The Monroe and Polk Doctrines - RR144L22

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 22. The Monroe & Polk Doctrines
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 22
Length: 0:40:49
TapeCode: RR144L22
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(2).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

This morning we shall begin by dealing with the Monroe doctrine briefly. The Monroe doctrine was promulgated on December 2, 1823 by President Monroe. He was influenced in this act by his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. The reason for the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine was the recent independence of a number of Latin American states. They had broken away from Spain, and there was some fear that attempts would be made to restore them to Spanish rule.

Spain at this time was a decadent empire, inefficient, incompetent to a great extent, and unable to do anything to restore its own power over Latin America. there was some fear however that the holy alliance of Russia, Prussia, and Austria might move against these newly formed states in order to try to subjugate them once again to Spain. The problem at the time was that the powers of Europe were very deeply disturbed by the recent events on the continent, the French Revolution and the aftermath of the French revolution. Their fear was that any kind of independence movement would lead to a world wide desire on the part of people to find independence of their rulers, their monarchs.

And so they felt that whatever their personal differences it was necessary for the great powers, the monarchs, to come together to oppose any move, anywhere in the world, by any people, to overthrow the power of an empire or a monarchy. [00:02:45]

They felt there was a dangerous current abroad of revolution...[edit]

They felt there was a dangerous current abroad of revolution, and hence their desire to move against any group that had declared its independence of Spain. There was thus, a very real problem. On top of that one of these three powers was Czarist Russia. You will recall yesterday that when we dealt with the fact of the number of flags that had flown over California, one of them was Russia. There was some fear also that Russia would attempt to expand its powers along the pacific coast. And therefore the Monroe doctrine was promulgated.

Now the Monroe Doctrine has until fairly recently remained as one of the corner stones of American foreign policy. It does not have the status of law, it was not approved by Congress, there was no need to approve it. It was simply a presidential statement, together with his secretary of State, to the powers of the world.

However although the Monroe doctrine has never had any legal status, its power in American History has been considerable in that it has been a summary statement of basic American policy. The Monroe doctrine has in essence four main points, first, the Monroe Doctrine declares that there shall be no future colonization in the Americas, north south and central, by a European power. Implied in this of course was the idea that any foreign power was barred from the Americas. At that time there was no possibility of any Asiatic power being involved. So in essence the idea was: “The America’s belong to the Americas.” That therefore any attempt by Spain or any combination of foreign powers to interfere with these newly established Latin American states would not be permitted by the United States. [00:05:57]

Then, second. No attempt would be permitted to extend the European political systems to the Americas. Now you see this is a little different than saying that no European power would be allowed to Colonize. What it in effect means, is that we are not going to permit their political ideas to be propagated and furthered in the Americas, to illustrate: This would mean if applied in our time that we would not permit, say Communism, to take over any of the Americas. In terms of the Monroe doctrine we should not have tolerated Castro’s coming to power because it meant that a Marxist state allied to the Soviet Union now had established a beach head in the Americas. The same would have been true in the 1930’2 of any attempt to try and establish Nazism or Fascism in the Americas. This means of course that we have not been so strict about establishing this policy in recent years; as a matter of fact we shall see that to all practical intent we have abandoned the Monroe doctrine.

But, first, no colonization, second the political systems of Europe cannot be adopted in the Americas, or allowed to extend themselves to the Americas, and third: We promised, however, that we would not interfere with existing European colonies. Thus we said we would not interfere with the British colonies, the Dutch colonies, the Spanish colonies, or any existing ones. So that any colonies that still remained belonged to the mother country and we would not interfere. Thus in effect we were saying: “We recognize the status quo.”

Now in a sense we did not abide by this somewhat later, what did we do to interfere with one colony? One aspect of an empire? In fact we went to war over it. Can anyone think of what war we fought with the European empire to help free on of their colonies? Good you didn’t fail me. The Spanish American War. Now we had various excuses, and we won’t have time to go into that, but we did claim that there were extenuating circumstances in that war, so that it was not a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. And yet it can be argued that in the Spanish American War, we did not abide by our promise to avoid interference with existing European colonies. [00:10:04]

Then, fourth: In the Monroe Doctrine, we declared that we are not concerned with Europe’s quarrels. If Europe is having a war, and a quarrel, a division, we declared that we are neutral to it, we are not involved nor do we intend to get involved. This of course makes clear what we have done in recent years to the Monroe Doctrine. In World War 1 we did get involved, in World War 2 we got involved. In the Korean War and in the Vietnam War we became involved in foreign affairs, foreign wars. And in our diplomatic policy we have been involved in the Suez crisis and in a number of other crises in recent years where we are definitely concerning ourselves with European quarrels, and with the quarrels of various powers of the world.

