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John Quincy Adams’ Copy of a Scarce South Carolina Printing of the Monroe Doctrine
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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.

The Monroe Doctrine - as it is now known- was largely the creation of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and issued not on its own but as part of James Monroe’s Annual Message to Congress (now referred to as the State of the Union Address). By declaring that the western hemisphere was no longer subject to European colonization, it marked a defining moment in Monroe’s presidency and informed American foreign policy for more than a century.

Monroe’s message covered other important topics, among them the international slave trade, the possible construction of a canal to connect the Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio River, and the Greek War of Independence. In addition, this newspaper prints the editor’s brief reaction to the president’s “luminous message” (p2/c4); notice of Henry Clay’s election as Speaker of the House of Representatives (p2/c4); proceedings of the South Carolina state legislature, including proposed laws prohibiting “free negroes” from entering the state, reports on canal building (p3/c1-2), and other local, national and international news. Notices and advertisements include runaway slave ads (p4/c1).

As Secretary of State, Adams needed to receive news from all parts of the United States. His office was responsible not only for foreign affairs but also for relations between the states and the federal government.

[JOHN QUINCY ADAMS]. JAMES MONROE. Newspaper. State of the Union Message. Cheraw Intelligencer and Southern Register, December 12, 1823. Cheraw, S.C.: William Poole & Co. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams’ name penned in top margin of first page, likely addressed by the publisher. 4 pp., 12¾ x 20 in.

Inventory #21077.99       Price: $19,000


To the people, every department of the government and every individual in each are responsible, and the more full their information the better they can judge of the wisdom of the policy pursued and of the conduct of each in regard to it.” (p1/c1)

At the proposal of the Russian Imperial government … a full power and instructions have been transmitted to the minister of the United States at St. Petersburg to arrange by amicable negotiation the respective rights and interests of the two nations on the North West coast of this continent. A similar proposal had been made by His Imperial Majesty to the Government of Great Britain, which has likewise been acceded to…. In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in the arrangements by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, 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.” (p1/c2)

In compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives adopted at their last session, instructions have been given to all the ministers of the United States accredited to the powers of Europe and America to propose the proscription of the African slave trade by classing it under the denomination, and inflicting on its perpetrators the punishment, of piracy.” (p1/c2)

Many patriotic and enlightened citizens … are of the opinion that the waters of the Chesapeake and Ohio may be connected together by one continued canal, and at an expense far short of the value and importance of the object to be obtained.... Connecting the Atlantic with the Western country in a line passing through the seat of the National Government, it would contribute essentially to strengthen the bond of union itself.” (p2/c2)

A strong hope has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth.” (p2/c2)

In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere, but with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we 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. In the war between those new Governments and Spain we declared our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we have adhered, and shall continue to adhere, provided no change shall occur which, in the judgment of the competent authorities of this Government, shall make a corresponding change on the part of the United States indispensable to their security.” (p2/c3)

If we compare the present condition of our Union with its actual state at the close of our Revolution, the history of the world furnishes no example of a progress in improvement in all the important circumstances which constitute the happiness of a nation which bears any resemblance to it.” (p2/c3)

Our policy in regard to Europe, which we adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none....” (p3/c2)

Historical Background

Congress outlawed the importation of enslaved Africans beginning in January 1808, but the international slave trade continued, and slaves continued to enter the United States illegally, largely through Spanish Florida and Texas. In 1820, Congress made participating in the slave trade the equivalent of piracy and a capital offense (though Nathaniel Gordon’s hanging in 1862 was the first and only time an American was executed for slave-trading.)

New York’s Erie Canal was built between 1817 and 1825. Southern traders called for similar access to areas west of the Appalachian Mountains. In early March 1825, as one of the last acts of his presidency, Monroe signed the bill chartering the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The plan was to have one hundred miles in use in five years and to complete the canal in 12 years, but the middle and western sections to Pittsburgh were never finished. The eastern section, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, D.C., was completed in 1850 and operated until 1924, principally carrying coal from the Allegheny Mountains.

