the grounds of this protest were clearly stated by Secretary Seward in 1865:
The real cause of our natural discontent is, that the French army which is now in Mexico is invading a domestic republican government there which was established by her people ... for the avowed purpose of suppressing it and establishing upon its ruins a foreign monarchical government, whose presence there, so long as it should endure, could not but be regarded by the people of the United States as injurious and menacing to their own chosen and endeared republican institutions. ... The people of every State on the American continent have a right to secure for themselves a republican government if they choose, and ... interference by foreign states to prevent the enjoyment of such institutions deliberately established is wrongful, and in its effects antagonistical to the free and popular form of government existing in the United States.
The United States has thus defended the less powerful states of America from European intervention; but these less powerful states might well ask, and have sometimes asked, what guaranty they could have against intervention from the United States herself. They might well ask whether the United States was not interested in preventing the European powers from extending their political system to South America in order that her own political influence might be extended there. The conduct of the United States has too often justified this fear. The unjustifiable war with Mexico in 1846 was the most notable example of those instances in which the United States has employed its greater power to further its own interests at the expense of weak neighbors. But on the whole, the United States has not greatly abused its assumed position of supremacy in the affairs of the American continents, and President Wilson has taken repeated occasion to reassure the small states of America in respect to the future policy of the United States. Above all, his Mexican policy has been based frankly upon the principle that the people of Mexico may look to the United States for protection against European interference without fearing that she will herself interfere in their affairs. His attitude was clearly expressed in an address delivered on January 8, 1915:
I hold it as a fundamental principle, and so do you, that every people has the right to determine its own form of government; and until this recent revolution in Mexico, until the end of the Diaz régime, 80 per cent. of the people of Mexico never had a "look-in” in determining who should be their governor or what their government should be. Now, I am for the 80 per cent. It is none of my business, and it is none of your business, how long they take in determining it. It is none of my business and it is none of yours how they go about the business. The country is theirs. The government is theirs. The liberty, if they can get it, and God speed them in getting it, is theirs. And so far as my influence goes while I am President nobody shall interfere with them. ..
Do you suppose that the American people are ever going to count a small amount of material benefit and advantage to people doing business in Mexico against the permanent happiness of the Mexican people? Have not European nations taken as long as they wanted and spilled as much blood as they pleased
in settling their own affairs, and shall we deny that to Mexico because she is weak? No, I say! I am proud to belong to a strong nation that says: “This country, which we could crush, shall have just as much freedom in her own affairs as we have. If I am strong, I am ashamed to bully the weak. In proportion to my strength is my pride in withholding that strength from the oppression of another people.”
An episode in recent years which might well give the states of South America reason to fear the United States occurred in connection with the construction of the Panama Canal. In order to build that long-delayed and highly desirable highway to the Pacific, it was necessary to obtain a concession from the state of Colombia. The state of Colombia, doubtless desiring to make as good a bargain as possible, refused to ratify a treaty which had been negotiated; whereupon the government of the United States encouraged, if it did not instigate, a petty revolution in that country, and hastened overnight to recognize the new Republic of Panama, from which the concession for the canal was at once obtained. The state of Colombia has sought, but so far has not obtained, any redress in the matter; but a treaty providing for compensation has long been before the Senate of the United States, and in his address to Congress in December, 1918, President Wilson urged upon the Senate the ratification of the treaty. Certainly the compensation provided in the treaty is the least the United States should rightly do to make good an act that can only be described as high-handed aggression against a weak neighbor.
The Panama episode is one of many which make it impossible to maintain that the United States has invariably acted with chastened purposes and worthy aims, or that it has never invoked the Monroe Doctrine except for the disinterested and ideal purpose of defending democratic institutions. Nor can it be denied that the policy embodied in the Monroe Doctrine has been an expression of our material interests. The Monroe Doctrine is based upon material interests precisely as much or as little as democracy itself. It may be safely said, however, that in the crucial instances of the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine one essential and determining influence has been the incompatibility of European and American political institutions and ideals, and fundamentally our policy has been to protest against the extension of the European political system to America because, on account of the incompatibility, such an extension would endanger our institutions as well as our interests. In this sense, the Monroe Doctrine has been the expression of that