Too Late to Revive a Sane U.S. Foreign Policy? The Roots of the Monroe Doctrine Revisited

By Matthew Ehret

I honestly don’t know if today’s USA is too far gone for its better constitutional foreign policy traditions to be revived, but I do know that if this history continues to remain buried as it has for the past several generations, then any small chance to save the republic and preserve world peace will certainly be destroyed.

The Strategic Significance of 1776 on International Affairs

Although many have been fed the myth that the USA was a nation bred for global imperial ambitions at its birth, the truth is far different. Certainly, it was never a utopic bastion of liberty untainted by hypocrisy or corruption that some romantic historians have painted over years, but inversely it was never a unidimensional evil slaveocracy as cynical Critical Race Theoreticians maintain. The USA should rather be understood as an unfinished symphony of sorts, whose practical performance too often fell far short than its sound constitutional ideals.

For starters, it is important to appreciate the fact that America’s founding documents (the 1776 Declaration of Independence, and 1787 Constitution) were the first examples in history of a form of government premised on the idea that all people were made equal, endowed with inalienable rights with no mention for race, creed, gender or class. Additionally, the notion that the legitimacy of a nation’s laws arose from the consent of the governed, and mandated to support the general welfare both in the present and long into posterity, was a profound break from the previous notions of Hobbesian law of ‘might makes right’ that had governed hereditary institutions for eons.

The practical expression of these principles to foreign policy were discussed at length by President Washington who warned the young nation of avoiding the dual evils of foreign entanglements externally and party politics domestically when he asked his fellow citizens during his outgoing address of 1796:

“Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour or caprice?”

President Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart featuring his right hand resting on the Constitution

During this speech, Washington explained that IF the USA were to survive, it would be due to an international policy of “extending our commercial relations, to have with them [foreign nations] as little political connection as possible.”

Some have slandered Washington’s call for reduced political enmeshment with other nations as isolationist, but he always promoted international commerce driven by mutual benefit. It was merely imperial operations, intrigue, deceit and the new age of color revolutions starting with the Jacobin Terror during Washington’s presidency which the great leader saw as an poisonous mess that would destroy the young republic if it became enmired in foreign escapades.

John Quincy Adams and the Anti-Imperial Origins of the Monroe Doctrine

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) extended these ideas further still by drafting the Monroe Doctrine during his stint as Secretary of State from 1817-1825 which he knew could only work if America ventures “not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”.

President John Quincy Adams with his hand resting on a sketch of Washington

That is to say, as long as the USA focused her efforts on fixing her own problems with a focus on internal improvements, then the Monroe Doctrine would be a blessing for both herself and the international community.

John Quincy Adams also understood the danger of the growing British-run fifth column inside of the heart of the USA then centered around the Federalist Party. While serving as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Adams wrote to his mother in 1811 (just as Napoleon was preparing his Russian invasion and as Britain were on the verge of a new war against the USA):

“If that Party [the Federalist Junto of New England] are not effectually put down in Massachusetts, as completely as they already are in New York, and Pennsylvania, and all the southern and western states, the Union is gone. Instead of a nation, coextensive with the North American continent, destined by God and nature to be the populous and most powerful people ever combined under one social compact, we shall have an endless multitude of little insignificant clans and tribes at eternal war with one another for a rock, or a fish pond, the sport and fable of European masters and oppressors.” (1)

John Quincy Adams firmly understood the world historic significance of the American revolution not as a geographical phenomenon among 13 isolated British colonies, but potentially as the spark of a new paradigm for all humanity liberated from hereditary institutions. At the turn of the 19th century, there were still French, British, Spanish and Russian imperial interests which all had ambitions to gain control of the territories of the Americas forcing the Hobbesian paradigm of war and intrigue into the new world. In the mind of Adams, as all great American patriots, this had to be stopped.