Monroe’s optimism for Greek independence was premature. Thought the Greek Constitution, directly referring to the U.S. Constitution, was passed in 1823, Greece experienced two civil wars and faced suppression by an Egyptian army allied with the Ottomans. In 1827, Russia, Britain, and France intervened to defeat an Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at Navarino, and in February 1830 the London Protocol recognized Greece as an independent nation.

In 1865, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked by the U.S. to support Mexican President Benito Juárez in a successful revolt against the Emperor Maximilian, who had been placed on the throne by the French government. In 1904, when European creditors threatened armed intervention to collect debts from a number of Latin American countries, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the right of the United States to exercise an “international police power.” Marines were sent into Santo Domingo in 1904, Nicaragua in 1911, and Haiti in 1915, ostensibly to keep the Europeans out, despite the suspicion of the Latin American nations. In 1962, when the Soviet Union began to move nuclear missiles into Cuba, the Monroe Doctrine was again invoked. With the support of the Organization of American States, President John F. Kennedy declared a naval and air “quarantine” around the island. With the world on the precipice of nuclear war, after several tense days, the Soviet Union agreed to dismantle the sites (while the U.S. later removed its missiles from Turkey).

Cheraw Intelligencer, and Southern Register (1823-1826) was a weekly newspaper begun in Cheraw, South Carolina, in the northeastern part of the state, by William Poole & Co. James F. Conover was the editor and later the publisher. It was succeeded in 1826 by the Pee Dee Gazette, and Cheraw Intelligencer, which soon became the South-Carolina Spectator (1826-1833).

James Monroe (1758-1831) was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and attended the College of William and Mary before dropping out to serve as an officer in the Revolutionary War. He studied law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, and served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He represented Virginia as a U.S. Senator (1790-94) and twice served as governor (1799-1802, 1811). In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase for President Jefferson and then served as ambassador to the United Kingdom (1803-1807). He was President James Madison’s Secretary of State (1811-17) and also, briefly, Secretary of War (1814-15). Elected President in 1816, he received 231 out of 232 electoral votes in his 1820 reelection bid, with his party’s ascendancy heralded as the Era of Good Feelings. His administration is notable for the recognition of the new Latin American republics and, of course, the Monroe Doctrine, written by his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. In Monroe’s Annual Message of 1823, he responded to European threats of encroachment on Latin American land by declaring 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 Power.” Although Monroe could do little to back up these statements, the doctrine influenced American foreign policy through the rest of the century. Through the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, the United States gained Florida and a clearer demarcation of its border with New Spain in the West. Monroe retired to Monroe Hill, now part of the University of Virginia, for the remainder of his life.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was born in Massachusetts, the son of future President John Adams. He accompanied his father on several diplomatic missions in the 1770s and 1780s and graduated from Harvard College in 1787. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1791. Adams served successively as minister to The Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, and Britain, from 1794 to 1801 and from 1809 to 1817. He began his career a moderate Federalist but switched to the Jeffersonian Republican Party around the year 1807. He helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, and was a brilliant Secretary of State (1817-1825), taking the lead role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine. He won the election of 1824, which was decided in the House of Representatives because no candidate won a majority in the Electoral College. Adams’s “deal” with House Speaker Henry Clay, whom he named Secretary of State, helped spark the formation of an opposition party around Andrew Jackson. John Quincy Adams served one largely frustrating term as president and lost in the election of 1828 to Andrew Jackson. Surprising most observers, Adams stood for election to the House of Representatives in 1831 and served seventeen memorable years, becoming a bulwark for civil liberties and a voice in the emerging anti-slavery movement. He defended the Amistad slaves before the Supreme Court in 1841, and died of a stroke on the floor of the House in 1848.

Complete Transcript of Monroe’s 1823 State of the Union Message

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