IN seven of the twenty republics of Latin America constitutional government was overthrown by revolution during the twelve months ending with February 1931. In only four of these seven countries has there been any semblance of constitutional procedure to establish governments to take the place of those overthrown by force. These four are the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Bolivia and Panama. The elections in the Dominican Republic, conducted by the military oligarchy that had gained control of the provisional government, were patently fraudulent and were so declared by the courts of the country; and of the other three cases, only in Guatemala and to a limited extent in Bolivia were the people afforded a free opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of the new régime. In the remaining three countries -- Argentina, Brazil and Peru -- national elections have not yet been held to ascertain the will of the people regarding the radical changes of government. In Peru the revolutionary habit has been growing at such a rapid pace that there have been three successive revolutionary régimes since President Leguia was forced to resign on August 25 of last year.

With the exception of Honduras, where a revolution is in progress as this is written, the remaining republics have escaped open revolution during the past few years. In several of them there is restlessness and discontent -- augmented in part by the present economic depression -- which is a menace to governmental stability. In some of them armed revolts have been prevented only by forceful executives. The only countries where domestic peace appears to prevail are Venezuela, where subservience to the dictatorship of General Juan Vicente Gomez has existed for a generation; Colombia, where a Liberal Progressive government under the able leadership of Dr. Olaya Herrera has recently been inaugurated; the Central American republics of Costa Rica and Salvador; and Haiti, where the American occupation renders revolution impossible.

Unstable political conditions in Latin America do not merely deprive the citizens and residents of the countries in question of the benefits of ordered liberty and of security of life and property; they retard their economic development. This, in turn, has repercussions on the welfare of other nations. The United States, on account of its geographical situation and its political, commercial and financial interests, is particularly affected by political and economic instability in any part of the Western Hemisphere.

The Latin American peoples unquestionably have the right and duty to regulate their own national affairs and to determine their own destiny; but the political and economic power of the United States is such that the policies of this Government and the activities and interests of its nationals must necessarily have a considerable effect on the political and economic life of the other peoples of this hemisphere. It therefore is part of the duty and interest of this nation to wield its power with justice and wisdom and to extend a friendly and helpful hand to its sister republics, to which it is bound by so great a community of interest. Only thus can be created the mutual confidence and good will which is a prerequisite to healthy political relations and to fruitful trade and commerce.

Mr. Hoover, while still President-elect, showed that he realized the importance of cultivating the friendship of the Latin American republics by personally visiting the majority of them. Many in this country hoped and believed that his tour, frequently termed "a mission of good will," was to mark the beginning of a new era in our relations with Latin America. It was felt that such a demonstration of friendly interest by a future President of the United States would appeal to the sentiment of the people of South America and that as a result of a first hand knowledge of conditions and a personal acquaintance with the statesmen in the countries visited, he would have an invaluable background for dealing with Latin American problems. Yet during the two years that have elapsed since Mr. Hoover took office there has been no positive improvement in our relations with Latin America. On the contrary, there is no outward evidence of any amelioration of the hostility towards the United States which had been rising during the last years of the Coolidge Administration. Indeed, it is fair to say that the resentment which had earlier existed against the restrictions placed by this Government upon the importation of goods from certain Latin American countries has been greatly intensified by the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

When, therefore, it was announced that the Secretary of State, Mr. Stimson, would address the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on February 6 last on the subject of "The United States and the Other American Republics," it was expected that he would emphasize the importance of Pan-American solidarity and perhaps indicate what steps were to be taken to improve existing conditions, or at least that he would explain certain actions of the Administration with regard to Latin America which had seemed hard for many Latin Americans and other interested persons to understand.

The address[i] of Secretary Stimson consisted of three parts -- the first, a brief and rather partial history of our relations with the republics of Latin America; the second, an announcement that the Administration had determined upon a reversal of the policy which had previously existed with regard to the recognition of new governments in South America; the third, a declaration of the policy of this Government with regard to the export of arms and munitions to Latin American countries in the throes of civil war, this last being in its essentials a restatement of principles already established by previous Administrations. No indication was given by Secretary Stimson that there were other and still more important questions which even more seriously affect our relations with Latin America.

The portion of his address which attracted most attention was that dealing with the general subject of recognition. In this he declared, in effect, that the present Administration had abandoned the policy of fostering the growth of democratic institutions and orderly government initiated by President Wilson and carried on by Secretary Hughes; and that instead of being guided by the principles on which the former policy was based it had adopted the rule of extending immediate recognition to a new government on purely technical grounds without regard to its legal status or the effect which recognition would have on the development of orderly government or on the rights and welfare of the peoples concerned. In other words, it might be assumed that whatever person or group were in possession of the reins of government, however they had obtained them, had the right and the power to hold them.

