A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter XII

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A Century of American Diplomacy by John W. Foster
Chapter XII: The Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine, popularly so-called, is universally recognized by Americans as a wise policy for our government; but when an attempt is made either to accurately define it or put it in practice, it usually gives rise to discussion and to wide divergence of views on the part of political writers and public men. I can hardly flatter myself that what I shall write on the subject will have any effect in bringing about a consensus of opinion, but as it is embraced in the topics which we are considering, I shall attempt to pass in review the origin of the doctrine and the history of its application or practice, in the hope that I may throw some light on this much debated and important question.

Three declarations are cited in the history of our country, which are devoid of the character or authority of public law, either national or international, and yet which have exercised the most potent influence on our destiny as a nation, and have mightily controlled the conduct of many other nations of the earth. I refer to the Declaration of Independence, the portion of Washington's Farewell Address respecting our foreign relations, and the Monroe Doctrine. All of these may fairly be said to have an intimate elation to each other, and successively to have been the outgrowth the one of the other.

After the Colonies had published to the world the declaration of their independence, maintained it by force of arms, and permanently established it by the adoption of the Constitution, the character of our political system and principles and our geographic position pointed unmistakably to the policy of non-intervention in the affairs of Europe, so wisely set forth by Washington in his Farewell Address. I give only a brief extract therefrom: "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 . . . 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 impos- sibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard giving us provocation." (1 Richardson's Messages, 222.)

We have here not only the announcement of a policy of non-intervention in European affairs, but a plain intimation that the time was not far distant when we would be able to warn European nations against intervention in American affairs. And as each succeeding year increased our prosperity and developed our strength as a nation, the sentiment grew and crystallized into the conviction with our public men that the American hemisphere must be reserved for its own inhabitants. When the Spanish colonies began to revolt against foreign domination, our hearty sympathy with their cause did not arise alone from their proclamation of republican principles, but from our earnest desire to see all European control and influence driven from America. Even before this revolt came, when the dissensions in the Peninsula indicated the coming dissolution of the widespread Spanish empire, and the danger of some of its colonies falling into the hands of other European powers, Mr. Jefferson, our most astute politician and one of our wisest statesmen, wrote in 1808, while president, to the governor of the Territory of Orleans, as follows: "We shall be satisfied to see Cuba and Mexico remain in their present dependence; but very unwilling to see them in that of either France or England, politically or commercially. We consider their interests and ours as the same, and the object of both must be to exclude all European influence from this hemisphere." (9 Writings of Jefferson, 213.)

In 1820, when the independence of a number of the Spanish-American colonies had been substantially gained, Mr. Jefferson, then in private life, wrote of a Portuguese minister in Washington about going to Brazil: "From conversations with him, I hope he sees, and will promote in his new situation, the advantages of a cordial fraternization among all the American nations, and the importance of their coalescing in an American system of policy totally independent of and unconnected with that of Europe." (7 Jefferson's Works (1854), 168.)

In these expressions of opinion, Jefferson was only a little in advance of the then crystallizing public sentiment, and with his superior foresight he was earlier able to formulate a comprehensive policy. The successive presidents after Washington had adhered closely in practice to his announced principle of non-intervention in European affairs; and out of that practice, coupled with the growth of the nation and the independence of the other American colonies, was naturally germinated the doctrine which, when circumstances made its promulgation necessary, was embodied in the annual message of President Monroe of December 2, 1823. Mr. Jefferson pronounced it the most momentous event since the independence.

The circumstances which brought about its announcement grew out of the French Kevolution and the wars and military rule of Napoleon. The fear of the recurrence of such convulsions led to the organization of the so-called Holy Alliance, (Mr. Clay said it was so named because its avowed purpose was "to maintain as a Christian doctrine the sovereign rights of legitimacy, that softer word for despotism.") effected by the emperors of Kussia and Austria and the king of Prussia in 1815. The ostensible object of the alliance was the subordination of politics to the Christian religion, but its purpose was known to be hostile to the rights of the people and to the freedom of nations. France was soon afterwards admitted to the alliance. Various congresses or conferences were held up to 1822, in some of which Great Britain participated, but that government was at no time a party to the alliance.

One of its earliest acts was to restore Ferdinand VII to his throne. In execution of the determination of the Holy Alliance a large French army entered Spain, and replaced the king upon his throne, contrary to the wishes of the great mass of the Spanish people. It was understood that the next step of the alliance would be to aid Ferdinand in reestablishing his authority over the Spanish colonies in America, which had revolted and set up independent governments. With their successful revolt the old colonial system of exclusive trade with the mother county had been broken down, and England was thereby reaping great benefit to its commerce. It was therefore greatly to her interest to maintain the present status of affairs.

In order to deter the Holy Alliance from carrying out their scheme in America, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. George Canning, approached the American minister in London, Mr. Eush, with the proposal that the two governments should unite in a declaration, in which were the following clauses: "Fourth. We aim not at the possession of any portion of these [the colonies of Spain] ourselves. Fifth. We could not see any portion of them transferred to any other power with indifference."

Mr. Rush agreed to unite in the declaration on condition that Great Britain would recognize the independence of the colonies. This, however, Mr. Canning declined to do, fearing such an act would bring his government into conflict with the alliance, and the proposal for joint action was not further pressed. But Mr. Kush communicated the facts to the Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, and by him they were laid before President Monroe, and the question became the subject of cabinet conference.

Mr. Rush's correspondence was also submitted by the President to Jefferson and Madison, and their views solicited. Mr. Jefferson expressed in hearty terms his approval of the proposed declaration in a letter of some length, from which I make the f oUowing extracts : " Our first and fundamental maxim should be never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs." He advised the President to declare, respecting the Spanish colonies, "That we will oppose with all our means the forcible interposition of any power, as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other form or pretext, and more especially their transfer to any power by conquest, cession, or acquisition in any other way." l Mr. Madison's advice was also in favor of the declaration, but expressed in more reserved language. 2

An independent declaration by the United States was determined upon, and it was accordingly inserted in the annual message to Congress of December 2, 1823. It was doubtless drafted by Mr. Adams, 3 but there is reason to believe it was somewhat modified by his more temperate and conservative chief. 4 It consists

1 10 Writings of Jefferson, 277. 3 Writings of Madison, 339.

