John Quincy Adams played a crucial role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine when he was Monroe's Secretary of State.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
In Monroe's message to Congress on December 2, 1823, he delivered what we have always called the Monroe Doctrine, although in truth it should have been called the Adams Doctrine.
The writer expresses the opinion that the Monroe Doctrine should have been named after John Quincy Adams to honor his role in its formulation. There is also evidence to indicate that former President Thomas Jefferson strongly influenced President Monroe. Perhaps it should be called the Jefferson Doctrine. Or perhaps the document should have more than one name in its title. In reality, most important government policies such as the Monroe Doctrine are collaborations. However, to hypothesize about the relative contributions of Monroe, Adams, and Jefferson is an interesting exercise requiring an understanding of U.S. diplomacy. There is no "smoking gun," no particular document directly specifying the contributions of one or the other to the Monroe Doctrine. Instead, students should get a sense of the beliefs and methods of each man by studying his role in American diplomatic history and his statements.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to
NOTES TO THE TEACHER: You can skip the introduction to this lesson if your class has completed Lesson One: The Monroe Doctrine: U.S. Foreign Affairs (circa 1782-1823) and James Monroe. For an alternative to the activity below, select documents from the list of "The Essential Monroe Doctrine Primary Documents," on pages 16-17 of the Master PDF, to review with students in a directed lesson.
Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group responsibility for arguing on behalf of the role played by one of the three contributors to the Monroe Doctrine. (Alternatively, you could form six groups, with two groups assigned to each contributor.) For each figure, students are provided some background information and excerpts from archival documents to use in finding evidence. To make a compelling case for their contributor, students need to refer to the text of the Monroe Doctrine and statements by or about their assigned figure to support the case for his contributions. Students are encouraged—time permitting—to find additional sources on their own. If time is limited, each group can simply present a summary, offering evidence that its assigned contributor deserves to have his name attached to the Doctrine. After all the groups have presented, discuss the relative contributions of each man. Take suggestions for renaming the Doctrine based on the information presented. One, two, or all three names can be attached to the Doctrine. A show of hands can demonstrate the relative support for each suggestion. Time permiting, the class can hold a more formal debate. All the students should participate in the research and preparation of presentations; however, each group should designate which members will be responsible for each of the four parts of the debate. Suggested guidelines for a 30-minute debate format are provided for the teacher on page 18 of the Master PDF. Adapt the chart, procedures, and allotted times for your own class as desired. The format for the debate follows:
Each group, in turn, presents its opening statement and argument
Each group, in turn, will refute the arguments presented by its opponents
Each group, in turn, will ask questions of the opposing teams; opponents will have up to 30 seconds to respond
Each group, in turn, will present closing statements in which students summarize their positions and cite their strongest arguments.
Classes with six groups should consider combining into three for the debate. NOTE: All of the documents below, unless otherwise specified, are from the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory. Students can read the full text of each by clicking on the links below, or groups can use the excerpts from the documents for each contributor provided in the handouts "Documents for James Monroe" on pages 19-23, "Documents for John Quincy Adams" on pages 24-30, and "Documents for Thomas Jefferson" on pages 31-37 of the Master PDF. The excerpts are all in the language of the original. Annotations in parentheses define terms in italics or add information. Some spelling and punctuation has been standardized. Abbreviations with the potential to be confusing have been replaced with full names.
Focus on the role of Secretary of State Adams in James Monroe: Foreign Affairs on the EDSITEment resource The American President. (NOTE: As of this writing, the formatting on the page requires the viewer to scan far down the page to reach the essay
Observe students' understanding of the key concepts during the class debate on the contributions made by Jefferson, Monroe, and Adams. Following the debate, students should be able to respond effectively to the following questions:
Ask students to (1) write a brief essay, supported by evidence, taking a stand on the most appropriate name for the Monroe Doctrine, or (2) write an essay in which they analyze and evaluate the collective approach used to formulate foreign policy during Monroe's administration.
1-2 class periods