So, to a very real degree the Monroe Doctrine is now no longer operative. Not because any foreign power has violated it, but because the United States itself has consistently violated, especially the latter part of the doctrine, this fourth point. Yet ironically we have not abided by our pledge with regard to the second point. For example Chile, was taken over by a Communist regime. True it was voted in, but it was very closely allied to foreign Marxism, in a very real sense it involved a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, and yet we abstained from action in the name of non-interference in foreign affairs while at the same time we were involved in a foreign war in Asia.

So the Monroe Doctrine, a very remarkable step in the diplomatic position of the United States was under cut and to all practical intent nullified by the United States itself. This is why although you know about the Monroe Doctrine, unless the country changes drastically in the next 10 or 20 years, your children may know very little about it, it may be a forgotten doctrine. Dropped out of the history books because nobody is concerned about it, it’s dead, and it is a part of our history that perhaps no one will bother to remember.

This has happened to the Polk Doctrine. President James Knox Polk, who was president from 1845 to 1849, Promulgated the Polk Doctrine. Now it is important for us to deal briefly with the Polk Doctrine, to understand what it means. We touched upon an important aspect of European policy, and politics when we dealt with the balance of power. To review briefly, balance of power politics is that type of politics where various powers have determined that they shall have the ascendency. They shall have the primacy on the continent of Europe, and if any other power decides to rise to challenge them, they will help a third power gain additional strength in order to attack the second power, the idea being that your rivals are to cancel each other out. [00:14:54]

We saw how Louis the ...[edit]

We saw how Louis the 14th used the balance of power, how Britain especially who was the dominant force in Europe for some time, used the balance of power to destroy the old French Monarchy, then to destroy Napoleon, then in World War 1, or even after the destruction of Napoleon, to destroy Napoleon the Third when Napoleon the Third became very powerful, to destroy Czar Wilhelm and his German Empire, to destroy Nazi Germany after Nazi Germany had risen to power as a result of their manipulation, and also to foster with Churchill’s famous Westminster College speech, the Cold War between the USSR, the Soviet Union, and the US.

Now, the Polk doctrine is concerned with this balance of power politics. At that time Texas had become an independent country. Territorially Texas has more than enough power to be an independent country. It is bigger than many nations in Europe. But, territory does not determine strength. Resources, industrial capacity and other factors do. As a result Texas while technically an independent country, in reality did not have the ability to remain independent.

Texas was mostly cattle, a small amount of farming. Its resources were limited; the government could not exist very well in those days in particular, without foreign subsidies. Now one of the interesting facts is that immediately Texas had all kinds of friends. As a matter of fact, Britain was ready to lend all kinds of money to Texas.

In effect what the British policy would’ve done was to make Texas more or less a branch of the British Empire to all practical intent without any violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Texas would’ve been so financially dependent upon Britain. The Texas policy would’ve been dictated by British policy. Texas would’ve been involved then in the balance of power politics of Europe. It would’ve meant that whenever Britain needed to exercise any pressure on the United States, It would have a lever right down in the South West in Texas. This posed a tremendous threat. It mean that without colonizing and taking over Texas, Britain now had a tremendous means of using force against the United States, exercising pressure.

Polk was immediately aware of the threat. Moreover President Polk recognized that technically, there was no violation of the Monroe Doctrine, so that he could not say to the British government: “You have violated the Monroe Doctrine, and we protest.” Of course the British government could always say: ‘We don’t recognize the Monroe Doctrine’ and have been accurate. But on the other hand the British government knew that a policy of the United States that had been laid down as their basic polity with regard to the Americas, if they did violate it it was going to mean some kind of conflict and trouble.

But, by financing Texas, by using this round-about means, they were not violating the Monroe Doctrine. So Polk declared, as the Polk Doctrine, the other great cornerstone of American foreign policy in the last Century: “No country in the Americas can be involved in the European balance of power politics.” In other words, not only are the European powers to stay out of the Americas, unless they already have a colony, but they cannot involve the Americas in the balance of power politics. [00:20:57]

That’s the Polk doctrine, very simply...[edit]

That’s the Polk doctrine, very simply. But extremely important. Well, again we destroyed the Polk Doctrine. We got ourselves involved in a number of things, where the balance of power was at stake. Theodore Roosevelt was the first to do this. Does anyone know what War he involved us in without military action on our part, but to intervene? To protect one country from defeat and to establish a balance of power? This is not an easy question, do a little thinking.