The question of extending recognition to a newly established government is not, as is generally supposed, a highly technical legal problem beyond lay understanding. It is essentially simple. As Secretary Stimson stated, "The recognition of a new government within a state arises in practice only when a government has been changed or established by revolution or by a coup d'état." As he also stated, the generally established policy of this country, from the days of Washington to the end of the Taft Administration, has been to base the act of recognition of a new government, not upon constitutional legitimacy but upon de facto control of the administrative machinery of the state; upon its ability and willingness to discharge its international obligations; and, finally, upon the general acquiescence of its people. The first two of these conditions precedent to recognition are questions of fact which can be readily determined. Mr. Stimson has shown, by his declaration of policy and by his action in recognizing the governments which have come into power by revolution in the last year, that he considers the failure or inability of the people to make evident their opposition to the new régime is all that the United States Government need require as proof that a new government merits recognition.

We may assume that in determining the facts of the various situations with which he has had to deal the Secretary of State has been guided by the opinions of American diplomatic agents; that he has deemed stability of government in each Latin American state to be of paramount interest to the United States; and that he has believed that the withholding of recognition would tend not only to create further instability and a lack of confidence both at home and abroad, but that it might engender a hostile attitude towards the United States which would be detrimental to our political and commercial relations, particularly if European Powers should extend immediate recognition. The importance of these considerations is apparent.

What can be fairly questioned, however, is whether our Government has in fact enhanced stability and aided progress in orderly government by recognizing military dictatorships before the peoples in question had had an opportunity to express acquiescence by ballot or other constitutional means. It is also problematical whether the peoples of the countries in question will not feel a still greater degree of resentment against the United States because it hastened to give recognition to dictatorships of which they themselves did not approve. For it must be borne in mind that recognition by the United States makes possible for a new government to secure foreign loans, and these may be all that it needs in order to maintain itself in power through force or corruption and against popular will.

Recent events have furnished ample evidence that the peoples of Latin America have not approved of their dictatorships. In Argentina, where for two generations constitutional government had been maintained, the dictatorship of General Uriburu, which in September 1930 had overthrown the legally elected administration of President Irigoyen, finally in April permitted elections to be held in the Province of Buenos Aires. Notwithstanding the Dictatorship's use of the coercive methods customary in such cases, the candidates of the Radical Party, which had been forced from power by the military régime, were elected by a sweeping majority. This would seem to indicate that the majority of the Argentine people do not sanction the overthrow by violence of an administration which they had placed in power by their votes, and do not now approve of the domination of their country by the military régime that brought about that overthrow. Similarly, reports from Brazil tend to show that the present administration, which gained power there by means of a revolution, is faced with considerable dissatisfaction and quite possibly another revolution.

It would be extremely risky, therefore, for us to assume popular acquiescence in the dictatorships which have seized power in Latin America or to pretend that governmental stability exists there today. Furthermore, it may be reasonably claimed that, if a majority of the people in the countries mentioned are opposed to the new dictatorships, the political and commercial interests of the United States have been prejudiced rather than benefited by our Government's grant of speedy recognition.

Is it merely a coincidence that there have been more revolutions in the Latin American republics since Secretary Stimson adopted the policy of extending prompt recognition to revolutionary governments than there were in any other period of their history? Certainly it is difficult to escape the conclusion that even though such a policy may not cause revolutions it tends to encourage rather than to discourage them.

A definite policy was initiated by President Wilson when he declared that "just government rests always upon the consent of the governed," and that "there can be no freedom without order based upon law and upon the public conscience and approval," and that "we shall look to make these principles the basis of mutual intercourse, respect and helpfulness between our sister republics and ourselves." In announcing the present Administration's reversal of that policy, Mr. Stimson calls attention to the fact that President Wilson had sought to put it into effect in withholding recognition from the Huerta Government in Mexico in 1913. Mr. Stimson declares that although "Huerta's Government was in de facto possession" of Mexico, President Wilson refused to recognize it and "sought through the influence and pressure of his great office to force it from power;" and he permits the inference to be drawn that the disturbed relations between the United States and Mexico which have existed until comparatively recently were the result of that policy.

Even the most casual student of Mexican affairs must recognize that while General Huerta may have been in control of the capital city of Mexico in 1913, and possessed at that time of resources sufficient to maintain such control temporarily, the masses of the Mexican people, who were just then becoming vocal after Porfirio Diaz's long years of dictatorship, were not sympathetic to the type of leader personified in the person of Huerta, a military chieftain of the old school, but rather to the ideals of Francisco Madero, Huerta's murdered predecessor. It was Mr. Wilson's conviction that there could be no real stability in Mexico until the Mexican people possessed a government responsive to their needs and desires, and that the military dictatorship installed by Huerta could never be more than a temporary stop-gap.

