Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Lesson 3: The Monroe Doctrine: A Close Reading

A We The People Resource

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The Lesson

Introduction

Thomas Jefferson played a role in the development of the so-called Monroe  Doctrine.

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.

Guiding Questions

  • To what events in United States and European foreign affairs does the Monroe Doctrine refer?
  • What was the primary purpose behind the Monroe Doctrine?

Learning Objectives

  • Relate specific passages in the Monroe Doctrine to events in early U.S. diplomacy.

Preparation Instructions

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.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. A Close Reading

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:

  • To what event(s) or condition(s) in the history of the United States and/or its diplomacy does each section refer?
  • In what ways, if any, does the Monroe Doctrine address American concerns for peace and safety?
  • In what ways, if any, does the Monroe Doctrine invoke U.S. sympathy for revolutionary governments in South America?
  • In what ways, if any, does the Monroe Doctrine continue the American policy of neutrality?
  • In what ways, if any, does the Monroe Doctrine address American desires to expand its territory?
  • Do students see any other motives behind the Monroe Doctrine?

Assessment

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?

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > Themes
  • History and Social Studies > People > Hispanic
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Native American
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Caribbean
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Globalization
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Using primary sources
Authors
  • MMS (AL)

Resources

Activity Worksheets
Media