2 12 Memoirs of J. Q. Adams, 218. 4 4 Calhoun's Works, 461.

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of two parts widely separated in the message, and referring to matters having no direct connection with each other. The first is as follows : " The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power.'* 1

The foregoing declaration followed a statement of the negotiations then pending with Russia, growing out of the imperial ukase of 1821, setting up claims to sovereignty in America which were being contested by the United States. These claims, as we have seen, 2 were adjusted by treaty in 1824.

The second part of the declaration is preceded in the message by a reference to the disturbed condition of Spain and the forcible intervention therein of the allied powers; it then says : " We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers [the allied powers of Europe], to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the go7ernments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great considera-

1 2 Richardson's Messages, 209. 2 Supra, p. 265.


tion and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power, in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States. . . . Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting, in all instances, the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none. But in regard to these continents, circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can any one believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition, in any form, with indifference." 1

While the events which brought about the two declarations of this message had no direct connection with each other, they do have an intimate relation in that they both look to the exclusion of European influence from this hemisphere. The first declares against future European colonization; the second, against the 1 2 Richardson's Messages, 218, 219.

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extension of the political system of the Holy Alliance to this hemisphere, and against the intervention of any European power in the affairs of the Spanish- American states, for the purpose of oppressing them, or in any other manner controlling their destiny. The first declaration has long ago accomplished its purpose with the occupation of all the territory of the two continents by sovereign and civilized states or their dependencies, and it has ceased to have any further application.

But the second declaration embodies a living principle to be applied whenever circumstances make it necessary. The cause which gave rise to its promulgation in 1823, the Holy Alliance, has long since ceased to exist; but the principle which is the basis of the Monroe Doctrine is as vital today as at any time in the past. That principle is the right and duty of selfdefense. It was upon the ground that we regarded it "as dangerous to our peace and safety," that President Monroe warned the Holy Alliance against interference with the independence of the Spanish-American republics which we had recognized. It was because of "our peace and safety "we could not view without concern "any interposition [by European nations] for the purpose of oppressing them [these republics] or controlling in any other manner their destiny." While we had been the first among the nations to recognize the independence of these struggling republics, President Monroe was not controlled in making his declaration by a determination to reserve this hemisphere for republican government, much as our people rejoiced in its success, for he himself recognized the empire of Iturbide in Mexico and that of Brazil. It was because of the conviction that "our peace and safety "required that European influence and dominion should not be further extended on these continents. "It is impossible' said President Monroe in further expression of his declaration, "that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness." And in his annual message the next year (1824) l he repeats: "It is impossible for the European governments to inter- fere in their concerns [the other American states] . . . without affecting us." While the declaration is very broad in its application, it is very precise and restricted as to its cause. It is America for the Americans, because otherwise " the peace and safety " of the United States would be endangered.

President Monroe might have communicated this declaration to the allied powers in the usual diplomatic form, through the Department of State, to our ministers at the various European capitals, but he wisely adopted the form of its promulgation in his annual message to Congress. It thus became a notice, not to the Holy Alliance only, but to the whole world, of the policy of the United States.

Few, if any, official utterances of the century have had such general and lasting influence. When the message was published in London it received universal commendation. Said one of the journals: "We shall hear no more of a congress to settle the fate of the South American States;" another: "It is worthy the

i Ib. 260.

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occasion and of the people destined to occupy so large a space in the future history of the world." Mr. Canning's biographer, in recording the effect of its publication in Europe, says that, coupled with the refusal of England to take part in the proposed congress to discuss Spanish-American affairs, it effectually put an end to the project. Mr. Brougham, the English statesman, said: "The question with regard to South America is now disposed of, or nearly so, for an event has recently happened than which no event has dispensed greater joy, exultation, and gratitude over all the freemen of Europe; that event, which is decisive on the subject in respect of South America, is the message of the Presi- dent of the United States to Congress." It is further reported that " the South American deputies in Lon- don were wild with joy, and South American securities of every sort rose in value."

The manner in which it was received in the United States was described by Mr. Webster, in a speech delivered in the Senate three years later, as follows: "It met, sir, with the entire concurrence and hearty approbation of the country. One general glow of exultation, one universal feeling of gratified love of liberty, one conscious and proud perception of the consideration which our country possessed, and of the respect and honor which belonged to it, pervaded all bosoms." l

An undue share of credit has been assigned to Mr.

Canning for the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine,

and to him has even been ascribed the origin or first

suggestion of the idea. But it has been seen that fif-

i 3 Webster's Works, 178.


teen years before, President Jefferson had set forth the policy in much broader terms than those contained in Canning's proposal to Kush. The published diplomatic correspondence shows that Secretary Adams was fully informed as to the designs of the Holy Alliance, and that six months before that proposal was broached he had given instructions to our minister in Spain to make known at the proper time that our government would oppose any forcible intervention in American affairs or the transfer of any of the Spanish possessions to other European powers. Canning's proposal went no further than a protest against the transfer of any of the colo- nies to other powers, which was much narrower than Monroe's message; and the correspondence makes it plain that Great Britain was wholly influenced by a desire to retain and enlarge its trade and by its jealousy of France.

We have seen that Mr. Rush offered to join with England in the desired protest, if she would recognize the independence of the revolted Spanish colonies, but this Mr. Canning declined to do, and the joint declara- tion was abandoned. Mr. Rush, in a dispatch to Secre- tary Adams, says : u It appears that having ends of her own in view, she (England) has been anxious to facili- tate their accomplishment by invoking my offices as the minister of the United States; but as to the independ- ence of the new states of America, for their own bene- fit, this seems quite another question in her diplomacy. It is France that must not be aggrandized, not South America that must be made free. ... I have forborne to give it gratuitous succor. . . . This nation in its

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collective corporate capacity has no more sympathy with popular rights and freedom now than it had on the plains of Lexington."