It should be borne in mind that the Wilson Administration inherited the problem of dealing with a critical position of affairs in Mexico from its predecessor.

In 1911, President Taft had assembled a full army division at San Antonio, Texas, a brigade of three regiments at Galveston, a brigade of infantry in the Los Angeles district of Southern California, together with a squadron of battleships, cruisers and transports at Galveston and a small squadron of ships at San Diego. His avowed purpose was to place sufficient troops in position so that if Congress directed that they enter Mexico this could be done promptly and effectively. In his annual message of December 7, 1911, President Taft had said:

The recent political events in Mexico received attention from this government because of the exceedingly delicate and difficult situation created along our southern border, and the necessity for taking measures properly to safeguard American interests. . . . Although a condition of actual armed conflict existed, there was no official recognition of belligerency involving the technical neutrality obligations of international law.

And in his message to Congress of the following year, delivered on December 3, 1912, three months prior to the inauguration of President Wilson, Mr. Taft said, regarding "our Mexican policy:"

For two years revolution and counter-revolution has distraught the neighboring Republic of Mexico. Brigandage has involved a great deal of depredation upon foreign interests. There have constantly recurred questions of extreme delicacy. On several occasions very difficult situations have arisen on our frontier. Throughout this trying period, the policy of the United States has been one of patient non-intervention, steadfast recognition of constituted authority in the neighboring nation and the exertion of every effort to care for American interests. I profoundly hope that the Mexican nation may soon resume the path of order, prosperity and progress. To that nation in its sore troubles, the sympathetic friendship of the United States has been demonstrated to a high degree. . . . The responsibility of endeavoring to safeguard those interests and the dangers inseparable from propinquity to so turbulent a situation have been great, but I am happy to have been able to adhere to the policy above outlined -- a policy which I hope may be soon justified by the complete success of the Mexican people in regaining the blessings of peace and good order.

In the measures which President Wilson adopted after he was inaugurated, and in his various statements, he showed that he was endeavoring to follow a policy that was at the same time friendly toward Mexico and consistent with the steps already taken by the United States. Addressing Congress in reference to the Mexican situation, Mr. Wilson said:

We have not acted in this matter under the ordinary principles of international obligation. All the world expects us under such circumstances to act as Mexico's nearest friend and intimate adviser. This is our immemorial relation to her.

President Wilson believed that what the bulk of the Mexican people desired was democratic government, and that what the interests of this Government demanded was stability in Mexico, and he was confident that that stability could not be achieved through a retrograde imitation of the Diaz dictatorship, but rather through a representative government placed in power by the Mexican people themselves.

Mr. Wilson maintained that it was an essential of American foreign policy to recognize an identity of interests between the Latin American republics and the United States -- interests both political and commercial. Further, it was his belief that there could be no such identity of political interests unless the nations of the American continents possessed governments "based upon law, not upon arbitrary or irregular force." Consequently it was with him a matter of principle to strengthen and maintain in every legitimate manner orderly processes of government in them, and he formally announced as a cardinal feature of the policy of the United States that recognition would not be extended to governments in Latin America which had come to power through revolution or through a coup d'état until after the people concerned had evidenced their approval. President Wilson held that it constituted a greater measure of intervention in the domestic concerns of the Latin American republics for the Government of the United States to recognize a revolutionary government before the people has passed upon it (because of the fact that our recognition inevitably implies financial as well as moral support of that government), than for the United States to withhold recognition until it felt assured that the people, in an orderly and legal manner, had in fact approved the change. Mr. Wilson would have been the last to oppose recourse to revolution; but he was the first to lay down the principle that true democracy demands that the people themselves be afforded the opportunity, as a fundamental right, to approve or disapprove changes in their government, and the first to declare that that principle should be incorporated in the continental policy of this nation.

Since no one questions that the peaceful and stable development of the Latin American republics is in the best interest of the United States, the policy of this Government evidently should be shaped with that end in view. Its policy should certainly be broader in scope and purpose than to be concerned primarily with the technical recognition of new governments that have come into existence through force. A farsighted policy which aimed to encourage democratic government and economic progress in Latin America would mean that we should have fewer occasions to trouble ourselves about the recognition of revolutionary governments, about the protection of American lives, and about the regulation of traffic in arms intended for those who are attempting to overthrow constitutional government by violence instead of by votes.


During the years when the colonies of Spain were struggling for independence, American public opinion viewed their revolt with undisguised enthusiasm. Our own revolution was still within the memory of many American citizens, and their sympathy went out to those engaged in a similar struggle. Sentiment for the cause of the Spanish colonies, aroused in Congress by such a spokesman as Henry Clay, led to our prompt recognition of the new republics. But as the older generations passed from the scene our country entered a period in which an increasing hunger for wealth and a desire for expansion worked a change in national ideals and policy.