Theodore Roosevelt charged in as the peace maker and saved one country who had won early victories from radical defeat, and made a great nation out of it when previously it had been of no consequence in the world. This was early in the 1900’s. No, you’re partly right about one of the countries involved, Russia. What war was Russia involved in? Can anyone think? I’ve given you half the answer. Doesn’t anyone know? Don’t you know?

[Rushdoony] What? …. No, it was before, some years before. The Russo Japanese War. Now what happened in this war, and the Russo Japanese war, which was fought of course on the Pacific coast, the Japanese attacked Russia. Well, that’s not necessarily the case, but the two countries went to war. And immediately the Japanese took the attack. Russia because its center was in Europe had a real problem in getting supplies to the Pacific coast. So in the early stages of the war, Russia took one staggering defeat after another because it was so far from the battle line.

Now, the results were quite disastrous to Russian moral as well as to Russian prestige all over the world. Russia was one of the great powers of the world and here a little far Eastern country, up until now no consequence in the world affairs, was beating them badly!

However, as the war progressed to a certain point it became very obvious that Japan was going to be overwhelmed. Why? Because the Russians were slowly getting the men and the equipment across Siberia, and as they moved this vast amount of equipment and man across Siberia to the war front, it was clear now they were going to be in a position to overwhelm and to defeat Japan thoroughly.

The great powers did not want this. Their attitude was that it would be nothing short of a disaster for Russia to defeat Japan and to have the door opened to taking a big bite into China on the next go around. And so bidding was “We have got to do something there! We have got to prevent this Japanese victory from being turned into a defeat and a collapse. Therefore some kind of interference should take place here.” And so they prevailed upon Roosevelt, who foolishly felt that it was a great honor to be asked by the great nations to play the role of a peacemaker, to step in there and stop the war before anything happened, in the name of “world peace”. [00:26:50]

And so Russia was stopped by pressure from the great...[edit]

And so Russia was stopped by pressure from the great powers and the United States from going any further and turning a defeat into a victory. Since then, we have made the same very serious blunder, and we have saved a country from radical defeat. Does anyone know when this happened? This time it was the Russians who asked us to do it. We played peacemaker and created no end of trouble.

[audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] Egypt! Yes, in the Israeli war just recently, at the very first things went badly for the Israeli because they were caught by surprise. Then, things began to turn around. The Israeli armies were marching toward Damascus and especially in Egypt, they had crossed the west, the Egyptian armies were in panic and in flight, Egyptian resistance was collapsing, and there was nothing to prevent the Israeli from over whelming all Egyptian forces. So at that point when we didn’t fully appreciate -because we had such poor intelligence- we didn’t fully appreciate how far gone the Egyptian situation was, we stepped in at the request of the Soviet Union and saved their friend Egypt and at that point Kissinger was made into a total fool and Nixon as well! Now the only thing we gained out of it was that the Arab powers, instead of being grateful to us, promptly hit us with an oil embargo.

So it was a thorough act of stupidity and it was a violation of our historic foreign policy. So you see--- Yes?

[audience member speaks] [?] Military aid... [?

[Rushdoony] Not necessarily, if we sell them things on a cash basis. On an economic basis. We maintained that right to trade in the war of eighteen twelve.

Now there was another famous example in the last century of an attempt by foreign powers to violate both the Monroe and the Polk doctrine. And its real purpose was to destroy the U.S.! Does anyone know what that attempt was? This is an extremely important thing. Very, very important. It concerned Mexico. What happened in Mexico during the civil war?


[Rushdoony] Yes?

[audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] True. Now, who were they using as a front there?

[audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] Yes, but what individual? Who became emperor of Mexico during the civil war? Did I hear someone speak... yes--- [00:30:57]

[Audience member speaks]...[edit]

[Audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] Maximilian! Good for you. Now, when we became involved in the civil war, one of the immediate results was of course that there was a great deal of European support for the South. This support was not premised on any feeling of sympathy for the south or being pro southern. The whole point of the European support for the south and the hostility to the Union was “This young country, the United States, is getting too powerful. If we see it split, if we help it to split, we will keep this country from becoming too strong. And possibly it will help us again to treat the America’s as an area where we can interfere at will.” In other words we can nullify the Polk and Monroe doctrines; we can treat the America’s as open country. As a result, when the war continued it was apparent that there was not going to be a quick victory, that it was going to be a long drawn out affair that could possibly lead to a Union defeat; the powers of Europe- Britain, France, Spain, Austria and others exclusive of Russia (this time Russia did not go in because the Czar was pro American) supported Maximilian of Austria.