During the July 4 celebrations in 1821, Adams noted that the Declaration of Independence “was the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only LEGITIMATE foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe. It demolished at a stroke the lawfulness of all governments founded upon conquest. It swept away all the rubbish of accumulated centuries of servitude. It announced in practical form to the world the transcendent truth of the unalienable sovereignty of the people.”

Did Adams believe that “destined to cover the surface of the globe” meant that the USA was destined to become a Pax Americana subduing the weak to her hegemony? Not at all.

On January 23, 1822 Adams wrote that colonial institutions “are incompatible with the essential character of our institutions.” He also said that “great colonial establishments are engines of wrong, and that in the progress of social improvement it will be the duty of the human family to abolish them, as they are now endeavoring to abolish the slave trade.”

Adams understood the importance of seeing the world as “a community of principle” where win-win cooperation based upon the self-improvement of all parts and the whole international community as more than the mere sum of parts, would constantly bring renewal and creative vitality to diplomacy. It was a top-down systemic approach to policy that saw economics, security and political affairs interwoven into one unified system. This is an integrative way of thinking that has been sorely lost in the hyper theoretical, compartmentalized mode of zero-sum thinking dominant in today’s neo-liberal think tank complex.

It was for this reason, that Adams advocated the use of Hamiltonian national banking and large-scale infrastructure projects like the Erie Canal and railways throughout his years as Secretary of State and President. IF this system were the causal force behind the growth of American interests across the continent or the world more broadly, it would not be through brute force, but rather by the uplifting of standards of living of all parties.

Adams, Lincoln and National Banking

Working with a young protégé named Abraham Lincoln, Adams fought tooth and nail against the Spanish-American War of 1846 which saw a deep abuse of his Monroe Doctrine.

Both a young Lincoln and John Quincy Adams had earlier organized to get Whig leader William Harrison (1773-1841) elected president in 1841 with a focus on reviving Hamilton’s national bank which had earlier been killed by President Andrew Jackson to great damage to the economic sovereignty of the USA itself.

Although this ugly chapter of history has been scrubbed from the popular records, the operation to kill the second National Bank in 1832 resulted in a total collapse of all public works in order to pay the national debts using a technique not that different from the IMF demands for austerity on debtor nations in our modern era. Credit was to farmers and entrepreneurs dried up, speculation ran rampant, thousands of local currencies (many counterfeit) ran rampant, and the growth of slave-picked cotton took over the production of the nation’s productivity like a cancer.

Sadly even though legislation to revive a national bank had passed both Houses of Congress and only awaited the signature of President Harrison, his mysterious death after only three months in office put an end to that dream.

The best elements of the Whig party regrouped to form the anti-slavery republican party in 1856 after the second Whig president Zachary Taylor also died of poisoning in 1851 after only 2 years in office.

Abraham Lincoln Arises

Out of this small grouping of nationalists struggling to preserve the Union, Abraham Lincoln emerged with a concise plan to revive national banking, protectionism and a security policy founded upon the Monroe Doctrine. Describing the terms of the oncoming civil war from a global strategic perspective, Lincoln debated the pro-slavery candidate Judge Stephen Douglass in 1858 saying:

“That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles – right and wrong – throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings.”

We all know essentials of the Civil War, but we may not appreciate the success of that conflict depending upon Lincoln’s activation of state banking via the issuance of greenbacks and 5-20 bonds that by-passed private financiers demanding usurious interest rates. These productive bonds and greenbacks also funded the execution of the war at the same time as they funded great infrastructure projects like the Trans Continental railway uniting the continent.

Lincoln found like-minded reformers in Russia whose new Czar Alexander II was intent on carving out the rot of oligarchism, serfdom and underdevelopment that had subverted Russian potential for far too long. To this end, Alexander II liberated over 25 million serfs, began sweeping anti-corruption reforms and overhauled the finances of his nation with a focus on industrial development in tandem with the United States. The czar’s decision to send a fleet of Russian naval ships to the eastern and western coasts of the USA as a message to the British and French imperialists to stay out of the war gave Lincoln a decisive edge he needed to end the secession and preserve the union.