The attitude of the Government of the United States towards its southern neighbors during the years when the latter were striving to consolidate and maintain their newly won independence displayed not only a lack of respect for the sovereignty of those nations but likewise an utter contempt for their national pride. Some of the incidents which occurred during the quarter of a century preceding the outbreak of the Civil War seem almost incredible today. In 1852 the Central American port of Greytown, an important settlement in those years, was bombarded and burned by an American naval force on the charge that its inhabitants had infringed the rights of an American company. But that was only one of a series of occurrences in which the naval force of the United States was used to bolster up the more than dubious claims of Americans resident in Latin American countries. It was a period when this Government, not only in its official relations with the republics of Latin America openly disregarded the fundamental distinction between right and wrong, but likewise lent the weight of its authority to private citizens of the United States when they outraged the laws of those republics. By 1860 the gratitude for our early support and the respect and admiration for our institutions which had been general in Latin America had given way to widespread resentment and hostility, only tempered by that fear which the strong impose upon the weak.

There was something of a reaction in Latin American opinion during the War of Secession when the Monroe Doctrine was openly scorned by the great Powers of Europe. Napoleon III invaded Mexico in an attempt to set up a Mexican emperor of his own selection; the Dominican Republic was occupied by Spain and was once more proclaimed a colony; Great Britain and Russia threatened to increase their foreign possessions in this Hemisphere. At Seward's instance the Monroe Doctrine was reasserted at the end of the Civil War; but it was largely due to the efforts of Dominican and Mexican patriots that those two nations were wrested from the grasp of the usurping powers, aided to some extent by a threat of armed assistance from the United States.

Ten years later, at the instigation of a group of American speculators and with the connivance of unworthy dictators who had temporarily secured control in the Dominican Republic, President Grant (though, be it said, against the advice of his Cabinet) very nearly secured its annexation to the United States. The consummation of this deal was only averted through the refusal of Sumner and a few other members of the United States Senate to permit the earlier ideals of this nation thus to be disgraced.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Latin America was remembered but rarely by American statesmen. The Monroe Doctrine, it is true, was vigorously reasserted by President Cleveland in a manner which gave the European powers finally to understand that its violation would imply a declaration of war upon the United States. It is likewise true that James G. Blaine stands out as a political leader of those years who foresaw this nation's need to coöperate, both politically and economically, with the republics of Latin America. It was due to his vision that the Pan-American Union now exists, and that inter-American conferences periodically take place, but it is hardly an exaggeration to say that his voice was that of one crying in the wilderness, and that while many of the measures which he advocated became realities, his emphasis upon the necessity of Pan-American coöperation was regarded by the great majority of his contemporaries as an amiable hobby which, while it did no harm, could still do but little good.

Such was the condition of affairs when the present century opened. The victory of the United States in the war with Spain, which brought with it the acquisition of foreign territories and made the United States for the first time an empire in the modern meaning of the term, awakened likewise in the imagination of the American people the desire to play the rôle of the empire builder. It was as a direct outcome of this psychological trend that the United States acquired the Panama Canal Zone. While no one can deny the practical utility of the Panama Canal and the immense benefits which it has procured for the peoples of North and South America, neither can any one deny that the manner in which the United States obtained the territory which today comprises the Canal Zone shook popular confidence throughout Latin America in the principles and standards which govern American foreign policy.

It is generally recognized today that the United States has no ambition to secure additional territory by conquest. This truth was solemnly proclaimed in 1913 by President Wilson, and beyond all doubt the finality of this announcement is sanctioned by American public opinion. Nevertheless the belief is still widespread in Latin America, although less strong than it used to be, that the aims of the United States are imperialistic. This is mainly due to the failure of this Government to adhere to any consistent policy. At times during the past twenty-five years its policy has been wise and just; at others it has been the reverse.

