Year
1823

Monroe introduces bold new foreign policy

On this day in 1823, President James Monroe delivers his annual message to Congress and calls for a bold new approach to American foreign policy that eventually became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Monroe told Congress, and the world’s empires, that “the American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for further colonization by any European powers.” This policy was invoked and adapted by subsequent presidents to advance American economic and political interests in the Western Hemisphere.

Monroe’s declaration, which was drafted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams–who would succeed Monroe as president in 1824–was aimed at preventing attempts by other nations to colonize territory on the North and South American continents that had not yet been claimed by Europeans. Although the U.S. population was at the time concentrated east of the Mississippi River, expansion into the western half of the continent was foremost in the minds of many American politicians, including Monroe and his predecessor Thomas Jefferson. Monroe and Adams were also concerned that the British, French and Russians would attempt to annex regions once held by the Spanish (such as the Southwest, Central and South America and the Northern Pacific)–places over which the U.S. itself hoped to extend control.

Monroe did not actively seek to add territory to the United States, but some of his successors, including James Polk and Theodore Roosevelt, used the Monroe Doctrine to justify the annexation of new lands into the Union. Under its auspices, President James Polk took the land (via the Mexican-American War in 1846-48) that now makes up Texas. Later, Theodore Roosevelt tailored Monroe’s philosophy to establish a strong American presence in Central America, the Philippines and the Caribbean.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Napoleon crowned emperor

In Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned Napoleon I, the first Frenchman to hold the title of emperor in a thousand years. Pope Pius VII handed Napoleon the crown that the 35-year-old conqueror of Europe placed on his own head. The Corsican-born Napoleon, ...read more

John Brown hanged

In Charles Town, Virginia, militant abolitionist John Brown is executed on charges of treason, murder, and insurrection. Brown, born in Connecticut in 1800, first became militant during the mid-1850s, when as a leader of the Free State forces in Kansas he fought pro-slavery ...read more

Monroe Doctrine declared

During his annual address to Congress, President James Monroe proclaims a new U.S. foreign policy initiative that becomes known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Primarily the work of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the Monroe Doctrine forbade European interference in the American ...read more

McCarthy condemned by Senate

The U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Senator Joseph R. McCarthy for conduct unbecoming of a senator. The condemnation, which was equivalent to a censure, related to McCarthy’s controversial investigation of suspected communists in the U.S. government, military, and civilian ...read more

Enron files for bankruptcy

On this day in 2001, the Enron Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history. An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas ...read more

Polk affirms Monroe Doctrine

Making his first annual address to Congress, President James K. Polk belligerently reasserts the 1823 Monroe Doctrine and calls for aggressive American expansion into the West. Polk’s aggressive expansionist program created the outline of the modern American nation. The Monroe ...read more

Coleridge joins the cavalry

Fleeing his debtors, 21-year-old Samuel Taylor Coleridge enlists in the Light Dragoons, an English cavalry unit, on this day in 1793. Coleridge had fallen into dissolution and debt when he started college at Cambridge in 1791. Coleridge quickly regretted his impulsive move to ...read more

Dam collapses in France, killing 412

The Malpasset Dam in France collapses on this day in 1959 and the resulting flood kills more than 400 people. The city of Frejus, dating back to Caesar’s time, was devastated by the massive flood. Frejus was built by Roman Emperor Caesar as a port city on the French Riviera. Over ...read more

Kennedy cousin rape trial begins

Opening testimony takes place in the highly publicized rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of Jean Kennedy Smith, the president’s sister and a former ambassador to Ireland. Smith, then a 30-year-old medical student at Georgetown ...read more

General Gracie killed at Petersburg

On this day in 1864, Confederate General Archibald Gracie Jr. is killed in the trenches at Petersburg, Virginia, when an artillery shell explodes near him. Gracie was born in New York City in 1832 (his grandfather built Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of New ...read more

Castro declares himself a Marxist-Leninist

Following a year of severely strained relations between the United States and Cuba, Cuban leader Fidel Castro openly declares that he is a Marxist-Leninist. The announcement sealed the bitter Cold War animosity between the two nations. Castro came to power in 1959 after leading a ...read more