Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

Under President James Monroe, the United States expressed its belief that the Western Hemisphere was, essentially, off limits to European powers, a policy expressed in the Monroe Doctrine.

Under Theodore Roosevelt, the doctrine was expanded to state that the United States would act as a police power in the event that a nation in the Western Hemisphere conducted its affairs irresponsibly. This corollary came when Germany and England attempted to force the repayment of loans made to Venezuela. When Venezuela refused repayment, England and Germany sent their navies to force repayment.

Before sending ships, both governments consulted with Roosevelt, who initially consented to the action. However, American public opinion disagreed with European powers taking military action in the West; many felt this was a direct violation of the Monroe Doctrine.

Roosevelt addressed Congress on December 6, 1904, laying out his corollary, stating that it was the job of the United States to act as a policing force for the Western Hemisphere, and, when necessary, to intervene on behalf of other nations.

On December 3, 1901, Roosevelt had stated the U.S. position as protector of the Western Hemisphere but had also said that the United States would not protect countries that did not conduct themselves in a proper manner.

Specifically, he was referring to countries, in this case Venezuela, that did not make payments on their debts. Roosevelt felt that as long as the punishment did not involve occupation of any land, enforcement should be done by the country that had been wronged.

In the case of Venezuela, this meant letting Germany and England deal with Venezuela's nonpayment on its debt. What Roosevelt did not count on was the strong reaction of the U.S. people and media against this policy.

Monroe doctrin cartoon
Monroe doctrin cartoon
Roosevelt pressured Germany and England to submit their claims to the International Tribunal at The Hague for resolution. The court ruled on February 22, 1904, in favor of Germany and England. When Roosevelt issued his corollary, it allowed the United States to step in and try to take control of the situation.

Roosevelt was concerned with more than just Venezuela. The Dominican Republic was in financial trouble and could not make payments on its loans. Having suffered through several revolutions, the country was in chaos, and collection of tariffs was not happening, so the republic could not make its loan payments.

After talks between the republic and the U.S. State Department, it was decided that the United States should take control of collecting the tariffs to ensure that the holders of the loans received their payments.

The agreement was signed on February 7, 1905, but immediately ran into opposition in the Senate from Democrats. Refusing to act on the treaty, Roosevelt, who was concerned about European intervention, went around

Congress and implemented control of the customs houses without Senate approval. Roosevelt and the Senate Democrats spent most of 1906 arguing whether Roosevelt was subverting the Constitution or not. Finally, in 1907, a new treaty was negotiated that the Senate approved and passed.

Roosevelt's corollary was later replaced by dollar diplomacy under President William Howard Taft.