At times, as during the years when Elihu Root was Secretary of State, the Government of the United States has acted along well-defined lines. It had a liberal, constructive policy in its dealings with Latin America, and followed it. Secretary Root proclaimed it as his belief that a basis of absolute equality must be the foundation for all those dealings. When unstable conditions in any of the Central American or Caribbean republics threatened this country, in that they invited the intervention of non-American Powers, we offered those republics our assistance in removing the causes of trouble; we offered this assistance as from one sovereign state to another. A notable instance of this phase of Secretary Root's policy may be found in the assistance rendered the Dominican Republic through the Convention of 1907, which amounted to nothing more nor less than the lending by the United States of its credit to the Dominican people in order that they might obtain a loan with which to fund their foreign indebtedness and thus remove the menace of physical intervention by their European creditors. This implied, it is true, the temporary administration of the customs houses by American officials acting under the Dominican Executive, but this arrangement was welcomed not only by the Dominican Government but by the Dominican people, and has proved its practical value. It did not, however, imply enforced intervention by the United States in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic. This same policy, which might be called a policy of prevention, was adopted by Secretary Root in his dealings with the republics of Central America. If the safety of the United States requires that non-American Powers be kept from intervening on the American Continent, justice requires that reasonable grounds for such intervention be removed. The United States cannot assume the position that the citizens of non-American Powers resident in the republics of Latin America can be endangered in their lives and property as the result of local disturbances, or that their just claims should be refused, and that the governments of the nations of which those foreigners are citizens can be indefinitely warned off from coming to their legitimate assistance. The logical, sane, practical policy for the United States to pursue in this regard is one of preventing the rise of conditions under which such a state of affairs can exist.

It has been due to the failure to take preventive and corrective measures that the United States has repeatedly intervened by force in the Caribbean and in Central America and that military occupations have succeeded military interventions, with all of the attendant evils. We must note, too, that quite aside from the fears and suspicions thus engendered none of the military interventions undertaken by the United States in the republics to the south has resulted in any permanent benefit either to the people of the state in question or to the people of the United States themselves. We should have learnt by now that the enforcement of peace from outside does not remove the basic causes which make men resort to revolution. These causes, so long as the inhabitants of the nation where intervention takes place remain an independent people, can only be removed by the will and action of those people themselves. It is futile for the United States to delude itself into believing -- as it has done upon so many occasions -- that it can impose a lasting peace artificially, by force of arms. For twenty-one years American marines have been stationed in Nicaragua; and today Nicaragua is politically less stable and economically less advanced than almost any other country on this Continent.

The policy of Secretary Root was notably successful but it was in marked distinction to that followed by his successor, Mr. Knox, who adopted the so-called policy of "Dollar Diplomacy." The pernicious effects of "Dollar Diplomacy" were immediate and far reaching, and they persisted until 1913 when President Wilson took definite steps to establish relations with the other American republics on a firmer and more enduring foundation -- the foundation of friendship, justice, equality and constitutional liberty. In a speech at Mobile, entitled "A New Latin American Policy," he sounded a new and refreshing note in defining the ideals and principles which should actuate and guide this nation in its relations with the other American nations. Speaking of those nations, he said: "We must show ourselves their friends and champions upon terms of equality and honor -- you cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality. You cannot be friends at all except upon the terms of honor. We must show ourselves friends by comprehending their interest whether it squares with our own or not. It is a very perilous thing to determine the foreign policy of a nation in the terms of material interest. It not only is unfair to those with whom you are dealing, but it is degrading as regards your own actions." His conception of Pan-Americanism was "the relationship of a family of mankind devoted to the development of true constitutional liberty" which would emphasize "human rights, national integrity and opportunity" as against blindly selfish material interests.

President Wilson's pronouncements created a most favorable impression and prepared the way for an immediate improvement in Pan-American affairs. In spite of the World War, which so dislocated international relationships and absorbed American thought and attention as to leave little time for dealing with purely Latin American matters, distinct progress was made towards putting his program into effect. It is fair to say that when his Administration ended the relations between the United States and Latin America were on a much more satisfactory basis than they had been before or than they are today.


We have now taken stock of the fact that only during the early struggles of the Latin American republics, and at more or less isolated periods in recent years, has this Government been animated by a sincere desire to win the confidence of those countries. If one realizes this, and recognizes further that the general sentiment of Latin America towards the United States is one of suspicion, fear and latent hostility, the logical queries must be: "What are the precise reasons for the existence of such conditions?" "How can they be corrected?"

The answer to the first of these questions can be stated briefly. First, the insistence that the other American republics are not concerned in either the interpretation or the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, notwithstanding the radically different conditions which have developed on this Continent during the hundred and seven years since it was first proclaimed, has given rise to misunderstanding, misapprehension, and perhaps unjustified but nevertheless very real, resentment; second, the assertion on the part of the United States of the right of intervention is regarded generally throughout Latin America as a violation of the accepted doctrines of international law and has created hostility and suspicion; third, the maintenance by this country of a rigid protective tariff, which has never been modified to meet special conditions or special exigencies which might exist in some Latin American republic, has not only gravely retarded the healthy growth of commercial intercourse but has in certain cases seriously endangered the prosperity of the republic in question, creating bitter animosity, both individual and national, and incidentally losing for us many potential customers.

If these three general causes are accepted as explaining the present distrust on the part of the Latin American republics towards the United States, we may proceed to seek an answer to the second of our questions, "How can these conditions be corrected?"