Secretary Adams, in recording in his faithful diary the conferences on the Canning proposal of joint action, states that it was decided to decline the overture of Great Britain, and, with his intense Americanism, adds : " It would be more candid, as well as more dignified, to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cock-boat in the wake of the British man-of-war." It must be admitted that Mr. Canning's proposal did bring the subject directly to the attention of our government and had a decided influ- ence on the action taken at that time, but he did not originate the idea. On the contrary, it was the natural outgrowth of our independence and of the policy announced in Washington's address; it had been dis- tinctly and broadly formulated by a president fifteen years before; and had been communicated six months before to our minister in Spain for his action. In view of these facts, of the recognition by the United States of the independence of the Spanish- American states, of his refusal to make the same recognition when proposed by Mr. Rush, and of his known hostility to republican institutions, Mr. Canning was hardly justified in the boast which he uttered in Parliament a few years later : " I called the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old." l

Though the Holy Alliance abandoned its imperfectly formed purpose of interference in the affairs of the 1 16 Hansard's Debates, 397.


western hemisphere, it was not long before the United States had occasion to apply the Monroe Doctrine in practice. In 1825 there seemed danger that Spain might be induced to transfer Cuba to either France or England. Mr. Clay, as Secretary of State, directed our ministers to make known to those governments that we could not consent that that island should pass from Spain to any other European power. 1

The next occasion when the Monroe Doctrine was brought into public discussion was on the assembling of what is known as the Panama Congress. This move- ment grew out of the project of the South American liberator, Bolivar, to unite the American nations and organize an allied army and navy in order to resist the threatened encroachments of the Holy Alliance, and to secure the freedom and independence of the remaining Spanish - American colonies. Mr. Clay, Secretary of State under President Adams, was approached in 1825, by the ministers of Mexico and Colombia in Washing- ton to know if the United States would be represented at the proposed congress, if invited. Mr. Clay asked for a specific statement of the measures to be considered at the congress, and this was furnished in separate notes of the two ministers stating the subjects for consideration, and extending a formal invitation to the United States to send representatives. The minister of Central America likewise sent a similar note. 2

From these notes it appeared that an armed alliance for the purposes indicated was contemplated, but it was

1 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 367, 368.

8 5 Foreign Relations (folio ed.), 836, 839.

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stated that the United States need not participate in the consideration of that measure. The United States, however, would be asked to unite in a declaration against European interference in American affairs; also to consider measures for the suppression of the slave trade, and to recognize and determine the status of the negro republic of Hayti. Mr. Clay, in reply, accepted the invitation, but with a careful reservation as to the part which the United States representatives should take in the congress. 1 This was followed by a special message from President Adams to the Senate, March 21, 1826, nominating two plenipotentiaries to the congress and discussing the occasion for and objects to be attained by the assembly, and transmitting the correspondence on the subject. 2

The message awakened a most animated and pro- tracted debate. The Committee on Foreign Relations reported against the confirmation of the plenipoten- tiaries, with an exhaustive review of the questions involved; 3 but the Senate finally confirmed the nom- inations. The President then sent a message to the House of Representatives, asking for an appropriation to meet the expenses of the mission, but not content with making the request, he entered upon an extended statement, 4 which evoked a renewed discussion in that body. The appropriation was voted by a narrow majority, 5 and the plenipotentiaries were sent on their mission; but owing to the delay in their appointment, the congress had adjourned before they reached Pan- ama, and never again reassembled.

i 5 For. Rel. 837. 2 Ib. 834. Ib. 857.

  • Ib. 882. 6 4 Stat at Large, 158.


The debates in Congress were of a most acrimonious character/ and were conducted upon domestic party lines, 2 the opponents of the administration almost unan- imously voting against the mission. The two strong points of opposition were, first, the objection to an alliance, especially an armed one, with any other nations; and, second, the recognition of the negro republic of Hayti, which opened up the slavery question. A feature of the debate was that Messrs. Polk and Buchanan, who afterwards as presidents were ardent advocates of the Monroe Doctrine, opposed the mission. Daniel Webster made one of his most notable speeches in favor of the mission and in eulogy of President Monroe's declaration. 3

During the debate, a resolution was introduced in the House by James Buchanan, and passed by that body, as follows: "In the opinion of the House . . . the United States . . . ought not to form any alliance . . . with all or any of the South American republics; nor ought they to become parties with them ... to any joint declaration for the purpose of preventing the interference of any of the European powers with their independence or form of government, or to any com- pact for the purpose of preventing colonization upon the continents of America, but that the people of the United States should be left free to act, in any crisis,

1 It was in this debate that John Randolph made his assault on Mr. Clay which resulted in the duel between them; see supra, p. 269.

2 1 Curtis's Buchanan, 63, 64.

8 3 Webster's Works, 203. For official papers, 5 For. Rel. 834-920. For debates, 8 Benton's Abridg. of Debates for Senate, 417-472, 637- 675; 9 Ib. for House, 48-50, 62-76, 90-218.

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in such manner as their feelings of friendship towards these republics or as their own honor and policy may at the time dictate."

