710.G 1A/220

The Ambassador in Mexico (Daniels) to the Secretary of State

No. 668

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a translation of a memorandum which was given to me this afternoon by Doctor Puig, comprising his ideas on the Monroe Doctrine and its amplification at the Montevideo Conference.

I am unable to state at this time whether or not this memorandum has the approval of President Rodríguez.27 I am, however, spending the day tomorrow in the company of Doctor Puig and the President, and shall advise the Department as soon as I learn of the President’s point of view.

A copy of the memorandum in Spanish will be forwarded to the Department in due course.

Respectfully yours,

Josephus Daniels
[Enclosure—Translation ]

Memorandum by the Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs (Puig)

We have on various occasions expressed to Ambassador Daniels our belief that the present moment is perhaps the only one for attaining a never-before-equalled rapprochement among the peoples of America. We have also never disguised the fact that our conviction is definitely influenced by the faith in the “new deal” which is proclaimed and represented by President Roosevelt.

[Page 21]

But we believe that the great purpose of social and political mutual comprehension, of continental harmony and solidarity, and of common agreement and aid in economic, commercial, and financial matters, which have inspired the Pan American Conferences and—with more confident and pressing hope—this Seventh Conference at Montevideo, which meets in one of the hours of contemporary history most fraught with human problems and responsibilities;—we believe that this great aim, which now unites the new, strong nations of America, the masters of the future, can not and should not involve any reservations, any cause for misgiving or suspicion, justified or otherwise, real or apparent, undefined in scope and influence (proyecciones).

In order to walk on firm ground, in order to aspire to fruitful and effective effort, we believe that it is our chief duty to destroy those causes—either through defining them and thus removing misgivings, or through eliminating them and thus establishing confidence. Resolutely to undertake this task, we should first of all, in a profound analysis of facts (realidades) and interpretations, examine the problem, seeking to throw as much light as possible upon the nature thereof.

We also believe that the best course for the possible attainment of the high hopes of inter-continental confidence which move us, to suggest that the United States be the one to tackle—if it be deemed feasible—the problem of the Monroe Doctrine, which is the concrete subject matter of this memorandum.

Everyone is aware that for more than a century there has existed in Pan American politics, within the Continent and before the world at large, a guiding criterion which, having been born of the passing (circunstancial) exigencies of a certain hour in history, today presents an irregular and nebulous form in its ideológical discrimination, and even more so in its scope and influence on the political and economic scene (realidad) on our Continent. We refer to the statement which the President of the United States, Mr. Monroe, made in explicit terms and with precise and circumstantial compass, in his Message to the Congress of the American Union on December 2, 1823,28 and which thenceforth has been known in the international field as the Monroe Doctrine, (but) with very varied interpretations and applications.

Because it is a now imprecise international criterion, undefined and without express limits (as we shall seek later on to demonstrate with words other than our own), and without predetermined scope, the Monroe Doctrine—in whose name many pages of the history of [Page 22] this hemisphere have been written (realizado) or explained, and may even yet be written or explained—the Monroe Doctrine, we say, needs a loyal and frank clarification, calls for a sincere analysis, without the slightest belligerency, much less futile or sterile bitterness—but also without cowardice, in order to be able to determine, in a cordial and friendly fashion, what part of the Doctrine is true policy and if it is a cause for rapprochement or for alienation among the peoples of the new Continent.

In order to fix more accurately, as far as possible, the content, worth, and operation of the Monroe Doctrine, it seems to us that it is indispensable to pause here and make a very brief résumé of its history in international life, from its appearance up to the present time, without going into tiresome details nor losing ourselves in wordy commentaries.

No sooner had the one-time Spanish colonies of this hemisphere gloriously won the right to live as independent nations, than manifestations of another nature—and even simple suppositions based on international experience (de lógica internacional)—aroused the fear that some European powers, either on their own account or in support of a supposed Spanish re-conquest, might seek to intervene, by diplomacy or by force, in the life of the new countries, to the detriment of their recently-achieved independence.