First consideration should be given to the effect of the tariff and other restrictions on political and commercial relations with Latin America. The framers of our tariff acts during the past decade have forgotten the axiom "that the policy of excessive and unscientific protection means in the long run the sacrifice of the foreign market," and, what is more important, have disregarded the self-evident truth that foreign policy must be considered in the framing of tariff legislation which seriously hampers commerce with other nations.

Through tariff increases and quarantine regulations the United States has succeeded in closing tightly the doors of its market to almost every form of product from many of the Latin American countries. Brazil is one of the few Latin American countries that has not been affected by our tariff because her chief export, coffee, is on the free list, which largely accounts for the fact that Brazil is more friendly to the United States than are most of the Latin American countries.

Argentina and Cuba may be cited as striking instances where the restrictions imposed by this Government have created ill will or hardship. Argentina's wheat and linseed are kept out by the American tariff; her frozen meats and fruits are barred by quarantine regulations; and her alfalfa seed is excluded on the ground that it is not adapted to climatic conditions here. It is not surprising, therefore, that people in Argentina should raise the cry to buy only from those who buy from them. The questionable benefits which American producers have derived from shutting out Argentina's products, the volume of which would not in any event have been very appreciable in this market, could not possibly compensate for the loss which our exporters face in the reduction of sales to a customer that has been taking some $200,000,000 annually of our products.

A few years ago Cuba became the largest customer of this country among the Latin American countries. By increasing the duty on sugar, Cuba's chief export, until it now equals the cost of production, the United States has not only succeeded in destroying Cuba's former power to purchase our goods but it has helped to bring about serious economic distress and insecurity in Cuba, which in turn has resulted in huge losses to American investors. These losses are considerably in excess of the total amount invested in the beet sugar industry of this country, for the supposed benefit of which our tariff action was taken. Moreover, in addition to the loss in trade and commerce, and in addition to the wiping out of millions of dollars of American investments in Cuba, the American people have paid in indirect taxes on sugar much more than the total investment in the American beet sugar industry.

Trade and commerce with the Latin American countries is of inestimable value to the United States. If this nation is to maintain its influential position in foreign commerce it is essential that they take our goods at least on equal terms with the goods of the other exporting nations. We cannot, however, enjoy the benefits of that great market, with its incalculable potentialities, if we lose the good will of the Latin American people and reduce their desire and their ability to purchase our products. We cannot have their friendship unless we treat them as friends; we cannot build up our trade with them unless we let them trade with us.

If it is the will of the American people to maintain protection for the domestic producer, the Executive Department of the Government should exert every effort to keep it within reasonable bounds, so as not to impair vitally our commercial and political relations. When tariff legislation is being framed, the opinion of the Executive Department charged with the conduct of foreign relations should be required whenever schedules which affect importations from the Latin American republics are under consideration; and whenever the Secretary of State can show that the schedules proposed will prove fundamentally prejudicial to our Latin American relations, his recommendations should be given due consideration. If quarantine regulations are imposed to prevent the entrance of disease and agricultural pests, such action should be taken without needless offense and not as a subterfuge or substitute for a prohibitive tariff. If the requirements of our Latin American policy -- and the interests of the American people as a whole -- are considered whenever tariff and other restrictions on Latin American imports are imposed, one of the chief obstacles to Pan-American understanding and coöperation will have been removed.

Let us now turn to the question of intervention. It must be recognized that this term "intervention" means not only physical intervention by the military forces of the United States, but likewise undue interference through diplomatic channels in the internal affairs of an independent nation, particularly when such interference is predicated upon the theory that once an American citizen acquires property in some Latin American republic he removes it forever from the jurisdiction of the government of the country in which it is located. The second of these two phases of intervention, although perhaps less well known, has been far more frequently employed than the former, and is just as detrimental to the true interests of the United States. If this country recognizes the sovereignty of the other American republics it must in its dealings with them respect their power to determine by law property rights within their jurisdiction in the same manner as are determined the rights of property holders within the borders of the United States and within its jurisdiction. Diplomatic intervention should go no further, under the modern construction of international law, than interposition on behalf of the person or property of an American citizen resident in a Latin American republic in the event that the authorities or the courts of that country have notoriously failed to afford legitimate protection.

Military intervention in Latin America can be justified upon only one ground, namely, our national safety. The public has often been informed by officials of the United States Government, and by innumerable orators who glibly refer to the Monroe Doctrine without knowing what it is, that the Monroe Doctrine vests in the United States a sort of hegemony over the rest of the American continents and confers on it a police power to take action whenever this Government considers it necessary to rectify conditions which do not suit it. There is not the slightest basis for such allegations. No thinking citizen of the United States will deny that the security of the Panama Canal Zone is a matter of vital importance to the United States and that open anarchy in any republic adjacent to that region which might bring about non-American intervention there is for that reason a threat to the safety of the United States. Self-protection is an innate right of every nation, as it is of every individual, and should the United States be obliged to intervene with military force as a matter of self-protection in defense of its own national existence no one can question the legitimacy of such action. The danger with this doctrine, however, is that there will inevitably be divergence of opinion as to the nature of the emergency.