Maximilian was sent to Mexico with an expeditionary force of foreign troops, to be made emperor. Now Maximilian was a naive soul and he sincerely believed what his foreign advisers kept telling him “Max, the people love you. You’re going to be the great benefactor of Mexico! They need a wise and intelligent ruler like you!” As a result, later when the foreign troops were pulled out, Maximilian was foolish enough to believe that the people there wanted him. Well they wanted him to kill, so they promptly executed him. And his empress Carlotta, who had taken the ship and gone back, went from one court in Europe to another pleading for help for her husband. She lost her senses and lived insane the rest of her life. I believe she died in the nineteen twenty’s, and this was in the eighteen sixties.

However Maximilian was sent to Mexico with foreign troops and the point was that he was to build base there from which not only was there a threat to the United States, but if and when the war ended, a weakened United States could very easily be challenged by the foreign powers from Mexico with highly professional foreign troops. The threat was very real. As a matter of fact, in much of the union the feeling was that the country was finished. The irrespective of what happened in the war with the south which was under way. The union was finished! The European powers through Maximilian were going to destroy the United States.

Now there were good grounds for such fears. What would happen?

[Audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] Right. I think I’ve discussed this with you once, a few years ago.-- Yes?

[Audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] The Czar sent the Navy to sea with sealed orders. One fleet -the pacific fleet- was told to go to San Francisco, the other was sent to ports on the Atlantic, Boston and I believe Washington D.C. [00:35:43]

Well, consider what this meant when a great navy landed...[edit]

Well, consider what this meant when a great navy landed at both ends of the United States. The accounts of the day tell us that when the fleet landed, America’s in Boston, San Francisco, and elsewhere met the Russian sailors with tears. Women were going up and kissing the Russian sailors and crying, “We’ve been saved, we’ve been saved!” and with good reason. They had been. The Czar had actually saved America and this instituted a period of very great friendship for a long time with Russia on the part of the U.S. because at a critical point in our history, when the foreign powers were ready to destroy us the Czar of Russia had come to our rescue.

Now, when this happened, the immediate reaction of the foreign powers was “We cannot do it, because we have a power behind us there Russia to the east of Europe with its vast army and we have the Russian fleet there, San Francisco and on the Atlantic Coast so they immediately gave orders to their troops in Mexico to with draw. They withdrew, and the result was the collapse of Maximilian’s government. He was urged by the foreign advisers to leave the country and he said “No, my place is here with my people. They love me!” Well, he was immediately taken prisoner by them and Juarez refused to allow any quarter to be given unto him, and his execution took place.

Now, there was another thing that Russia did for us at that time, and we did for them apparently as a favor. So it was to be a mutual favor to indicate their friendship. Does anyone know what this other Russian act was?


Yes? [00:38:23]

[audience member speaks]...[edit]

[audience member speaks]

[Rushdoony] Yes! The purchase of Alaska. To indicate their co-operation and their feeling that the United States should have a future determination of this continent, Russia offered Alaska for sale to us and we, as a favor to Russia, to indicate our appreciation of what they did, bought it. Now even then as you recall from your U.S. history, there were Americans who criticized what they called sure folly- to have bought that vast hunk of ice, Alaska. Which turned out to be one of the greatest assets the United States had, a gold rush, the fur, and so on and now of course an even more important asset in terms of our enormous energy crisis, Alaskan oil. The wealth we gained there was enormous. And all of this is a part of the Czars feeling of the necessity of defending the United States the extent of influence this had on this country was so great that even when the Russian revolution took place there were many people who were ready to be friendly to Lenin and his regime because the sentiment in America intensely pro-Russian. Russia was our friend- that was the feeling. And indeed in the last century Russia did demonstrate itself to be one of our greatest friends, this, in spite of the fact that we had under Theodore Roosevelt, done Russia more than a little damage in the settlement of the Russo-Japanese war.

Now we’ll stop for a few moments for questions. [Tape Ends] [00:40:37]