It has been contended that this action was a dis- avowal of the Monroe Doctrine, but it was far from it. The occasion called for a more precise statement of the course to be pursued by the United States, and this statement, as contained in the House resolution, was the logical result of the principle of self-defense which underlies the declaration in President Monroe's message. The declaration was made because of a threatened move- ment "dangerous to our peace and safety," to the peace and safety of the United States, not of others. It would, therefore, be unwise for us to enter into any alliance or compact which would intrust to other powers the decision, in whole or in part, of the question what was dangerous to our peace and safety. We must reserve to ourselves exclusively the decision of that momentous question, and it would be the part of wisdom to withhold the decision of that question till the crisis should arise. Hence the House resolution of 1826, so far from being a disavowal of the doctrine, is an affir- mation of its true spirit and intent. Happily the United States, since the declaration of President Monroe, has increased sevenfold in power and influence, and does not need to seek an alliance with its neighbors to en- force the doctrine of non-interference against European domination. But at the same time it encourages and welcomes the adoption of the doctrine by our sister republics.

The next occasion when the Monroe Doctrine was


sought to be applied was in 1848, when President Polk in a special message brought to the attention of Con- gress the fact that the white population of Yucatan (a state of Mexico) had called upon the United States for help against the Indians, who were waging against them a war of extermination; offering, if aid should be granted, to transfer the " dominion and sovereignty " to the United States, and stating that similar appeals had been made to England and Spain. 1 President Polk disavowed any policy of acquisition, but stated that there was danger, unless the United States intervened, of the peninsula falling into the hands of a European power, which he regarded as dangerous to our peace and security.

Following the message a bill was introduced in the Senate authorizing the temporary military occupation of Yucatan, and this resulted in a debate, the most notable feature of which was a speech from Mr. Calhoun, who was then the only surviving member of the Cabinet of President Monroe, Mr. J. Q. Adams having died only a few months before. 2 In this speech, Mr. Calhoun sought to weaken the force of the Monroe Doctrine, and he stated that President Monroe did not contemplate the use of force when he made his declaration. His views and memory are in contradiction to those of Mr. J. Q. Adams, also a member of Monroe's Cabinet. In a conversation with Mr. Bancroft, a member of Mr. Polk's Cabinet in 1845, he supported the latter's atti- tude as to the Oregon boundary, and in indorsing the

1 4 Richardson's Messages, 581.

2 4 Calhoim's Works, 461.

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Monroe Doctrine, said " he believed it indispensably necessary to make large expenditures for preparation by sea and land, to maintain it, if necessary, by force of arms." 1 Mr. Calhoun was, however, correct in assert- ing that the situation in Yucatan afforded no proper occasion to invoke the doctrine. We were then just closing the war with Mexico, and the helpless condition of the white population of Yucatan mainly grew out of the disorder attending that contest. There was no indication that any European power was contemplating the occupation of the peninsula. With the peace came a restoration of order and safety, and the subject was dropped in the Senate.

Soon after came the negotiation of the Clayton-Bul- wer treaty of 1850. It had two objects in view : first, the promotion of the construction of an inter-oceanic canal across the isthmus of Central America; and, second, the restriction of British territorial dominion in the same quarter. With the acquisition of California, the interest of the people of the United States was greatly increased in the construction of the canal, and it was felt that the capital for its construction must come from England. On the other hand, the British influence on the isthmus was very active at that time. The Belize settlement was growing into a colony and a British protectorate was sought to be extended over the Mosquito coast, covering the eastern outlet of the Nicaragua canal route.

Mr. Clayton, then Secretary of State, entered into negotiations with the British minister, the result of

1 12 Memoirs of J. Q. Adams, 218.


which was the treaty by which the two governments stipulated for a joint guarantee of the canal to be con- structed; and agreed not to occupy, fortify, colonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over any part of Cen- tral America. The treaty was ratified without much discussion, in the belief that it would insure at once the construction of the canal and would exclude British colonization and protectorates from Central America; but it was no sooner published than it began to be a source of dispute as to its scope and meaning. Secre- tary Elaine, in 1881, described it as " misunderstandingly entered into, imperfectly comprehended, contradictorily interpreted, and mutually vexatious." President Buch- anan said in 1857, that if in the United States the treaty had been considered susceptible of the construc- tion put upon it by Great Britain, it never would have been negotiated, nor would it have received the appro- bation of the Senate. Mr. Cass, who was a member of the Senate at the time it was ratified, has made a similar declaration.

The American expectation as to the early construction of the canal, with the aid of British capital, was dis- appointed; and for the next ten years our secretaries of state were occupied in bringing the British government to an observance of its engagements respecting the colonization and protectorates. The treaty marks the most serious mistake in our diplomatic history, and is the single instance, since its announcement in 1823, of a tacit disavowal or disregard of the Monroe Doctrine, by the admission of Great Britain to an equal partici- pation in the protection and control of a great Ameri-

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can enterprise. 1 The wisdom of that doctrine is mos'.. signally illustrated in the effects of this single disavowal, the heated discussion engendered, and the embarrass- ments which the treaty has brought to this government, and from which it still suffers. 2

Mention has been made of the notice which Secre- tary Clay caused to be given to France and Great Britain that we could not consent to the transfer of Cuba to any other European power. This position was, as we have seen, announced by President Jefferson as early as 1808, and it has been repeated by almost every administration from that day to this. The basis of this position is the Monroe Doctrine, and it has had the unanimous support of all our public men, although there have been times in our history when the attitude of our government towards Cuba has not been free from criticism. Similar declarations have been made respecting San Domingo, when apparently threatened by European aggression or transfer. President Grant, in his annual message of 1870, in discussing the Span- ish misrule in Cuba, and the relation of the other American nations to the Monroe Doctrine, used this

1 " This treaty [Clayton-Bulwer] is the only instance in which the United States has consented to join with any European power in the manage- ment of political interests in the western hemisphere; and the treaty is remarkable, not only because it is a departure from the settled policy of the United States not to sanction any European interference in the affairs of America, but because, deviating in this way from our settled system, it undertakes, in concert with a foreign power, to determine a question the most important to the United States that can arise outside of our own territory." Dr. Francis Wharton, 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 168.