The United States has intervened repeatedly with its military forces in the smaller republics of the Caribbean and of Central America during the past quarter of a century. In most of these instances the threat to our own security was not sufficiently grave to warrant the action taken. An exception was the military intervention in the Republic of Haiti in 1915, when a European Power was actually on the point of landing armed forces. But this was only an exception, and time and again the nations of Latin America have been aroused by our methods, and have even upon occasion formally protested against our disregard for the sovereignty of one of their number. Sometimes, as recently in the Nicaraguan intervention, their animosity has been raised to a fever pitch due to a belief that the action taken by the United States was dictated solely by its ambitions for commercial expansion and economic domination.

The question undeniably is perplexing. On the one hand, the United States cannot renounce its right of self-protection; on the other hand, if it desires to place its relationship with Latin America upon a new and solid foundation it cannot continue to engender suspicions and animosity by the methods which it has often pursued in the past. There is, it would appear, but one solution of this problem. The safety of the Panama Canal Zone, while it is a matter of vital interest to the United States, is at the same time a matter of intimate concern to every republic of this hemisphere. European or Asiatic intervention here would not only be a threat to the security of the United States; it would at the same time be a threat to the security of every other American republic. If, therefore, military intervention in an independent American republic becomes essential in the interest of the United States, it must at the same time be essential in the interest of other American states. Why, therefore, should not the United States, in case it deems such intervention necessary, act in conjunction with the other American republics in undertaking such intervention? Should the other American republics not desire to coöperate, the United States would still have the same power to proceed with single-handed intervention. It should do this, however, only after the fullest and frankest consultation with the other republics, and after due notification to them of the weighty reasons which have induced it to embark upon such a step.

Were the Government of the United States to announce that in the future it would intervene in a republic of Latin America only in conjunction with, or after consultation with, the other American republics, the second obstacle to real friendship with Latin America would vanish.

Finally, there is the question of the Monroe Doctrine -- that fundamental policy of the United States which is so clear in its meaning but which has been, and still is, so generally misunderstood.

As Secretary Hughes summarized it, the Doctrine, properly understood, "is opposed (1) to any non-American action encroaching upon the political independence of American States under any guise, and, (2) to the acquisition in any manner of the control of additional territory in this hemisphere by any non-American power." The Doctrine was asserted by the United States over a century ago as a measure of self-defense to meet the threat of aggression in this hemisphere by old world Powers which had formed an alliance to uphold monarchial government and to combat the rising tide of democracy, and it has been maintained ever since as a foundation stone of our national foreign policy. Although announced solely as a policy of America towards Europe it has often been distorted -- even by officials of the United States -- into a policy of the United States towards our sister republics on this side of the Atlantic.

Mr. Reuben Clark's memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine, prepared after an exhaustive study of the Doctrine's origin, meaning and intent, and published by the State Department about two years ago, should contribute to a better understanding of its benefits and its limitations. In summarizing his conclusions, Mr. Clark said:

The Doctrine does not concern itself with purely inter-American relations; it has nothing to do with the relationship between the United States and other American nations, except where other American nations shall become involved with European governments in arrangements which threaten the security of the United States, and even in such cases, the Doctrine runs against the European country, not the American nation, and the United States would primarily deal thereunder with the European country and not with the American nation concerned. The Doctrine states a case of the United States vs. Europe and not of the United States vs. Latin America.[ii]

At times disregarded by the United States itself, always resented by the European Powers, and frequently threatened by them, the Monroe Doctrine has nevertheless insured throughout a century the security, liberty and independence of all the Americas.

To say this is not to ignore the fact that great policies of state have their evolutionary processes. Just as the common law has retained its vitality through its ability to grow and adapt itself to the never-ceasing changes in human life, so doctrines of international policy must adapt themselves to intellectual and moral progress if they are to survive. The conditions which existed a century ago, and which were the occasion of the promulgation of the Doctrine, may be said to have survived basically, but the western hemisphere occupies a very different position in the world today, and particularly with reference to the nations of Europe, than it did in the time of President Monroe. It is obvious, therefore, that the applications of the Doctrine which are now necessary have lost the direct simplicity which existed at the time when it was formulated; and loyalty to the principle of the Doctrine and consistent respect for it, in the truest and most comprehensive sense, involves a recognition of its capacity for adaptation to the changing situation which the passage of the years necessarily compels.