Among these menaces there could be descried: the English peril, somewhat exorcised (desvanecido) by the declarations of Mr. Canning, Minister of the British Empire, to Mr. Rush, Ambassador of the United States in London; the expansionist aims of Russia in northwestern America, and her refusal to recognize the independence of the Spanish-American peoples; lastly, the imperialistic plans attributed to the Holy Alliance, plans the scope and dangers of which we have not been able definitely to determine in the scientific terrain of positive historical truth.

Amid this surrounding danger, the Secretary of State, Mr. Adams, was the first to make his voice heard, in dealing with the Ambassador of Russia, Baron Tuyll, when he said: “The American Continents will not be subject, in the future, to colonization”;29 words which, although motivated by a concrete case of the expansionist plans of Russia in North America, clearly showed forth sentiments embracing the Continent.

But the authentic birth of the (Monroe) Doctrine dates from December 2, 1823, when the President of the American Union, Mr. Monroe, in his celebrated Message to Congress, said, among other [Page 23] things related to the same problem, the following words, which, it appears to us, constitute the very essence, the pith of the international doctrine which bears his name: “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 powers.”30 And in order to define its effectiveness and (to pledge) moral and material support, he added: “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration 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 toward the United States.”30

These transcriptions from a well-known text have been necessary in order to demonstrate that the original meaning of the Doctrine was clearly and perfectly well delineated, and that it had a direct bearing upon a given epoch and the dangers with which that epoch was fraught for the independence and free determination of the peoples of America,—without its having intended, very probably, a larger scope than was given it in letter and in spirit.

Now, if it is possible to discuss the expediency and the timeliness of “modernizing” the Monroe Doctrine, in harmony with the original broad Americanist spirit which inspired it, and elevating it to an American* principle of international law,—no one would dare, on the other hand, to gainsay the need for repudiating, once and for all, the mistaken interpretations which, by denaturalizing the Doctrine in its very essence, have made of it a most effective weapon of misgiving and distrust, to such a point that, paradoxical as it may seem, the Doctrine is today the most serious obstacle to the spiritual union of the Continent.

It is not, of course, necessary to have proof of the lofty motives of continental solidarity which, in our opinion, inspired the statement of the celebrated Presidential Message of 1823; but, however salutary in origin and in various concrete applications (the Monroe Doctrine may have been), the prevailing situation in Spanish-America leads us to proclaim the truth of the following opinions and observations, expressed, with unquestionable sincerity, by the eminent Professor Haring of Harvard University, in the book which he wrote just after his travels of research through South America, a few years ago:

[Page 24]

(The sections quoted appear in the original English text)

“About the Monroe Doctrine there has been as much confusion of thought and utterance in South America as there is in the United States. There is no question but that it is regarded by great numbers in these southern countries as a sinister menace to their national sovereignty and dignity. First promulgated as a warning against the extension of monarchical institutions and of further European colonization in the western hemisphere, they believe that it has come to imply paramount interest and hegemony. It has been unpopular among citizens of the stronger states because it seems to spell for them political inferiority. It is disliked in the weaker because of our assumed responsibility for their good behavior. Although for a century a protective shield against the ambition of European governments, it has not been a force making for solidarity of sentiment in the two American continents.

“Misunderstanding of the Monroe Doctrine is largely due to the fact that, in the words of Charles E. Hughes, ‘it has often been treated as though it were our sole policy in this hemisphere, and as though every action bearing upon our relation to our sister Republics must be referred to it.’ Its meaning is clear as it was originally enunciated by President Monroe, and it is equally clear as re-stated by Secretary Hughes, and his immediate predecessors in office. But it has not always been so in our Department of State, and it is not so with the majority of American citizens. Many, including senators and newspaper editors, seem to have the vaguest notion as to what the Doctrine really signifies, although they cling to it as a fetish and can readily be led into a war with the cry that it is imperilled.