3 For history of the discussion and citation of authorities, 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. sect. 150 f .


language : " The time is not probably far distant when, in the natural course of events, the European political connection with this continent will cease." l In a re- port accompanying this message, Secretary Fish said the policy announced by Monroe " looks hopefully to the time, when, by the voluntary departure of Euro- pean governments from this continent and the adjacent islands, America shall be wholly American." 2

I have already referred to the condition of anarchy existing in Mexico during the administration of Presi- dent Buchanan and his action respecting it. 3 It was apparent that the disorganized condition of affairs would lead to foreign intervention for redress of griev- ances, and in anticipation of this Secretary Cass in- structed Mr. McLane, minister to Mexico, that " while we do not deny the right of any other power to carry on hostile operations against Mexico, for the redress of its grievances, we firmly object to its holding possession of any part of that country, or endeavoring by force to control its political destiny. This opposition to for- eign interference is known to France, England, and Spain, as well as the determination of the United States to resist any such attempt by all means in their power." 4 And President Buchanan in his annual mes- sage of December, 1860, recalling his previous recom- mendation for authority to intervene to restore order in Mexico, said that in that way we would be " relieved from the obligation of resisting even by force, should this become necessary, any attempt by the European

1 7 Richardson's Messages, 99. 2 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 293.

8 Supra, p. 355. 4 1 Wharton's Int. Dig. 300.


governments to deprive our neighboring republic of portions of her territory, a duty from which we could not shrink without abandoning the traditional and established policy of the American people." l

I have narrated the events which transpired during our Civil War and at its conclusion respecting the tri- partite intervention of England, Spain, and France; the withdrawal of England and Spain; the continued occupation of Mexico by French troops; the attempt to overthrow republican institutions; and the final withdrawal of the French, upon notice from our gov- ernment to the Emperor Napoleon that our. friendly relations "would be brought into imminent jeopardy unless France could deem it consistent with her interest and honor to desist from the prosecution of armed intervention in Mexico." This is properly held to be an instance of the operation of the Monroe Doctrine. It is true that Secretary Seward did not evoke the doc- trine in name, but its principles were clearly and expli- citly set forth by him in his correspondence when the tripartite intervention occurred, reiterated at various times during the Civil War, and at its close steps were taken to compel its observance by military force. The army of the United States would undoubtedly have been used to expel the French troops, and restore the republican government to power, if peaceful means had not made such a step unnecessary.

In 1866, Spain was engaged in hostilities with the republics of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Eespecting this conflict, Secretary Seward wrote our minister in

1 5 Richardson's Messages, 646.


Chile : " The government of the United States will maintain and insist, with all the decision and energy which are compatible with our existing neutrality, that the republican system which is accepted by any one of those states shall not be wantonly assailed, and that it shall not be subverted as an end of a lawful war by European powers; " 1 but, he added, the United States will not " consider itself bound to take part in wars in which a South American republic may enter with a European sovereign, when the object of the latter is not the establishment, in place of a subverted republic, of a monarchy under a European prince."

The Monroe Doctrine has had an enlargement in recent years, growing out of the interest of our country in and the relation of our government to an interoceanic canal across the isthmus. In 1880, the De Lesseps project for a canal across the isthmus at Panama took definite shape. This was an enterprise at the head of which was a celebrated French engineer, the company for its direction was a French corporation, the funds for its construction were almost exclusively raised in France, and it was supposed that in some form it would have the favor, if not protection, of the French gov- ernment.

These facts created a widespread interest in the United States, and President Hayes felt it necessary to make a public announcement of the policy of this gov- ernment towards the new enterprise, which he did, in a special message to the Senate on March 8, 1880, 2 from

1 Dip. Cor. 1866, part 2, p. 413.

2 For message and documents, S. Ex. Doc. No. 112, 46th Cong. 2d


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which I make the following extracts : " The policy of this country is a canal under American control. The United States cannot consent to the surrender of this control to any European power, or to any combination of European powers. . . . The capital invested by corporations or citizens of other countries in such an enterprise must, in a great degree, look for protection to one or more of the great powers of the world. No European power can intervene for such protection without adopting measures on this continent which the United States would deem wholly inadmissible. . . . It [the canal] will be the great ocean thoroughfare between our Atlantic and our Pacific shores, and vir- tually a part of the coast line of the United States. Our merely commercial interest in it is greater than that of all other countries, while its relation to our power and prosperity as a nation, to our means of defense, our unity, peace, and safety are matters of paramount concern to the people of the United States. No other great power would, under similar circum- stances, fail to assert a rightful control over a work so closely and vitally affecting its interest and welfare."

This message was accompanied by a historical review of the official correspondence on the subject of an isthmus canal, by Mr. Evarts, Secretary of State, at the conclusion of which he says : " The paramount interest of the United States in these projects of inter- oceanic communication across the American isthmus has seemed quite as indisputable to the European powers as to the states of this continent. . . . The question involved presents itself distinctly to this government


as a territorial one, in the administration of which, as such, it must exercise a potential control." l

This public announcement was followed up by an inquiry of the French minister in Washington, on the part of Secretary Evarts, as to the relation which the French government proposed to assume toward the De Lesseps enterprise. The answer was that " the French cabinet had from the outset expressed its firm purpose to allow the character of the enterprise inaugurated by M. De Lesseps to remain an essentially private one. . . . The French government is in no way concerned in the enterprise, and in no way proposes to interfere therein, or to give it any support, either direct or indi- rect." 2

President Garfield, in his inaugural address in 1881, reaffirmed the position of President Hayes to the effect that it is " the right and duty of the United States to assert and maintain such supervision and authority over any interoceanic canal across the isthmus ... as will protect our national interests." 3 Soon after the new administration was installed, the report was published that Colombia had approached the European powers with a view to securing their joint guarantee of the proposed De Lesseps canal at Panama. Thereupon the Secretary of State, Mr. Elaine, sent a circular instruc- tion to the American ministers in Europe, June 24, 1881, 4 in which he referred to the terms of the treaty of 1846 with Colombia, 5 by which the United States

1 Ib. 18, 2 Di pt Cor. 1880, p. 385.

8 8 Richardson's Messages, 11. * Dip. Cor. 1881, p. 537.

6 Supra, p. 324.

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had guaranteed the perfect neutrality of the isthmus transit, and he instructed our ministers to give notice "that any movement in the sense of supplementing the guarantee contained therein would necessarily be regarded by this government as an uncalled for intru- sion into a field where the local and general interests of the United States of America should be considered before those of any other power save those of Colombia alone."

But the secretary did not confine his instructions to the terms of the Colombian treaty, but made it apply to the general subject of the isthmus transit. He said that "the President deemed it due to frankness to be still more explicit/' and he proceeded to say : " It is, as regards the political control of such a canal, as dis- tinguished from its merely administrative or commercial regulation, that the President feels called upon to speak with directness and with emphasis. During any war to which the United States of America or Colombia might be a party, the passage of armed vessels of a hostile nation through the canal at Panama would be no more admissible than would the passage of the armed forces of a hostile nation over the railway lines joining the Atlantic and Pacific shores of the United States or of Colombia. And the United States will insist upon her right to take all needful precautions against the possibility of the isthmus transit being in any event used offensively against her interests upon the land or upon the sea." He reiterates the statement of Presi- dent Hayes that the isthmus canal will form a part of our coast line, " and be as truly a channel of communi-


cation between the Eastern and far Western States as our own transcontinental railways." The agreement between European states for a joint guarantee of the proposed canal, he repeats, " would be regarded as an indication of an unfriendly feeling," and " viewed by this government with the gravest concern; " and he closes with the statement that his circular is not the development of a new policy, but is, in effect, merely the pronounced adherence to the Monroe Doctrine.

This circular was followed a few months later by a proposition from Secretary Elaine to the British gov- ernment, for an amendment of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, so as to make it conform to the principles set forth in the circular. 1 The British government, in reply, declined to agree to the amendments to the treaty proposed by Mr. Blaine, and set forth the reasons for its action at considerable length. The correspondence was continued by Secretary Frelinghuysen, 2 successor to Mr. Blaine, who held that the treaty was voidable, at the option of the United States, because of its viola- tion by Great Britain, and he concluded with the state- ment that the President's views remained unshaken, that the only protectorate required of the canal was that of the United States and the country through which the canal should run, and that a protectorate by European nations would be in conflict with the Monroe Doctrine, which is cherished by the American people, and has been approved by the government of Great Britain.

1 Dip. Cor. 1881, p. 554.

2 S. Ex. Doc. No. 194, 47th Cong. 1st Sess. and S. Ex. Doc. No. 26, 48th Cong. 1st Sess.

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A treaty was negotiated in 1884 with the govern- ment of Nicaragua for the construction of the canal by the government of the United States, with an engage- ment to guarantee the integrity of the territory of Nic- aragua. 1 This treaty was pending in the Senate at the accession of President Cleveland, and was withdrawn by him without action, his views upon the subject not agreeing with those of his predecessor. 2

In 1893-94 an incident occurred which has a cer- tain relation to the question under consideration. A revolt broke out against the newly established repub- lican government of Brazil, and a large part of the Brazilian navy, with the admiral at its head, pronounced in favor of the restoration of the empire. A strong detachment of the United States navy was dispatched to Bio Janeiro, the chief scene of the conflict, with instructions to preserve a strict neutrality between the contending parties. The American admiral found the commanders of the European squadrons in the harbor in sympathy with the imperialists, and unwilling to do anything that would discourage them. When an at- tempt was made by the revolutionists to embarrass for- eign commerce and establish a blockade, the only foreign naval commander to be found to oppose these measures was the American admiral, who, upon a notice from the revolutionists of disapproval of his conduct, gave orders to clear for action and forced the imperialist admiral to desist from his purpose. This determined

1 For copy of treaty, Senate Report, No. 1265, 55th Cong. 2d Sess. p. 20.

3 8 Richardson's Messages, 377.


action had a material influence in bringing about the failure of the attempt to reestablish monarchical gov- ernment in South America. 1

We come now to the last and most recent assertion in our history of the Monroe Doctrine, the interposition of President Cleveland in the controversy between Great Britain and Venezuela, growing out of the bound- ary question of British Guiana. This controversy has been in existence for more than half a century, and involved the large extent of territory between the Es- sequibo and Orinoco rivers. During this period the British government had from time to time enlarged its claims, and was steadily encroaching upon territory claimed by Venezuela and over which that government had exercised jurisdiction. Not being able to bring the British government to any agreement as to a divisory line, Venezuela proposed arbitration of the question, and invoked the good offices of the United States to that end. For fifteen years our government sought in a disinterested way to induce Great Britain to accept the invitation of Venezuela, but with no definite result; and finally the latter, angered by the continued en- croachments of the British, broke off diplomatic rela- tions. At that time the British had occupied a point at the mouth of the Orinoco, from whence it was pos- sible to dominate the vast interior of South America drained by that river. Our ministers in London, under successive administrations, pressed the subject of arbi- tration upon Great Britain, but the latter adhered to an arbitrary line drawn by its own officials, and refused

1 For official reports, Dip. Cor. 1893, pp. 45-148.


to submit any portion of this territory within that line to arbitration.

