The Monroe Doctrine: History, Interpretations, Legacy
Frankfurt-am-Main, 1 and 2 December 2023
December 2nd, 2023, will mark the bicentenary of President James Monroe’s famous State of the Union to the U.S. Congress. Out of the 6500 words of his full address, two sentences are remembered as the Monroe Doctrine: « no future colonization by any European power » in the American continents and « not to interfere in the internal concerns » of any other countries.
Over twenty years after Monroe’s pronouncement, the doctrine was invoked by President James Polk in a 1845 speech to Congress, but this time he cited it to outline expansionist designs in Latin America.
Later on, the principle of non-interference marked the separation of the Americas from Europe and the rise of geographical spheres of political and economic influence. The Monroe Doctrine also reinforced the principle of non-intervention as opposed to the European Concert of Powers collectively authorizing armed intervention in Italy and Spain after the congresses of Ljubljana and Verona.
Monroe’s speech had great resonance upon political writers and jurists all over the world such as Friedrich Gentz who identified it as “a document which will make an epoch in the history of our time”. Indeed, the Monroe Doctrine would be re-discussed and re-interpreted at the turn of the century (1880-1910), especially within the Roosevelt Corollary of the doctrine which legitimized U.S. hemispheric interventions that were becoming ever more frequent in the 1910’s.
After WW I, the doctrine reached newfound prominence in Article 21 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which stated that “Nothing in this Covenant shall be deemed to affect the validity of international engagements, such as treaties of arbitration or regional understandings like the Monroe doctrine, for securing the maintenance of peace”.
Within the debate between regionalism and universalism of international law, the principle of non-intervention became a legal norm (Art. 8 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States; Arts. 2(1) and 2(7) of the UN Charter) and a tool of monitoring political violence.
As Juan Pablo Scarfi pointed out recently, “although the bicentenary of the Monroe Doctrine is approaching in 2023, we have not seen much significant scholarly discussion over its legacy in recent years”. Indeed, shortcomings remain in regard to academic research on the Monroe Doctrine. Especially in a transnational and multidisciplinary (economic, juridical, cultural, and political) perspective within the broader scope of the Monroe Doctrine which could be seen also as an institutional containment of violence.
In order to examine the legacy of the Monroe doctrine two hundred years after its pronouncement, this conference will address three main questions and sections: