Sorry for the blurriness. Monroe’s famous admonition (“. . . 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”) appears in the first paragraph of the first page you see here.
We’ve all heard of the Monroe Doctrine: in his December 1823 Annual Message to Congress, President Monroe announced that “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. . . . [W]e 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.”
Early in Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, Britain, Italy, and Germany jointly blockaded Venezuela’s ports to demand the payment of foreign debts and private damages owed to their citizens. An international arbitral tribunal gave preferential treatment to the blockaders over creditor nations that hadn’t displayed such militancy. Roosevelt feared this ruling would encourage Europe’s great powers to seek redress from delinquent Latin American nations through direct intervention. Recalling that Monroe had once inveighed against European intercession in the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt deduced a corollary from this celestial principle and articulated it in his December 1904 message to Congress:
Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.
Before my internship, I had no idea what these annual messages (what we now call State of the Union messages) looked like. My sample size is tiny, but most of the ones I saw (almost all before 1900) were either incorporated in larger bound volumes or stored alone as billowy bundles of paper. Roosevelt’s 1904 Message was printed as a compact booklet with a black leather cover:
Edit: You can see the Corollary passage here.
Article I, Section 8 empowers Congress to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”—to regulate the terms by which foreigners may acquire American citizenship. Simple enough, right? Except that Old World nations generally embraced the doctrine of perpetual allegiance (that a natural-born Ubekibekibekibekistanstani remained an Ubekibekibekibekistanstani until death). English common law, for example, effectively denied the legitimacy of the concept of self-denaturalization. As the Royal Navy began to impress into its service British expatriates stationed on American vessels, President Jefferson wrote to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin that “I hold the right of expatriation to be inherent in every man by the laws of nature . . . the individual may [exercise such right] by any effectual and unequivocal act or declaration.”
In the mid-1860s, naturalized Americans were conscripted into the French and Prussian Armies while visiting relatives in their former homelands. In 1867, two naturalized Americans were charged with treason against the British government despite having renounced their allegiance to Queen Victoria. America’s firm avowal of the efficacy of individual naturalizations and the Old World’s denial that the antecedent event (expatriation) could occur were clearly incompatible.
Andrew Johnson observed in his Second Annual Message of December 3, 1866 that “[p]eace is now prevailing everywhere in Europe, and the present seems to be a favorable time for an assertion by Congress of the principle, so long maintained by the Executive Department, that naturalization by one State fully exempts the native-born subject of any other State from the performance of military service under any foreign Government, so long as he does not voluntarily renounce its rights and benefits.” See for yourself:
Johnson also wrote in his next Annual Message that this “singular and embarrassing conflict of laws” (contradictory international positions on expatriation) “perplexes the public mind concerning the rights of naturalized citizens and impairs the national authority abroad.” He “appeal[ed] to Congress to declare the national will unmistakably upon this important question.”
Congress responded with the Expatriation Act of July 27, 1868. Echoing Jefferson in more ways than one, the law’s preamble affirmed that “the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people, indispensable to the enjoyment of the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Any official act undercutting this sacrosanct individual right was thereby “declared inconsistent with the fundamental principles of this government.”
Here are pictures of the draft legislation:
Congress failed to specify the penalty for high-ranking deviancy, nor did it provide a list of actions sufficient to establish an American’s intent to relinquish citizenship (the Expatriation Act of 1907 was Congress’s first crack at such a recitation). I’ll also add that the 1907 Act was partially “inconsistent with the fundamental principles of this government,” for it declared that “no American citizen shall be allowed to expatriate himself when this country is at war.” Ironically, this was precisely the condition under which droves of Englishmen sought naturalization in the United States in the early 1800s; their predicament engendered the home-grown philosophical defenses of self-expatriation that made the 1907 Act possible.
(In this post, I draw heavily on analysis contained in an earlier paper of mine.)
I didn’t realize I had access to most antebellum annual presidential messages until the next-to-last day of my internship. Given the tasks I had remaining, I only had time to view a select few of them. I intently searched out the words that did more than anything else to reinforce the stereotype of President John Quincy Adams as an aloof, effete, stargazing (literally) philosopher-executive:
“Connected with the establishment of an university, or separate from it, might be undertaken the erection of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer . . . It is with no feeling of pride as an American that the remark may be made that on the comparatively small territorial surface of Europe there are existing upward of 130 of these lighthouses of the skies, while throughout the whole American hemisphere there is not one. If we reflect a moment upon the discoveries which in the last four centuries have been made in the physical constitution of the universe by the means of these buildings and of observers stationed in them, shall we doubt of their usefulness to every nation? And while scarcely a year passes over our heads without bringing some new astronomical discovery to light, which we must fain receive at second hand from Europe, are we not cutting ourselves off from the means of returning light for light [SPACE RACE!] while we have neither observatory nor observer upon our half of the globe and the earth revolves in perpetual darkness to our unsearching eyes?”
These colorful words appear in John Quincy Adams’s First Annual Message to Congress (essentially a State of the Union message), delivered and read aloud on December 6, 1825. You should be able to spot most of that passage on the following page: In the preceding paragraph, Adams noted Europeans’ “profound, laborious, and expensive researches into the figure of the earth and the comparative length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in various latitudes from the equator to the pole.” He genteelly implored Congress to fund “expensive researches” of this sort: “It would be honorable to our country if the sequel of the same experiments should be countenanced by the patronage of our Government.” Read more about the magnificent British and French scientific inquiries below: Here’s the last page of that year’s message, with JQA’s signature: And what would an important state paper be without a hilarious clerical error? I suppose Adams initially planned to deliver this message before he was inaugurated but thought better of it: