Thomas Jefferson played a role in the development of the so-called Monroe Doctrine.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
James Monroe spent most of his life in public office, devoting a significant portion of his career to foreign affairs. He served as George Washington's Minister to France, but was eventually recalled by the President. Thomas Jefferson appointed Monroe as a special envoy for negotiating the purchase of New Orleans and West Florida. He and principal negotiator Robert Livingston exceeded their authority and all expectations by acquiring the entire Louisiana Territory as well as a claim to all of Florida. Next, Monroe became Minister to Great Britain. Under James Madison, he served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War.
Monroe brought a vision of an expanded America to his presidency—a vision that helped facilitate the formulation of what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Because this Doctrine bears his name, the general public is not inclined to recognize the significant contributions made by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and unofficial presidential advisor Thomas Jefferson.
In this lesson, students will try to answer what the primary purpose behind the Monroe Doctrine was and to what events in United States and European foreign affairs the Monroe Doctrine referred by relating specific passages in the Monroe Doctrine to events in early U.S. diplomacy.
If desired, provide background information on the Monroe Doctrine from the class text or a source such as Monroe Doctrine, from the website of the U.S. Department of State, a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library. To understand the Monroe Doctrine, it is essential that the class have a basic background in early American diplomacy. If desired, see Lesson One, above, and particularly the handout "Documentary Timeline: American Diplomacy Before the Monroe Doctrine," on pages 1-7 of the Master PDF, for a capsule review of early American diplomacy and related events that provides sufficient background for the discussion to follow.
Read with the class the text of The Monroe Doctrine from the handout "The Monroe Doctrine: A Close Reading" on pages 14-15 of the Master PDF. The handout replaces the original paragraphing and, instead, organizes the text by subject. It contains all of the language of the original as presented by the EDSITEment-reviewed website The Avalon Project. Discuss the text with the class using the following questions as guidelines:
Students should be able to respond effectively to the bulleted questions above. Ask students to state in writing, supported by evidence, their answer to this question: What was the primary purpose behind the Monroe Doctrine?
1 class periods