Friday, April 8, 2011

What did Theodore Roosevelt mean when he said the US should be the 'policemen' of the Caribbean?

In his annual message to Congress in December 1904 President Roosevelt announced the world that the Unites States will act as the “policeman” of the Caribbean. The president’s reaction came to counter the interference of the Europeans into the Caribbean affairs. This was the so-called Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine was issued in 1902 when British, German and Italian gunboats blocked the Venezuelan ports because the Venezuelan Government did not pay its foreign debts. The Monroe Doctrine sought to prevent this kind of European interference into the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

President Roosevelt reformulated the Doctrine to vindicate the United States “international police power” to put an end to the political unrest in the Caribbean. This change in policy was necessary to avoid the European interference in the Caribbean with the excuse of collecting international debts, but with the real scope of keeping their presence in the area and eventually occupying the territories. The probability of such actions was worrying the American government, in a time when the United States was involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, and defensive interests required the area stayed under American control. President Roosevelt’s foreign policy was “walk softly, but carry a big stick”, and justified the United States intervention in the Caribbean, whenever necessary.

The response to the Roosevelt Corollary was generally favorable, and most Europeans were content with having the United States collecting their debts, with the exception of the British who considered the world should be cautious as the Americans were becoming conceited.

Henretta, James A. and David Brody. America: A Concise History, Volume II: Since 1877. 4th ed., Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2010, 627.

United States History. World Affairs, December 6, 1904. (January 22, 2011). Electronic resource retrieved from

United States National Archives and Records Administration. Our documents: 100 milestone documents from the National Archives. (January 22, 2011). Electronic resource retrieved from

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