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Roosevelt Corollary

Roosevelt Corollary

Can a Nobel Peace Prize winner use military means to intervene in foreign countries? This was the "Big Stick" diplomacy of President Teddy Roosevelt in the Western hemisphere. This form of diplomacy was linked to the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine proposed by the President in 1904. From that point forward, the U.S. perceived itself entitled to interfere in the affairs of Latin America and the Caribbean to defend its interests.

Roosevelt Corollary: History

The purpose of the Roosevelt Corollary (1904) was for the United States to defend its own perceived interests in the western hemisphere by meddling in the domestic politics of Latin American countries. The corollary was an extension of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), which defined the western hemisphere as an exclusive U.S. sphere of influence.

Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine

In December 1823, President James Monroe (1758-1831) announced what came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine in an address to Congress. This doctrine became essential to early American foreign policy and is still relevant today. The immediate circumstances of the announcement were the interest in the Pacific Northwest expressed by the Russian Empire and a concern for the Spanish re-colonization of countries like Mexico.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 1 - Uncle Sam, representing the U.S., stands between the Europeans and Latin Americans from Nicaragua and Venezuela, by Victor Gillam, 1896, StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Uncle Sam, representing the U.S., stands between the Europeans and Latin Americans from Nicaragua and Venezuela, Victor Gillam, 1896.

Since the U.S. was a young country, Monroe perceived the doctrine as a defensive strategy to prevent further European expansion into the region:

The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers..." 1

The President effectively declared the Western hemisphere an exclusively American sphere of influence and argued that the U.S. would:

Consider any attempt on [the Europeans'] part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." 2

Today, the American government still considers Latin America and the Caribbean its "backyard."

A sphere of influence is a geographic region where one powerful country may affect the internal affairs of other countries and the external relations between them.

President Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858-1919) served as the 26th President of the United States between 1901 and 1909. Roosevelt took part in the Spanish-American War (1898) in the U.S. Army. His political career included working as the Civil Service Commissioner and the Governor of New York state. Eventually, he served as Vice-President, and after President William McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt became President in 1901.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 2 - President Theodore Roosevelt, ca. 1904, StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - President Theodore Roosevelt, ca. 1904.

Roosevelt was in power during the early days of American imperialism and its vital turning point, the Spanish-American War. The United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Roosevelt's foreign policy in Latin America was somewhat aggressive, as evident in his 1904 Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.

At the same time, the President acted as a peacemaker. He received the Noble Peace Prize when he brokered the Treaty of Portsmouth (1905), which concluded the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Roosevelt Corollary: Significance

The Monroe Doctrine (1823) sought to prevent further European colonization in the western hemisphere. The Roosevelt Corollary (1904) extended this idea by justifying U.S. interventionism in the Americas, including direct military and indirect economic means.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 3 - Theodore Roosevelt using the Monroe Doctrine to keep Europeans out of the Dominican Republic, Judge Company Publishers, 1904. The caption reads, “ "Hands Off! This in reality entails no new obligations upon us, for the Monroe Doctrine means precisely such a guarantee on our part," StudySmarter.Fig. 3 - Theodore Roosevelt used the Monroe Doctrine to keep Europeans out of the Dominican Republic, Judge Company Publishers, 1904. The caption reads, "Hands Off! This, in reality, entails no new obligations upon us, for the Monroe Doctrine means precisely such a guarantee on our part."

Roosevelt Corollary: Imperialism

Some historians argue that the Roosevelt Corollary was part of American imperialism.

Big Stick Diplomacy

In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt made a famous statement that was then used to describe his style of foreign policy:

Speak softly and carry a big stick—you will go far."3

This type of foreign policy relied upon:

  • the military, especially the Navy, with significant capability used both as a deterrent and for direct enforcement of American interests;
  • a pragmatic, realist approach to international relations.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 4 - Theodore Roosevelt and his Big Stick in the Caribbean, by William Allen Rogers, 1904, StudySmarter.Fig. 4 - Theodore Roosevelt and his Big Stick in the Caribbean, by William Allen Rogers, 1904.

Roosevelt Corollary: Examples

There are many examples of using the Roosevelt Corollary.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built to decrease the travel time between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In the early 20th century, Panama was part of Columbia. The United States fostered unrest in Panama to avoid the high fees of canal construction. The U.S. Navy provided the military backing for Panama's successful revolt against Columbia. As a result, Panama became an independent country and received large sums of money from the U.S. In turn, the U.S. obtained rights to the canal. Only in 1999 did the Americans return the canal ownership to Panama.

Roosevelt Corollary: Dollar Diplomacy

"Dollar diplomacy" refers to using economic methods, such as loans, in foreign policy. The term came from President William Howard Taft (1857-1930), who was in power between 1909 and 1913, in his December 1912 message to Congress:

The diplomacy of the present administration has sought to respond to modern ideas of commercial intercourse. This policy has been characterized as substituting dollars for bullets. It is one that appeals alike to idealistic humanitarian sentiments, to the dictates of sound policy and strategy, and to legitimate commercial aims. It is an effort frankly directed to the increase of American trade upon the axiomatic principle that the government of the United States shall extend all proper support to every legitimate and beneficial American enterprise abroad."4

The link between diplomacy and trade predated the Taft administration. However, at this time, the American government became more involved in fostering international trade relations. In theory, such ties were to benefit all parties involved. In practice, it was not always so. Sometimes American corporations practiced neo-colonialism.

United Fruit Company and Neocolonialism

The United Fruit Company (1899-1970) was a prominent American business thrived until the mid-20th century. It sold fruit, such as bananas, from Latin America to Europe and the United States.

