James Monroe

Special Message

March 08, 1822

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

In transmitting to the House of Representatives the documents called for by the resolution of that House of the 30th January, I consider it my duty to invite the attention of Congress to a very important subject, and to communicate the sentiments of the Executive on it, that, should Congress entertain similar sentiments, there may be such cooperation between the two departments of the Government as their respective rights and duties may require.

The revolutionary movement in the Spanish Provinces in this hemisphere attracted the attention and excited the sympathy of our fellow-citizens from its commencement. This feeling was natural and honorable to them, from causes which need not be communicated to you. It has been gratifying to all to see the general acquiescence which has been manifested in the policy which the constituted authorities have deemed it proper to pursue in regard to this contest. As soon as the movement assumed such a steady and consistent form as to make the success of the Provinces probable, the rights to which they were entitled by the law of nations as equal parties to a civil war were extended to them. Each party was permitted to enter our ports with its public and private ships, and to take from them every article which was the subject of commerce with other nations. Our citizens, also, have carried on commerce with both parties, and the Government has protected it with each in articles not contraband of war. Through the whole of this contest the United States have remained neutral, and have fulfilled with the utmost impartiality all the obligations incident to that character.

This contest has now reached such a stage and been attended with such decisive success on the part of the Provinces that it merits the most profound consideration whether their right to the rank of independent nations, with all the advantages incident to it in their intercourse with the United States, is not complete. Buenos Ayres assumed that rank by a formal declaration in 1816, and has enjoyed it since 1810 free from invasion by the parent country. The Provinces composing the Republic of Colombia, after having separately declared their independence, were united by a fundamental law of the 17th of December, 1819. A strong Spanish force occupied at that time certain parts of the territory within their limits and waged a destructive war. That force has since been repeatedly defeated, and the whole of it either made prisoners or destroyed or expelled from the country, with the exception of an inconsiderable portion only, which is blockaded in two fortresses. The Provinces on the Pacific have likewise been very successful. Chili declared independence in 1818, and has since enjoyed it undisturbed; and of late, by the assistance of Chili and Buenos Ayres, the revolution has extended to Peru. Of the movement in Mexico our information is less authentic, but it is, nevertheless, distinctly understood that the new Government has declared its independence, and that there is now no opposition to it there nor a force to make any. For the last three years the Government of Spain has not sent a single corps of troops to any part of that country, nor is there any reason to believe it will send any in future. Thus it is manifest that all those Provinces are not only in the full enjoyment of their independence, but, considering the state of the war and other circumstances, that there is not the most remote prospect of their being deprived of it.

When the result of such a contest is manifestly settled, the new governments have a claim to recognition by other powers which ought not to be resisted. Civil wars too often excite feelings which the parties can not control. The opinion entertained by other powers as to the result may assuage those feelings and promote an accommodation between them useful and honorable to both. The delay which has been observed in making a decision on this important subject will, it is presumed, have afforded an unequivocal proof to Spain, as it must have done to other powers, of the high respect entertained by the United States for her rights and of their determination not to interfere with them. The Provinces belonging to this hemisphere are our neighbors, and have successively, as each portion of the country acquired its independence, pressed their recognition by an appeal to facts not to be contested, and which they thought gave them a just title to it. To motives of interest this Government has invariably disclaimed all pretension, being resolved to take no part in the controversy or other measure in regard to it which should not merit the sanction of the civilized world. To other claims a just sensibility has been always felt and frankly acknowledged, but they in themselves could never become an adequate cause of action. It was incumbent on this Government to look to every important fact and circumstance on which a sound opinion could be formed, which has been done. When we regard, then, the great length of time which this war has been prosecuted, the complete success which has attended it in favor of the Provinces, the present condition of the parties, and the utter inability of Spain to produce any change in it, we are compelled to conclude that its fate is settled, and that the Provinces which have declared their independence and are in the enjoyment of it ought to be recognized.

Of the views of the Spanish Government on this subject no particular information has been recently received. It may be presumed that the successful progress of the revolution through such a long series of years, gaining strength and extending annually in every direction, and embracing by the late important events, with little exception, all the dominions of Spain south of the United States on this continent, placing thereby the complete sovereignty over the whole in the hands of the people, will reconcile the parent country to an accommodation with them on the basis of their unqualified independence. Nor has any authentic information been recently received of the disposition of other powers respecting it. A sincere desire has been cherished to act in concert with them in the proposed recognition, of which several were some time past duly apprised; but it was understood that they were not prepared for it. The immense space between those powers, even those which border on the Atlantic, and these Provinces makes the movement an affair of less interest and excitement to them than to us. It is probable, therefore, that they have been less attentive to its progress than we have been. It may be presumed, however, that the late events will dispel all doubt of the result.

In proposing this measure it is not contemplated to change thereby in the slightest manner our friendly relations with either of the parties, but to observe in all respects, as heretofore, should the war be continued, the most perfect neutrality between them. Of this friendly disposition an assurance will be given to the Government of Spain, to whom it is presumed it will be, as it ought to be, satisfactory. The measure is proposed under a thorough conviction that it is in strict accord with the law of nations, that it is just and right as to the parties, and that the United States owe it to their station and character in the world, as well as to their essential interests, to adopt it. Should Congress concur in the view herein presented, they will doubtless see the propriety of making the necessary appropriations for carrying it into effect.


James Monroe, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/206479

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