Study Guide

Monroe Doctrine Timeline

By James Monroe

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July 4th, 1776

America Declares Independence

If you don't hear the year "1776" and prick up your history-nerd ears, you have not been paying attention to history lessons.

This date marks the signing of the American Declaration of Independence. The Monroe Doctrine couldn't have happened if there wasn't an America, after all. Monroe's stand also represents an effort, decades later, to make other countries recognize America's place in the world.

October 20th, 1803

Louisiana Purchase

When Napoleon was given a huge amount of land in North America, he soon realized that with everything else he had going on—mainly all those pesky Napoleonic Wars and conquering Europe—he simply wasn't going to be able to manage America, too.

So he sold the land to the U.S., in a treaty negotiated by Robert Livingston and James Monroe, prodded by Thomas Jefferson. The purchase, a steal at only $15 million, doubled the size of the U.S. and began the process of westward expansion.

Bonus: we got all those tasty Louisiana treats like beignets, jumbalaya, and po'boys.

June 22nd, 1807

Attack on the USS Chesapeake

On this date, the HMS Leopard asked to board the American vessel Chesapeake to look for deserters (there actually were some on board).

When the captain refused, the Leopard attacked, killing three American sailors and wounding eighteen, before boarding and seizing British deserters. The attack enraged Thomas Jefferson, John Calhoun, and many others, and contributed heavily to anti-British sentiment leading up to the War of 1812.

September 6th, 1810 - August 24th, 1821

Mexican Independence with the Treaty of Córdoba

Mexico started fighting Spain for independence in 1810, but it wasn't until after the Napoleonic Wars that the rebellion became truly united and could defeat Spanish forces. (Source)

In case you'd forgotten, Mexico is right next to the U.S., and they've been best friends ever since. Just kidding…but Mexico was one of the inspirations for the Monroe Doctrine.

July 5th, 1811

Venezuela Declares Independence

Led by Simon Bolivar, the battle for independence in Venezuela didn't end until 1821, with a few battles even in 1823. Like many other Latin American colonies, native-born Venezuelans took advantage of a weakened Spanish monarchy to fight against colonial exploitation. Venezuela would become one of the Latin American republics Monroe offered to protect in the Monroe Doctrine.

June 18th, 1812 - January 8th, 1815

War of 1812

The "War Hawks" of Congress pushed President Madison to declare war on Britain and France primarily because they were fed up with their violations of maritime agreements and conflicts on America's borders.

This often-forgotten war wasn't the most successful in American history, leading to the burning of Washington D.C. and a harmful blockade of American trade before the Treaty of Ghent finally ended it.

However, the war did inspire The Star-Spangled Banner, so that's a win.

July 9th, 1816

Argentina Declares Independence

Argentina had been fighting for independence from Spain since 1810. The tension was mostly between people of Spanish descent born in the Americas and newly arrived Spaniards, until the people born in the Americas decided to overthrow Spanish rule and establish their own government. (Source)

If you're now hearing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in your head, our mission has succeeded.

March 14th, 1817

James Monroe Inaugurated President of the United States

Just like you can't have the Monroe Doctrine with America, you can't have the Monroe Doctrine without, well, Monroe.

The "Era of Good Feelings" began with his election, although it only lasted a couple years. Fun fact: Monroe was the first president to be inaugurated outdoors, like they do today, although it must have been much more pleasant in March.

April 28th, 1818

Rush-Bagot Treaty Ratified

The Rush-Bagot treaty demilitarized the Great Lakes. It might seem weird to imagine large groups of military ships on the Great Lakes, where people now go to sunbathe and ride those giant tricycle things, but in fact there had been many battles between the American and British naval fleets in that region.

After the war, when the American-British relationship improved (thanks to trade, a.k.a. money), both sides wanted to make the lakes a kinder, gentler place. The treaty also set the border between Canada and the U.S. above the Midwest that still exists today. (Source)


First Seminole War

When Andrew Jackson was sent to stop and recapture runaway slaves hiding with the Seminole tribe in Florida, he took it a step further and invaded, capturing the Spanish fort in Pensacola and generally wreaking havoc and fighting the Native Americans.

Jackson's conduct was questionable because it wasn't clear if he had orders to invade or not, and he claimed Monroe secretly ordered him to do it. Sure, Andrew: everyone totally believes that.