Sadly, this victory did not play on either the national or international scale as it should have. Not only was reconstruction soon thwarted with a newly re-organized slaveocracy creating a new program of “share cropping” that pulled newly freed blacks into a new master-slave dependency, but Lincoln’s greenbacks were soon taken out of circulation under Anglophile puppet presidents. With the 1876 Specie Resumption Act, tying the U.S. dollar to a one-to-one parity with gold, internal improvements seized up, credit to industry evaporated, speculation began to run rampant once more and bank panics began to periodically wreak havoc on the nation’s stability.

With the assassinations of Lincoln, President Garfield, and Alexander II between 1865 to 1881, a mad effort to put the Constitutional genie back into the bottle as the fifth column operations within Boston and Manhattan pushed increasingly for a new imperial foreign policy modelled on the British Empire.

William McKinley Revives the American System

The last major 19th century effort to break this traitorous network took the form of President William McKinley’s emergence into the White House in 1897. Once again, a program of national planning, protective tariffs, industrial growth both at home and abroad became the characteristic shaping U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Describing his understanding of the historic current that he was stepping into, McKinley eulogized both Lincoln and Washington in 1895 saying:

“The greatest names in American history are Washington and Lincoln. One is forever associated with the independence of the States and formation of the Federal Union; the other with universal freedom and the preservation of the Union. Washington enforced the Declaration of Independence as against England; Lincoln proclaimed its fulfillment not only to a downtrodden race in America, but to all people for all time who may seek the protection of our flag. These illustrious men achieved grander results for mankind within a single century, from 1775 to 1865, than any other men ever accomplished in all the years since first the flight of time began.”

Although he was sucked into an unjust war in the Philippines by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (the story told here), McKinley fought consistently to defend the Monroe Doctrine by giving full U.S. support to the industrial growth of North, South and Central America. Internationally, McKinley fought to keep the USA out of the carving up of China in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion and worked closely with international co-thinkers like Russia’s Count Sergei Witte and France’s Gabriel Hanotaux to advance rail development and peace treaties across Eurasia. Had such programs not been sabotaged by murder, coups and regime change operations, then it is certain that the train wreck of World War One and its sequel would never have been possible.

Sadly, after McKinley was assassinated, Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick” diplomacy launched a new 20th century trend that saw the USA extending its hegemony over weak states rather than keeping out foreign imperial intrigue as Adams had envisioned.

Assassination of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz at Pan-American Exposition reception on Sept. 6, 1901. (BY AMERICAN PAINTER T. DART WALKER, 1905/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

FDR and Wallace Attempt to Revive a Sane American Foreign Policy

Since 1901, we have seen small but significant attempts to revive Adams’ overarching security doctrine.

We saw it come alive again with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s program for internationalizing the New Deal across China, India, Ibero America, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. FDR’s Vice President Henry Wallace laid out the terms of this international New Deal in his 1943 book “The Century of the Common Man” laid out this vision for the post-war world saying:

“The new democracy by definition abhors imperialism. But by definition also, it is internationally minded and supremely interested in raising the productivity, and therefore the standard of living, of all the peoples of the world. First comes transportation and this is followed by improved agriculture, industrialization, and rural elecrification…. As Molotov so clearly indicated, this brave, free world of the future can not be created by the United States and Russia alone. Undoubtedly China will have a strong influence on the world which will come out of the war and in exerting this influence it is quite possible that the principles of Sun Yat Sen will prove to be as significant as those of any other modern statesman.”

Sadly after FDR’s untimely death on April 12, 1945, the Anglo-American special relationship was again revived and all international New Dealers were quickly purged from all positions of influence. Despite an Orwellian age of anti-Russian hysteria then taking hold, Henry Wallace still maintained some influence in the U.S. government (although having been downgraded to Secretary of Commerce under President Harry Truman).

