Bolivar and the Spanish Collapse
James Monroe helped to shape and redefine Jefferson’s ‘Empire of Liberty’ globally. He pledged to keep the U.S. from intervening in European affairs while insisting that no European power could intervene to thwart the Bolivarian revolutions in the New World. (This did not apply to colonies in the hemisphere that had not yet revolted, such as Cuba, British Honduras, and a few others in the Caribbean and South America). It wasn’t called ‘The Monroe Doctrine’ then, but it held into the future for better or worse. We can see it as the root of the ‘superpower mentality’ that we suffer as a ‘common sense’ burden weighing us down, especially today.
Monroe and Bolivar were contemporaries, both dying in 1830. In their prime political years, they were both allies and rivals. The conflict within the upper classes over the nation’s future was finally taking shape in the U.S. itself. One divides into two again. One side was expansionist, seeking conquest of everything south of 36’30” latitude. A line set by the Missouri Compromise; it was also a border above which cotton could not be easily grown. In addition to the western areas south of the line, the ‘King Cotton’ enslavers also had their eyes on Cuba, Mexico (which reached up to the Oregon country at the time), and what is now Central America. Internally, this first side also wanted all lands in the Southeast, such as Georgia and Alabama, using ‘ethnic cleansing,’ i.e., driving all Native peoples to the western side of the Mississippi, as in Andrew Jackson’s ‘Trail of Tears.’
Divisions at the Top
The other side of those of the U.S. American elites elected to Congress was more cautious for various reasons, good and bad. Some Congressmen wanted normalized relations with Native peoples, granting a degree of autonomy and national or tribal rights, along with respect for Spain and then Mexico’s borders in the West. It’s worth noting that Andrew Jackson’s enabling legislation for Native Removal passed Congress by only one vote.
This mainly Northern faction, primarily represented by John Quincy Adams, also prefigured what would later become linked blocs of both citizen-based abolitionism and mass opposition to the U.S. War on Mexico. The Adams–Onís Treaty, negotiated with Spain in 1819 by John Quincy Adams, as Monroe’s Secretary of State, secured both Florida and a path through the Midwest to Oregon. Still, it established a firm border with Spain west of the Sabine River in Texas. When Mexico won its independence, the same Spanish border was still acknowledged, at least for a while.
The new hegemonic term, ‘ Manifest Destiny, ‘ grows out of this tension between the two ruling blocs, with the Jacksonian white supremacist popular bloc gaining the upper hand. It was coined in 1845 by John L. O’Sullivan, editor of the political magazine, The Democratic Review. Some have argued that it was coined by a writer and editor he employed, one Jane Cazneau. The editorial concerned was unsigned but consistent with her writing, which she often left unsigned. Women writers were often ignored or dismissed in those years. In any case, the term took on a power of its own, and ‘Manifest Destiny’ is now taught to all American students as a defining national quality. Next Page