Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Lesson 4: The Monroe Doctrine: Whose Doctrine Was It?

A We The People Resource

Tools

The Lesson

Introduction

John Quincy Adams played a crucial role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine when  he was Monroe's Secretary of State.

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 its entry for The Monroe Doctrine (1823), Information USA, an exhibit of the website of the U.S. Department of State, a link from EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library, states:

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.

Guiding Questions

  • In what ways did John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson contribute to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to

  • List contributions of James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to U.S. diplomacy.
  • Cite specific evidence to show the likely contributions of John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine.

Preparation Instructions

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.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Whose Doctrine Was It?

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.

GROUP 1: JAMES MONROE
Questions
  • What events in Monroe's background probably influenced the Monroe Doctrine?
  • How would you characterize Monroe's philosophy and approach to conducting diplomacy?
Background
Documents
GROUP 2: JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
Questions
  • Which events in American diplomacy should be credited to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams?
  • What factor(s) influenced Adams's thinking about foreign policy -- keeping the United States neutral so it could develop on its own without the influence of the European powers? Expanding the borders of the United States? Protecting the homeland? Other factors?
  • What is characteristic about Adams's approach to diplomacy?
Background

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

Documents
GROUP 3: THOMAS JEFFERSON
Questions
  • How did Jefferson's diplomatic experiences as president influence his thinking?
  • What factor(s) influenced Jefferson's thinking about foreign policy -- keeping the United States neutral so it could develop on its own without the influence of the European powers? Expanding the borders of the United States? Protecting the homeland? Other factors?
  • What was the nature of the advice Jefferson gave Monroe? Did it change over time? How strong was Jefferson's influence?
  • How would you characterize Jefferson's philosophy and approach to conducting diplomacy?
Background

Assessment

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:

  • What were the most significant contributions of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams to U.S. diplomacy?
  • What contributions did Jefferson and Adams make to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine?

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.

Extending The Lesson

Selected EDSITEment Websites

American Memory

The American President

American Studies at the University of Virginia

The Avalon Project

Congress Link

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Harpweek

History Matters

Digital History

Internet Public Library

Naval Historical Center

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Time Required

1-2 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > People > Hispanic
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • 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 > Themes > Economic Transformation
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Globalization
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Debate
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Using primary sources
Authors
  • MMS (AL)