October 20th, 1818

Convention of 1818 Agreement

As exciting as treaties and trade agreements are, this one is probably not going to inspire any movies or an HBO miniseries…but bear with us.

The convention between Britain and America gave the U.S. fishing rights off the eastern coast of Canada (British territory), solidified the border along the Rocky Mountains, and confirmed joint access to Oregon. Yawn, right? (Source)

What does make this agreement exciting is a) it represents a turning point in Anglo-American relations, and b) it shows the U.S. taking steps to solidify its borders and think about its western boundaries.

February 22nd, 1821

Adams-Onís/Transcontinental Treaty Goes into Effect

This treaty was actually written to end the First Seminole War, but wasn't ratified until 1820. There had been previous disputes over whether a part of eastern Florida was included in the Louisiana Purchase.

The Adams-Onís treaty, negotiated by John Quincy Adams and Louis de Onís of Spain, gave all of Florida to the U.S., but renounced any American claims on Texas (whoopsie daisy) and forgave Spanish debt to the U.S. (Source)

In other words, another treaty about borders. You might be noticing a theme here.

July 4th, 1822

John Quincy Adams' Address to Congress

Before the Monroe Doctrine, there was JQA's 4th of July speech, which was kind of ignored by his peers despite stating some of the same ideas that would later be in the president's address.

Adams was reacting to British cultural and political imperialism, building up the U.S. as the defenders of liberty in the west who stay out of those nasty conflicts abroad. You can think of this speech as the Pre-Monroe Doctrine, or the Monroe Doctrine Lite.

August 1823

George Canning Asks for an Alliance With Great Britain

Newly-returned foreign minister of Britain George Canning approached the Monroe administration asking for an alliance to keep European countries from establishing further colonies in the Americas, especially in the newly independent Latin American republics.

Adams convinced Monroe to refuse and make an independent statement of protection for their southern neighbors, leading directly to (drum roll please)...the Monroe Doctrine.

December 2nd, 1823

Monroe's 7th Annual Address to Congress, a.k.a. the Monroe Doctrine

Monroe's speech was responding most directly to George Canning's proposed alliance.

However, the dude was also reacting to America's own desires for world recognition and rumors of European interest in new American colonies. At the time it wasn't there wasn't too much hullabaloo about it, but it was a strong enough statement that it became the foundation of U.S. foreign policy going forward.

December 2nd, 1845

Polk Doctrine

President James K. Polk, in his first annual address to Congress (the guy wasted no time) reaffirmed the Monroe Doctrine by warning European powers to stay away from Oregon, and pretty much anywhere in the vicinity of the United States.

He finally refers to Monroe's idea as a "doctrine" which pretty much stuck until, well, today. This speech is the turning point after which the Monroe Doctrine could add "justification for Manifest Destiny and westward expansion" to its resume.

April 25th, 1846 – February 2nd, 1848

The Mexican-American War

Texas had been an independent republic since 1836 (remember a little event/2004 Dennis Quaid movie about the Alamo?), and was admitted to the union as a state in 1845.

Polk's speech reaffirming the Monroe Doctrine was in response to its new statehood. There were some questions about where its southern border was—the U.S. thought the border was further south than Mexico did.

Eventually, the disagreement turned into a war, which was a prime example of Manifest Destiny in action.

April 25th, 1898 – December 10th, 1898

The Spanish-American War

Cuba and the Philippines had been fighting for independence from Spain for some time. Cuba had even gone through the Ten Years' War (1868-1878) trying to win their autonomy. The U.S. invested a lot into the sugar industry in Cuba in the 1890s, so when the Spanish government clamped down on the population and the economy, Americans got a wee bit upset.

After the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbor (February 1898), things started to move more quickly, and the U.S. declared war. By December, the U.S. had won. The treaty freed Cuba and gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the last of which they controlled with steadily less involvement until 1946. (Source)

December 6th, 1904

Roosevelt Corollary

Apparently major Monroe Doctrine references only happen in December, during messages to Congress.

Here, President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine even further, claiming it also meant that the U.S. would serve as an "international police" for Latin American countries in financial (or really, any) trouble.

Teddy Bear was responding to events in what is now the Dominican Republic, which sought out the U.S. for help paying its debts. Merry Christmas, Latin America.

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