The corporation was so large that it significantly influenced the entire Latin American region. The United Fruit Company owned not only vast amounts of land but also controlled transportation routes.

For example, in the 1930s, the corporation was the largest landowner in Guatemala. As a result, the company could also influence regional governments.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 5 - United Fruit Company Steamship Line advertisement in Scribner's Magazine, 1916, StudySmarter.Fig. 5 - United Fruit Company Steamship Line advertisement in Scribner's Magazine, 1916.

Powerful multinational corporations like the United Fruit Company gave rise to the derogatory term "banana republic."

"Banana republic" refers to a country whose economy depends on a single export type and is often controlled by foreign capital.

Thanks to the monopoly of the United Fruit Company, countries like Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras came to be known as "banana republics." Therefore, some historians consider the impact of this U.S. corporation a form of neocolonialism.

Did you know?

Neocolonialism refers to colonialism that uses indirect means to influence foreign countries, from economics to culture. In contrast, an older form of colonialism usually relied on direct power, such as the military, to impose its dominance in foreign territories.

Aftermath

The Roosevelt Corollary and the Monroe Doctrine stayed relevant in American foreign policy.

Some examples are the Good Neighbor Policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The United States still relies on some of the principles of the Roosevelt Corollary to this day.

Good Neighbor Policy

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Good Neighbor Policy. The initiative sought to mend the relations between the United States and Latin America. This relationship deteriorated, in part, because of American meddling in the internal affairs of foreign countries in the region.

Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in October 1962. It followed the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961 in an attempt to overthrow that country's leader Fidel Castro. In 1959, Cuba had a successful revolution, and the Americans feared the spread of Communism in their "backyard" in the context of the Cold War.

Roosevelt Corollary, Fig. 6 - CIA report on the Bay of Pigs Invasion was declassified in 1998, StudySmarter.Fig. 6 - CIA report on the Bay of Pigs Invasion was declassified in 1998.

The U.S. placed missiles with nuclear capability in Turkey, on the border of the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviet Union sought to house nuclear missiles in Cuba. By late October, the two superpower leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, deescalated the situation. However, this incident was the closest that the world came to a dangerous nuclear exchange during the Cold War.

Did you know?

The Cold War (1945-1991) was a global ideological conflict between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The two countries did not engage in direct military confrontation but in many indirect (proxy) conflicts.

These events had global implications. They were also partly the result of the U.S. perception of Cuba as a country in its sphere of influence, where the Americans were entitled to intervene without concern for the Cubans' choosing their path.

Roosevelt Corollary - Key Takeaways

  • The Roosevelt Corollary (1904) to the Monroe Doctrine (1823) was a statement by President Theodore Roosevelt. He argued that the United States had the right to intervene in the internal affairs within its sphere of influence (Latin America and the Caribbean). Such interventions could use different means, including militarily, as with the Panama Canal.
  • The Roosevelt Corollary was linked to the dollar diplomacy of President Taft, who preferred to use economic methods in diplomacy.
  • The Roosevelt Corollary and the Monroe Doctrine continued to be used in U.S. foreign policy for decades, for instance, during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

References

  1. "Seventh Annual Message to Congress," December 2, 1823, in the Annals of Congress, (Senate), 18th Congress, 1st Session, pages 14, 22–23, https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac&fileName=041/llac041.db&recNum=4.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Roosevelt, Theodore. In the Words of Theodore Roosevelt: Quotations from the Man in the Arena, ed. O'Toole, Patricia, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012, p. 55.
  4. Dobson, John M. Belligerents, Brinkmanship, and the Big Stick: A Historical Encyclopedia of American Diplomatic Concepts, Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2009, p. 147.

Frequently Asked Questions about Roosevelt Corollary

The Roosevelt Corollary (1904) to the Monroe Doctrine (1823) was a statement by President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. Roosevelt argued that the United States had the right to intervene in the internal affairs within its sphere of influence in Central and South America. 

The purpose of the Roosevelt Corollary (1904) was for the United States to defend its own perceived interests in the western hemisphere by intervening in the internal affairs of the Latin American countries if necessary. 

The Monroe Doctrine (1823) was meant to prevent further European colonization in the western hemisphere. The Roosevelt Corollary (1904) extended this idea by justifying U.S. interventionism in the Americas, including military means.

By and large, Latin American countries considered the Roosevelt Corollary (1904) part of American imperialism in the region. As a result, their perception was negative.

In certain cases, the Roosevelt Corollary (1904) successfully defended American business interests in Latin America at the expense of those countries.

Final Roosevelt Corollary Quiz

Question

What doctrine did the Roosevelt Corollary supplement?

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Answer

The Monroe Doctrine

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Question

Who introduced the Roosevelt Corollary?

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Answer

Theodore Roosevelt

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Question

In which geographic region did the Roosevelt Corollary have a direct impact?

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Answer

Latin America

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Question

What is a "banana republic"?

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Answer

The derogatory term "banana republic" refers to a country, the economy of which depends on a single type of export and is often controlled by foreign capital.

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Question

Which U.S. leader introduced dollar diplomacy?

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Answer

President Taft

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Question

When did the U.S. return the ownership of the Panama Canal to Panama?

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Answer

1999

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Question

Which leader introduced the Good Neighbor Policy?

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Answer

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Question

What is neocolonialism?

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Answer

Neocolonialism refers to a form of colonialism that uses indirect means to influence foreign countries ranging from economics to culture. 

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Question

What was the name of Theodore Roosevelt's style of foreign policy?

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Answer

"Big Stick" diplomacy

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Question

Which country did the Bay of Pigs target?

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Answer

Cuba

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