In the September 12, 1946 speech that got him fired, Wallace clearly laid out the two paths forward for the USA:

“Make no mistake about it—the British imperialistic policy in the Near East alone, combined with Russian retaliation, would lead the United States straight to war…

“… It is essential that we look abroad through our own eyes and not through the eyes of either the British Foreign Office or a pro-British or anti-Russian press…. The tougher we get, the tougher they get.

“I believe that we can get cooperation once Russia understands that our primary objective is neither saving the British Empire nor purchasing oil in the near East with the lives of American soldiers. We cannot let national oil rivalries force us into a war….”

Eisenhower to Kennedy: The Battle for the Soul of America Continued

Eisenhower made some positive moves towards this renewal by ending the Korean War and attempting his Crusade for Peace driven by U.S.-Russian cooperation and advanced scientific investments into India, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Latin America. Eisenhower’s many positive plans were sadly derailed by a growing parasite in the heart of the U.S. deep state which he addressed in his famous “military industrial complex” speech of 1960.

Kennedy’s efforts to extract the U.S. military from Vietnam, revive FDR’s New Deal spirit in the 1960s, while seeking entente with Russia was another noble effort to bring back Adams’ security doctrine, but his early death soon put an end to this orientation.

From 1963 to 2016, tiny piecemeal efforts to revive a sane security doctrine proved short-lived and were often undone by the more powerful pressures of unipolarist intrigue that sought nothing less than full Anglo-American hegemony in the form of a New World Order whose arrival was celebrated by the likes of Bush Sr and Kissinger in 1992.

‘America First’ Revives a Sane Security Doctrine

Despite his many limitations, President Trump did make an effort to restore a sane security doctrine by focusing American interests on healing from 50+ years of self-inflicted atrophy under globalized outsourcing, militarism and post-industrialism.

Despite having to contend with an embarrassingly large and independent military-intelligence industrial complex that didn’t get less powerful after Kennedy’s murder, Trump announced the terms of his international outlook in April 2019 saying:

“Between Russia, China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nuclear, which is ridiculous.… I think it’s much better if we all got together and didn’t make these weapons … those three countries I think can come together and stop the spending and spend on things that are more productive toward long-term peace.”

This call for a U.S.-Russia-China cooperative policy ran in tandem with the first phase of the U.S.-China Trade deal which went into effect in January 2020 guaranteeing $350 billion of U.S. finished goods purchased by China. None other than Soros himself suffered a public meltdown that month when he announced that the two greatest threats to his global open society were 1) Trump’s USA and 2) Xi’s China.

Of course, a pandemic derailed much of this momentum and the trade deal slowly broke apart. Despite these failures, the idea of returning the USA to an “American first” outlook by cleaning up its own internal messes, extracting CIA operations from the military, cutting the USA out of the Big Pharma-led World Health Organization, defunded regime change organizations like NED abroad and returning to a traditionally American policy of protective tariffs were all extremely important initiatives that Trump put into motion, and set a precedent which must be capitalized upon by nationalist forces from all parties wishing to save their republic from an oncoming calamity.

America’s Slide into Self-Destruction

One year into Biden’s “rules based international order”, the hope for stability and peaceful cooperation among the nations of the earth has been seriously undermined.

Today’s USA has committed to a full-scale policy of self-destruction both on economic and military levels promoting a war which risks escalating out of control into a thermonuclear exchange both against Russia and also China.

When looking at Russian demands for security guarantees from this standpoint and holding in mind the new form of a Eurasian Manifest Destiny emerging with the Far Eastern development programs now being built, the emergent Polar Silk Road and broader Belt and Road Initiative, it is a rich irony that the spirit of John Quincy Adams’ security doctrine is alive in the world. Just not in the USA.


(1) Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundation of American Foreign Policy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950).

Originally published on Strategic Culture Foundation. Subscribe to our Telegram channel at


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