“There has been a mass of contradictory opinions, official as well as private. To many, still eager to ‘bear the white man’s burden’, the Doctrine is a sort of international gospel which proclaims the United States master in this hemisphere, with unlimited right of intervention in the domestic concerns of its neighbors. …

“It is scarcely more than thirty years ago that Secretary Richard Olney made the celebrated assertion that ‘today the United States is practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition’.[”]

(South America Looks at the United States by Clarence H. Haring. Bureau of International Research of Harvard University and Rad-cliffe College. Pages 102, 103, 104.)

We have quoted this intelligent observer, not only because of his nationality, but also because of his intellectual prestige and position in the United States. But, not only in the academic field—(a field) of unquestioned sincerity and disinterestedness—has such an unfavorable state of mind with regard to the Monroe Doctrine been established; also in financial circles and in the high spheres of government, representative men, authoritative because of their ability and experience, men of the stamp of Senator Pittman, have expressed like opinions, even going so far as courageously to proclaim the necessity for removing as soon as possible the insuperable obstacle to [Page 25] American fraternity which the persistence of the Monroe Doctrine constitutes, so long as it can lend itself to far-reaching arbitrary interpretations and so long as its character is that of a unilateral statement guiding the policy of the strongest country of America with respect to the other countries of the Continent.

The reservation recently made by the Argentine Republic when it renewed its membership in the League of Nations, brings to mind similar reservations formulated by other countries of Spanish-America (Mexico, to begin with), and is conclusive and timely proof that there is no diminution in the distrust which the Monroe Doctrine has fostered in many of these countries, solely because of its vagueness and of the convenient interpretations to which it has, for that reason, lent itself.

In such an atmosphere of apprehension and misgiving, can we hope for the best success of the efforts which are being made to achieve the spiritual unity of the New World? Can it be claimed, either, that even the relations of a purely commercial nature can develop harmoniously, firmly, and freely, without being obstructed by hidden chronic fears, sporadically aggravated? We believe not. And in order to justify our lack of optimism, it suffices to point to the minimum efficacy—if not the total inefficacy—of Pan American action, to date, with a view to the real moral and political fraternity of the two great racial subdivisions of the Continent.

Would the open abolishment of the Monroe Doctrine be proper? Would the Government or the public opinion of the United States accept it with good grace? Would it be necessary to go to this extreme solution?

We sincerely believe that these three questions merit a negative answer. But happily there exists, in our opinion, a way to conciliate the traditional or political exigencies of the United States with the need to take advantage of the opportunity for America to adopt, as an extra-continental policy, a principle which historically has contributed to the maintenance of its independence and which now has the prestige of its century of existence (secularidad).

That means is, perhaps, to give to the Monroe Doctrine a fully American character by means of a pact which shall make of it a principle adopted by each and every one of the countries of America, with the ensuing obligation to bring a united front to its defence, with the same rights and obligations.

What objections could be raised to that generalization? That the Doctrine does not lend itself thereto? That, even if it does, such action would nullify or weaken some of its aspects? Only those who deliberately wish to ignore the spirit which inspired it, and who like to fasten upon the adulterated interpretations of which it has been the [Page 26] object, could formulate such objections. Fortunately, the men at present directing the United States are not of this class.

The Monroe Doctrine, elevated to the category of an American pact of joint defence, would reach the second stage of its natural development: it would be perfected and would acquire the greatest prestige and integral force proper to it by reason of its continental scope. It would become up to date. Otherwise, it remains paralyzed in the (march of) time, with its back to the progress of the Spanish American nations, and is guilty, in our opinion, of anachronism through stagnation. Even in its genuine interpretation, even in disinterested, generous application, it would continue to be humiliating to these countries, because it graciously grants them a type of paternal protection which they no longer need (que no les es dado recibir ya) since for some time past they have emerged from the condition of minority in which they found themselves at the beginning of their independent life.

