CHAPTER XII. THE MONROE DOCTRINE (1821-1823)
A new era in the revolt began, however, in 1817, when General San Martin surprised the Spaniards by his march, from a frontier province of La Plata, over a pass thirteen thousand feet above the sea across the Andes to Chili. In the course of four years, with the co-operation of Lord Cochrane (who relinquished the British service in order to command the fleet of the insurgents on the Pacific), he effected the liberation of Chili and of Peru. Meanwhile, in the northern provinces the other great South American revolutionist, Bolivar, aided by a legion of Irish and English veterans, won the independence of Venezuela and Colombia. In July, 1822, these two successful generals met in Ecuador; and San Martin, yielding the leadership to the more ambitious Bolivar, withdrew from the New World. By this date, America was clearly lost to the Latin states of Europe, for Mexico became an independent empire in 1821, and the next year Brazil, while it chose for its ruler a prince of the younger line of the royal house of Portugal, proclaimed its independence.[Footnote: Paxson, Independence of the So. Am. Republics, chap. i.]
Although the relations between these revolutionary states and England, both on the military and on the commercial side, were much closer than with the United States, this nation followed the course of events with keen interest. Agents were sent, in 1817 and 1820, to various South American states, to report upon the conditions there; and the vessels of the revolutionary governments were accorded belligerent rights, and admitted to the ports of the United States.[Footnote: Ibid., 121; Am. State Papers, Foreign, IV., 217, 818.] The occupation of Amelia Island and Galveston, in 1817, by revolutionists, claiming the protection of the flags of Colombia and Mexico respectively, gave opportunity for piratical forays upon commerce, which the United States was unable to tolerate, and these establishments were broken up by the government.[Footnote: McMaster, United States, IV., chap. xxxiv.; Reeves, in Johns Hopkins Univ. Studies, XXIII., Nos. 9, 10.]
President Monroe seems to have been inclined to recognize the independence of these states on the earliest evidence of their ability to sustain it; but the secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, favored a policy of delay. He had slight confidence in the turbulent, untrained republics of Latin-America, and little patience with the idea that their revolution had anything in common with that of the United States. At the close of 1817 he believed it inexpedient and unjust for the United States to favor their cause, and he urged a friend to publish inquiries into the political morality and the right of the United States to take sides with a people who trampled upon civil rights, disgraced their revolution by buccaneering and piracy, and who lacked both unity of cause and of effort. [Footnote: Letter to A. H. Everett, in Am. Hist. Rev., XI., 112.] His own system was based on the theory that the United States. should move in harmony with England, and, if possible, with the other European powers in the matter of recognition; [Footnote: Paxson, Independence of the So. Am. Republics, 149 (citing MSS. in State Dept.)] and he perceived that Spain would be more likely to yield Florida to the United States if the president did not acknowledge the independence of her other provinces.
Henry Clay now came forward as the advocate of immediate recognition of the revolutionary republics. In this he was undoubtedly swayed by a real sympathy with the cause of freedom and by the natural instincts of a man of the west, where antagonism to Spain was bred in the bone. But his insistence upon immediate action was also stimulated by his opposition to Monroe and the secretary of state. Clay's great speech on recognition was made May 24 and 25, 1818. His imagination kindled at the vastness of South America: "The loftiest mountains; the most majestic rivers in the world; the richest mines of the precious metals; and the choicest productions of the earth." "We behold there," said he, "a spectacle still more interesting and sublime - the glorious spectacle of eighteen millions of people struggling to burst their chains and be free." He appealed to Congress to support an American system by recognizing these sister republics, and argued that, both in diplomacy and in commerce they would be guided by an American policy and aid the United States to free itself from dependence on Europe. His motion was lost by an overwhelming majority, but the speech made a deep impression. [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 15 Cong., 1 Sess., II., 1474.]
In the two years which elapsed between the negotiation and the ratification of the Florida treaty, the president was several times on the point of recommending the forcible occupation of Florida, but he withheld the blow, hoping that the liberal Spanish government established under the constitution of 1820 might be brought to give its consent to the cession. The impetuous Clay chafed under this delay, and on May 10, 1820, he broke forth in another speech, in support of a resolution declaring the expediency of sending ministers to the South American states. Charging the administration, and especially John Quincy Adams, with subserviency to Great Britain, he demanded that the United States should become the center of a system against the despotism of the Old World and should act on its own responsibility. "We look too much abroad," said he. "Let us break these commercial and political fetters; let us no longer watch the nod of any European politician; let us become real and true Americans, and place ourselves at the head of the American system." [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 16 Cong., 1 Sess., II., 2727.]