In this state of the controversy President Cleveland, in his annual message of December, 1894, directed the attention of Congress to the unsatisfactory condition of the negotiations on the subject, and, expressing the belief " that its early settlement . . . is in the line of our established policy to remove from this hemisphere all causes of difference with powers beyond the sea," announced his intention to renew his efforts to secure a reference of the dispute to arbitration. 1 A few weeks thereafter a joint resolution was passed by Congress declaring "that the President's suggestion . . . that Great Britain and Venezuela refer their dispute as to boundaries to friendly arbitration be earnestly recom- mended to the favorable consideration of both parties in interest." 2

Strengthened by the action of Congress, President Cleveland determined to make a new and more decided effort to bring the controversy to a settlement, and Sec- retary Olney prepared a lengthy and exhaustive paper, in the form of an instruction to Ambassador Bayard in London, reviewing the history of the boundary dispute and the hitherto fruitless efforts of the United States, and stating the basis of the present intervention of the United States, which was, he claimed, an application of the Monroe Doctrine. He said that, in view of the continued refusal of Great Britain to arbitrate except upon condition of a renunciation of a large part of the Venezuelan claim and of the concession to herself of a

1 9 Richardson's Messages, 526. 2 28 Stat. at Large, 971.


large share of the territory in controversy, the United States was compelled to decide how far it was bound to see that the integrity of Venezuelan territory was not impaired by its powerful antagonist. He asserted that a nation may avail itself of the right to interfere in the disputes of other nations whenever what is done or proposed by any of the parties is a menace to its own integrity, tranquillity, or welfare. The essence of the Monroe Doctrine is that our own security and welfare demand that the political control of an American state shall not be forcibly assumed by a European power. Though the Venezuela dispute related to a boundary line, it imports political control to be lost or gained over a great extent of country, and involves the command of the mouth of the Orinoco, a matter of immense consequence to the nations of South America. Great Britain was not an American state because of its possession of American colonies, and its encroachment on Venezuelan territory, if it should prove to be such, would be a plain infringement of the Monroe Doctrine; and it was the duty of the United States to have the rights of Venezuela respected. He said the attitude of Great Britain towards Venezuela was substantially as follows : " You can get none of the debatable ground by force, because you are not strong enough; you can get none of it by treaty, because I will not agree to it; and you can take your chance of getting a portion by arbitration only if you first agree to abandon to me such other portion as I may designate." Such a position, Mr. Olney held, if adhered to, would be regarded as amounting to an invasion and conquest of Venezuelan

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territory. In these circumstances the duty of the President appeared to him unmistakable and imperative, and Mr. Bayard was instructed to urge upon Lord Salis- bury a definite decision whether Great Britain would agree to submit the Venezuela question in its entirety to arbitration.

This paper was criticised by the English press and magazine writers as verbose, in a style not commonly employed in state papers, violent in language, in con- temptuous disregard of other great nations, containing glaring misrepresentations of fact, full of extravagan- cies, perversities, and audacity. 1 This, however, is the criticism which has been visited upon every Secretary of State from the days of John Quincy Adams down to the present time, whenever the arrogance and the selfish conduct of Great Britain have been exposed. The fact is that the paper is not open to the charge of undiplomatic language, and, although subject to some qualification, it constitutes the most complete and sat- isfactory statement of the Monroe Doctrine thus far made.

It received at the hands of Lord Salisbury a very careful and respectful consideration, in two dispatches to the British ambassador in Washington, one being confined to a discussion of the Monroe Doctrine and the other to the Venezuela boundary dispute. He maintained that President Monroe never thought of claiming the novel prerogative for the United States set up by Mr. Olney, and that, although entitled to great respect, the Monroe Doctrine had not been ad-

1 The Nineteenth Century, Dec. 1896. London.


mitted into international law so as to be binding upon other nations; that the present controversy was one with which the United States had no apparent concern; that it was not a question of the imposition upon the people of South America of any system of government devised in Europe, but simply the determination of the frontier of a British possession; that while the United States has a right, like any other nation, to interpose in any controversy by which its own interests are af- fected, its rights are in no way strengthened or extended by the fact that the controversy affects some territory which is called American; that it is the same right as, and no greater right than, in case of Japan or China; that while he admitted that any disturbance of the existing territorial distribution in the American hemi- sphere by a European state was highly inexpedient, he could not admit that such a condition was covered by the Monroe Doctrine; and he closed by substantially reasserting the previous position of Great Britain, that while a portion of the disputed territory could be sub- mitted to arbitration, there was a portion which could not be so submitted.

Lord Salisbury's dispatches bore date of November 26, 1895, and on December 17, very soon after their receipt in Washington, President Cleveland sent to Congress his celebrated message, which created intense excitement in both America and Europe. With the message he submitted the correspondence between Sec- retary Olney and Lord Salisbury, 1 and, referring to his lordship's declaration that the Monroe Doctrine was i S. Ex. Doc. 31, 54th Cong. 1st Sess.

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inapplicable " to the state of things in which we live at the present day/' he stated that he regarded the doctrine as " important to our peace and safety as a nation, and essential to our free institutions, . . . was intended to apply to every stage of our national life, and cannot become obsolete while our republic en- dures; " that Great Britain having finally refused to submit the dispute to arbitration, nothing remained but to accept the situation and deal with it accordingly; that a commission should be appointed to investigate and determine what was the true divisional line be- tween Venezuela and British Guiana; that when the report of that commission was made and accepted, it would be the duty of the United States to resist, by every means in its power, the appropriation of any lands which we have determined rightfully belong to Venezuela; and that in making these declarations he was " fully alive to the responsibilities incurred."

Congress acted with great promptness and unanimity upon the President's recommendation by authorizing the commission and appropriating $100,000 to meet the expenses of the investigation; l and the President appointed a commission from among our most learned men. If we are to judge from the tone of the English press during the occurrence of these events, the con- clusion would be that war between the two English- speaking nations was inevitable; but it is evident that such a thought was not entertained by the British gov- ernment. The diplomatic negotiations were continued, and it was finally agreed that the whole territory in dis-

1 29 Stat. at Large, 1.


pute should be submitted to arbitration; and, through the friendly intervention of the United States, a treaty to that effect was agreed upon between Venezuela and Great Britain. The arbitration was concluded in 1899, and resulted in fixing a territorial line which was a compromise between the claims of the contending na- tions, which has been peacefully accepted by them.

