Chapter Four: The History of American (White) Exceptionalism:
The Monroe Doctrine was allegedly about foreign policy. Rather than being a strictly American policy, it was one where Great Britain and America schemed to shut out other Europeans from North and South America. At the time, most of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America were gaining their independence and it was America’s and Britain’s combined intent that other European nations not move in. At the time the United States boasted having 24 states and they had an interest in preserving the land west of the existing states to the Pacific Ocean for future growth which they would later justify under a policy called Manifest Destiny.
They didn’t wish to be involved in the types of regional wars that had forever plagued Europe by having to deal with primarily Spanish and French territories adjacent to the US. The Monroe Doctrine basically banned further European intervention in the North and South American continents while agreeing to stay neutral in European conflicts.
Britain’s interest in agreeing to the policy was not in seeking the preservation of the United States but to maintain a superior trade position in South America. Despite whatever altruistic reasons might have been given. Much like our intervention and foothold in the Mideast, it’s all about the money. With Spain and Portugal losing their presence in South America, Britain had a virtual stranglehold on trade which they wished to maintain. This US policy was enforced in South America by the Royal British Navy (America was just building a Navy at the time) who did their all to keep other Europeans out, especially the Spanish with whom they had always had problems.
One must place The Monroe Doctrine in historical perspective to understand it. It came 9 years after the end of the War of 1812 when the United States and Britain fought again. Of American wars, we hear surprisingly little about the War of 1812, a war which many historians view as one the United States lost. Britain repelled American attempts to invade and take over all or parts of Canada. They hurt America financially by blockading Atlantic major ports and the agreement to end the war in 1814 was highly favorable to the British. America was perhaps fortunate that Britain’s military was heavily engaged nearer to home in the Napoleonic Wars and was little focused on the war across the ocean.
While the winner of the War of 1812 might be debated. The loser was clear; the native American people. By war’s end their casualties were great as they had been engaged as “partners” by both sides and their land stripped. The war ended with Indians having no major European Allies and as American conflict with Britain ended they turned to advancing not north into Canada but west into the Indian territories. America increasingly broke their treaties with the Indian as it marched west and placed the remaining inhabitants on reservations, until they ultimately wanted most of that land too. Canada denied to it, America quenched its thirst for acquisition by taking from the Indians with no requirement to obey its own treaties and laws. The red man was only an impediment to the white expansion America claimed as its privilege.
The Monroe Doctrine likely wasn’t explicitly designed based on a racist design to conquer and absorb peoples of color on their route to expansion. Two things that likely were true though:
- The people of color whether red or brown were not valued or respected in the same manner as even the white British with whom America had fought two wars in their brief existence. Their land was not recognized nor treaties to be respected.
- The policy to exclude European Powers from the America’s did not include Britain who was in truth the primary enforcer of the policy. In 1833 Britain took control (again) of the Falkland Islands which would be the exact type of European expansion in South America prohibited by the doctrine but the United States said nothing. This is but an example of how the policy was interpreted in reality. In North America the policy was basically US protectionism, in South America it was basically anti Spain.
The Monroe doctrine basically set the stage for what was to become the creation of the greatest white country on the planet. While diversity existed, keep in mind that although most of the Irish at the time were either indentured servants or prisoners banished from England. Their terms or sentences would eventually end and they would be free to then attempt to assimilate into America. After a couple generations they were becoming simply white and able to start assuming the privilege associated with it. In the cities where they had major presence they found acceptance in the police forces which then as now were primarily designed to protect the property and interests of the rich.
Red Americans, not recognized as such but how can they be denied the American Heritage that preceded the Europeans, were to be discarded and contained. Their land you see was white America’s by right and destiny. Brown Americans were forced south and west. In another Chapter it will be discussed why America ultimately concluded it didn’t want to absorb Mexico, because with it came too many Mexicans. But I digress.
Black Americans, also not recognized as such were for the most part property. There were few free exceptions but even they had almost no rights. They were the cheap labor force which enabled America to have a competitive advantage in trade and to therefore enrich their owners.
When white American leaders, decided on the path to enlarge and enhance our nation. Black people and other minorities were not seen as beneficiaries of this plan but either as obstacles or an economic advantage to be exploited. America marched on, on the backs or through the land on its non-white inhabitants.