The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote, relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities. Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions from us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interests, guided by justice, shall counsel. Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalships, interests, humor, or caprice? It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy. I repeat, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.No decided — at least no avowed — departure from this policy had occurred down to 1823, when President Monroe was required to address a new Congress under peculiar circumstances. The Spanish people had revolted against the despotism of their imbecile, treacherous monarch, Ferdinand VII., and had established a Constitution which left him still in possession of the trappings, but with little of the substance, of royalty. He was, of course, profoundly hostile to this change, though affecting to acquiesce in it. A congress2 of the great powers of continental Europe, then united in a league, known as the “Holy alliance,” for the maintenance of their despotic authority and the repression of popular aspirations, had decreed the overthrow of this dangerous example; and, under its auspices, a French army of 100,000 men, led by the Duke d'angouleme, a prince of the blood royal, had invaded Spain, and, meeting with little serious resistance, over-thrown the Constitution and the Cortes, and restored to Ferdinand his beloved and grossly abused autocracy. Apprehensions were entertained that the discipline thus bestowed on Spain was about to
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