It was with a recognition of this truth that Secretary Colby, on a visit to South America in 1920 as an emissary of President Wilson, said in referring to the Monroe Doctrine in a speech at Montevideo: "I cannot understand how there can be any misconception of the farsighted, unselfish and fraternal policy of the Monroe Doctrine in the light of its century of useful service, not to this hemisphere alone, but to the whole world." And he added that the doctrine of the inviolability of republican institutions in the western continents speaks with an ever swelling note throughout the world, "as nation after nation has outgrown the need of its protection, and become, with full equality, a participant in its maintenance and assertion."

By its very nature, the Doctrine is the opposite of aggressive. The very causes which brought it into being should preserve it from the taint of imperialism. Yet because the Government of the United States has believed that it was entitled to reserve to itself alone the responsibility of maintaining and interpreting the Doctrine, there has grown up in Latin America a serious misconception of the Doctrine's true intent, and this misconception has prepared the ground for the belief prevalent in Latin America today that the Doctrine masks imperialistic ambitions on the part of the United States and implies a protectorate by the United States over the Latin American world.

The United States, instead of being a small new country as it was when the Monroe Doctrine was promulgated, is today a nation second to none in power. Many of the other American republics have also grown to be of first rank in the world. There is no Latin American state which would not favor, as of vital importance to itself, the continuance of the real principles of the Doctrine. The reason for the evident misunderstanding, then, is simply and solely the fact that the United States has insisted upon being the sole arbiter of the Doctrine's maintenance and interpretation. Would there still be this misconception, with the ensuing fears and resentments, if each one of the Latin American republics were to proclaim as part of its own fundamental national policy the principles embodied in the Monroe Doctrine? Were the United States, while maintaining the Monroe Doctrine as a cardinal principle of its national policy, to invite its sister American republics to proclaim those principles as an integral part of their own national policy, would it be possible for any mis-interpretation and misconception of the ultimate aims of the Government of the United States to continue as a festering sore in the international life of the Western Hemisphere? The Monroe Doctrine, by its nature, can never entail contractual obligations between nations. And yet, if Pan-Americanism is to be considered as a practical, living force and not purely as a theoretical fantasy, is there any valid reason why the chief principle of that Doctrine, which makes and has made Pan-Americanism possible, should not be proclaimed as a part of the national policy of each one of the independent republics which owe it so much?

The United States, with its world-wide trade and commerce, has today a stake in the peace and stability of every land. Isolation is a mirage. Though we are powerful, we cannot be a law unto ourselves, and to attempt to be does us both material and moral harm. Instead, therefore, of trying vainly to remain apart, instead of holding mistrustfully aloof from the councils of the nations which are engaged in efforts to solve problems directly and vitally affecting our peace and prosperity, we should be steadily and consistently seeking a more friendly and intimate association with all nations and taking the lead in fostering every sincere coöperative effort to strengthen world peace and promote world progress. Our interest it is to share in the benefits of a world at peace and at work.

What more natural and logical, then, than for us to turn to those twenty republics to the south of us, whose independence was obtained only shortly after our own, whose belief in democracy -- despite vicissitudes in the art of self-government -- is similar to our own, and whose experience along the road from relative insignificance to a proud and important position in the world today has in many respects paralleled our own? As a practical matter it is almost essential to our national interests to obtain the loyal and consistent coöperation and support of these states. Until the possibility of war is definitely removed we cannot as a nation ignore the fact that the defense of our seaboard -- both the Atlantic and the Pacific -- depends upon the rapidity with which our fleet can be mobilized through the Panama Canal and that the security of the Canal depends to a large extent upon the good will of the adjacent republics. Nor can we ignore the fact that our ability to repel attack also depends upon at least the strict neutrality of the other republics on the continent. Only through true coöperation between them and the United States, only through a realization on our part of how much our international policy has in common with theirs, can we achieve that ideal which Secretary Root urged at Rio de Janeiro in 1906 in these memorable words, the truth of which is perhaps even more striking today than it was when he uttered them a quarter of a century ago: "Let us unite in creating and maintaining and making effective an all-American public opinion, whose power shall influence international conduct and prevent international ruin, and narrow the causes of war, and forever preserve our free lands from the burden of such armaments as are massed behind the frontiers of Europe, and bring us ever nearer to the perfection of ordered liberty."

[i]Cf. FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. 9, No. 3, Special Supplement.

[ii] "Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine," by J. Reuben Clark, Under-Secretary of State Washington: Superintendent of Documents, Dec. 17, 1928, p. xxiv.

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  • NORMAN H. DAVIS, Financial Adviser to the American Peace Commission and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, 1919-20; Undersecretary of State, 1920-21
  • More By Norman H. Davis