We are firmly convinced that the United States, particularly in the new phase of its international and economic policy, desires, sincerely and earnestly, continental harmony. This desire has been frankly and manfully stated by President Roosevelt, when he declared that he would practice the policy of “the good neighbor.” His antecedents as a man and a governor are a sound guarantee of his purposes. That which the President of the United States desires: cooperation, confidence, fruitful and effective tightening of continental ties, especially the economic and financial;—all this, which is desired by President Roosevelt, is also desired—of this we are absolutely certain—fully and freely by the other peoples of the continent. In order to realize this aim, it is necessary for the President of the United States to speak the words which shall definitely restore full confidence; it is necessary for him to be the one to offer the safest guarantee of the success of this Pan American Conference.

The history of this hemisphere would be greatly simplified, the paths of the future would be made smooth, if the United States, with full comprehension of the fundamental interests of the times, times fraught with difficulties of every kind, and with full comprehension of the fundamental interests of this continent—which today, more than in 1823, is threatened with economic, financial, and political perils more important and profound than ever before—if the United States would itself open the doors to a New Doctrine, which would be the firm basis for cooperation and defence, because, by destroying misgivings and reservations, it would signify security in confidence, true cooperation and equality.

But we must remember that the present needs of an international nature of the peoples of America would not be satisfied by the mere adoption of the Monroe Doctrine as an American Doctrine, since its [Page 27] purpose is purely defensive with respect to extra-continental powers. In our opinion, it would have to be complemented in what we may call the inter-continental aspect of the problem of fraternity, by means of the simultaneous promulgation of a principle which should guide the inter-relation among ourselves.

The formula which we take the liberty of proposing could serve as the basis of the discussion leading up to whatever should be adopted; but, at all events, we believe that for logical and also for political reasons the initiative should be made by the United States, at least as regards the first part (of the formula?).

Here is the formula which we suggest:

The Nations of America, which are as one in the defence of their respective sovereignty and integrity, make their own the principle of continental independence proclaimed by the President of the United States, Mr. James Monroe, in his Message to the Congress of the Union of December 2, 1823; elevating said principle to the category of the American Doctrine, with the rights and obligations which its maintenance confers upon each one of them.

At the same time they proclaim the inviolability of the principle of national autonomy, subordinating it only to the compulsory arbitration which they establish for the solution of their differences; and they proscribe absolutely all interference (intromisión) among themselves which does not emanate from national treaties freely concluded or from the awards of arbitral tribunals, or which does not result from the offer of mediation, good offices, or other means recognized by international law, which means, as in all similar cases, may be accepted or rejected freely by the countries to which offered.

We sincerely believe that if the forthcoming Montevideo Conference should formulate such a declaration, it will have removed the great(est) difficulty, leaving the path of Pan American fraternity free of fears and suspicions, and maintaining that fraternity upon the only firm and lasting bases: unlimited confidence, mutual respect, reciprocal esteem.

Such a declaration, secured at the instance of the United States at the Seventh Pan American Conference at Montevideo, would remove all causes for misgiving and distrust, and the Pan American relations would develop in an atmosphere of effective and fecund cooperation. We could thus, then, present to the world a harmonious Continent, devoted to work, to the development of its prodigious wealth, in an atmosphere of security and mutual confidence. Free peoples, with abundance of independence, ready to help one another, and confident that their rights and their liberties will in every case be respected by the rest.

Mexico, D. F., October 6, 1933.

  1. See telegram No. 205, October 9, noon, from the Ambassador in Mexico, infra.
  2. See section entitled “Official Statement of and Commentary Upon the Monroe Doctrine by the Secretary of State”, Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, pp. 698 ff.
  3. “… the American continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial establishments.”—Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, vol. vi, p. 163; Joshua Reuben Clark, Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine, p. 85.
  4. Original text restored.
  5. Original text restored.
  6. —i. e., inter-American and all-American (Translator’s footnote).