The Roosevelt Corollary was an addition to the Monroe Doctrine articulated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. It asserted the right of the United States to intervene in Latin America to maintain economic and political stability. The Roosevelt Corollary sent a message to the rest of the world that the United States intended to be the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere and would act as an “international police power” to ensure countries maintained their financial obligations.
Background on the Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine was established in 1823 and stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed by the United States as acts of aggression. It was intended to free the newly independent colonies of Latin America from European intervention.
The doctrine was issued by President James Monroe during his seventh annual State of the Union address to Congress. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams was a major architect of the doctrine.
Circumstances Leading to the Roosevelt Corollary
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the United States emerged as a world power. As U.S. interests expanded to the Caribbean and Latin America, there was concern about European nations interfering in the affairs of Latin American countries.
The United States also wanted to ensure the financial stability of nations in the region. There were growing concerns that instability and defaulting on foreign loans by some Latin American countries would prompt European intervention.
Main Points of the Roosevelt Corollary
The Roosevelt Corollary asserted the following:
- The United States would intervene as a last resort to stabilize the financial affairs of small states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts.
- The United States had the right to exercise “international police power” to stop chronic unrest or wrongdoing in the Western Hemisphere.
- The United States would intervene militarily to stop European powers from using force to collect debt payments.
Rationales for the Roosevelt Corollary
There were several rationales behind the Roosevelt Corollary:
- To declare the United States as the main power in the Western Hemisphere and the dominant player in the Americas.
- To justify U.S. intervention and domination in Latin America.
- To prevent military intervention by European creditors seeking repayment of Latin American debt.
- To protect U.S. interests by bringing stability to the region through financial oversight and control.
U.S. Military Interventions
Between 1898 and 1934, the U.S. government launched numerous military interventions in Latin America citing the Roosevelt Corollary as justification. Some examples:
- Cuba – Military forces installed a naval base in Cuba after the Spanish-American War in 1898.
- Panama – The U.S. supported Panama’s declaration of independence from Colombia in 1903 to gain control of land to build the Panama Canal.
- Dominican Republic – Troops occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916-1924 to collect customs duties and control government finances.
- Nicaragua – U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912-1933 to suppress rebel forces and oversee elections.
Effects of the Roosevelt Corollary
The Roosevelt Corollary impacted the Americas in the following ways:
- Expanded U.S. economic interests and investments in Latin America.
- Increased anti-American sentiment in Latin America through U.S. domination and exploitation.
- Allowed the U.S. to control and shape political and economic policies in the region.
- The U.S. essentially treated Latin American nations as dependent states that required oversight.
The Roosevelt Corollary was a bold assertion of an enlarged American role in the Western Hemisphere. It proclaimed the United States as the dominant force in the Americas and justified U.S. interventionism throughout Latin America. The message it sent to the rest of the world was that the United States would act as an international police power and shape the affairs of Latin American nations, whether they liked it or not. While the Corollary reflected Roosevelt’s big stick ideology and America’s emergence as a world power, it damaged relations with Latin America for years to come.