President Cleveland's conduct received the enthusi- astic indorsement of the great mass of the people of the United States. There were, however, a number of newspapers, political writers, and public men of promi- nence who disputed his position, as not warranted by the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine. I do not agree with the latter. I regard the President's action as a consistent, judicious, and necessary application of the true intent and spirit of that doctrine.

It is gratifying to note that the effect upon European nations has been most salutary. Not since the triumph of our government in the Civil War had anything, up to that time, occurred which gave our country greater prestige abroad. The London Times, in commenting on the arbitration treaty with Venezuela, said : " From the point of view of the United States the arrange- ment is a concession by Great Britain of the most far- reaching kind. It admits a principle that in respect of South American republics the United States may not only intervene in disputes, but may entirely supersede the original disputant and assume exclusive control of the negotiations. Great Britain cannot, of course, bind any other nation by her action, but she has set up a pre- cedent which may in the future be quoted with great

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effect against herself, and she has greatly strengthened the hands of the United States government in any dis- pute that may arise in the future between a South American republic and a European power in which the United States may desire to intervene." 1

A writer in the Nineteenth Century magazine (Lon- don, Dec. 1896), in collating European sentiment on the subject, gives the following result : " The best in- formed French and German journalists, . . . though they acknowledge the equity and prudence of the com- promise [to arbitrate] which has been reached, think it necessary to point out that it involves possibilities of considerable gravity, not merely to England and the United States, but also to the civilized world in general; " and he cites, as indicating the prevailing sentiment, the Cologne Gazette, which " insists that a precedent has been established by the joint action of the two Anglo-Saxon powers, the effects of which are likely to be felt long after the British Guiana boundary question has been forgotten.'

" 2

1 London Times, Nov. 14, 1896.

2 The same writer discusses at some length the consequences involved in the interposition by the United States in a controversy between a South American and European nation. He refers to the vast extent of the yet unoccupied territory of Brazil, and says : " Let us suppose not an extravagant supposition that some time in the early part of the next century a couple of millions of Germans find themselves living in Southern Brazil, and that they also find the government of a gang of half-caste attorneys and political adventurers at Rio Janeiro no longer tolerable. The Uitlanders revolt and are beaten; they appeal to their own government for protection and annexation. What will the United States do ? ... It is conceivable that even the prestige of the United States might not be sufficient to induce a powerful European monarchy to abandon a large population of its own subjects without a struggle.


The United States delegates to the International Peace Conference, which met at The Hague, in 1899, in signing the convention for the peaceful settlement of international conflicts, made in the conference the following declaration which was entered in the proto- cols : " Nothing contained in this convention shall be so construed as to require the United States of America to depart from its traditional policy of not intruding upon, interfering with, or entangling itself in, the political questions or policy or internal administration of any foreign state; nor shall anything contained in the said convention be construed to imply a relinquish- ment by the United States of America of its traditional attitude towards purely American questions." This declaration did not commit any other nation to the policy set forth, but it was a solemn notice to the world of the continued adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine.

From the foregoing historical review I think it may be fairly deduced that the principle or policy of the government of the United States, known as the Monroe Doctrine, declares affirmatively :

First. That no European power, or combination of powers, can intervene in the affairs of this hemisphere for the purpose, or with the effect, of forcibly changing

. . . But this would be ' antagonizing the interests and inviting the oppo- sition of the United States,' and according to the Olney doctrine would have to be opposed by the forces of the Union. ... If the scramble for South America once begins, neither the latent resources nor the moral influence of the United States will avail to protect its clients without the display of effective material strength." Nineteenth Century, London, Dec. 1896.

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the form of government of the nations, or controlling the free will of their people.

Second. That no such power or powers can perma- nently acquire or hold any new territory or dominion on this hemisphere.

Third. That the colonies or territories now held by them cannot be enlarged by encroachment on neigh- boring territory, nor be transferred to any other Euro- pean power; and while the United States does not propose to interfere with existing colonies, "it looks hopefully to the time when . . . America shall be wholly American."

Fourth. That any interoceanic canal across the isth- mus of Central America must be free from the control of European powers.

While each of the foregoing declarations has been officially recognized as a proper application of the Monroe Doctrine, the government of the United States reserves to decide, as each case arises, the time and manner of its interposition, and the extent and charac- ter of the same, whether moral or material, or both.

The Monroe Doctrine, as negatively declared, may be stated as follows :

First. That the United States does not contemplate a permanent alliance with any other American power to enforce the doctrine, as it determines its action solely by its view of its own peace and safety; but it wel- comes the concurrence and cooperation of the other in its enforcement, in the way that to the latter may seem best.

Second. That the United States does not insist upon


the exclusive sway of republican government, but while favoring that system, it recognizes the right of the people of every country on this hemisphere to deter- mine for themselves their form of government.

Third. That the United States does not deny the right of European governments to enforce their just demands against American nations, within the limits above indicated.

Fourth. That the United States does not contemplate a protectorate over any other American nation, seek to control the latter's conduct in relation to other nations, nor become responsible for its acts.

It has been said that the Monroe Doctrine has no binding authority, first, because it has not been ad- mitted into the code of international law; and, sec- ond, because it has never been adopted or declared by Congress. In reply, it may be said that the principle which underlies the Monroe Doctrine the right of self-defense, the preservation of the peace and safety of the nation is recognized as an elementary part of international law. The doctrine did not require con- gressional action to control the conduct of the Executive, any more than the policy announced in Washington's address of non-interference in European affairs. But since the action of Congress on President Cleveland's Venezuelan message, it can no longer be contended that Congress has not formally given its approval to the doctrine, and that too, as the opponents of its latest application admit, in its most extreme form. It stands to-day as a cardinal policy of our government. In the prophetic language of Mr. Jefferson, " it sets our

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compass and points the course which we are to steer through the ocean of time opening on us." We may well close its consideration with the words of Daniel Webster in the United States Senate : " I look on the message of December, 1823, as forming a bright page in our history. I will neither help to erase it or tear it out; nor shall it be by any act of mine blurred or blotted."