Lesson 3: The Monroe Doctrine: A Close Reading

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.