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Clark Memorandum

During the late 1920s, a number of American foreign policy leaders began to argue for a softer tone in U.S. relations with Latin American nations, which had been chafing under decades of intervention by the colossus to the north. Undersecretary of State, and later Ambassador to Mexico, J. Reuben Clark (1871-1961) held these conciliatory views and completed work on the hefty Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine late in the Coolidge administration. Clark argued the following:

  • The Monroe Doctrine was not solely concerned with inter-American relations.
  • The Doctrine states a case of the United States versus Europe, not of the United States versus Latin America.
  • The primary purpose of the Doctrine was to protect Latin American nations from intervention by European powers.
  • The Roosevelt Corollary was not part of the Monroe Doctrine.
While sometimes regarded as an outright repudiation of the Roosevelt Corollary, Clark was simply advancing his belief that the corollary was separate from the Monroe Doctrine and that American intervention in Latin America, when necessary, was sanctioned by U.S. rights as a sovereign nation, not by the Monroe Doctrine. Clark’s views were not made public until March 1930 during the Hoover administration, when Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson was guiding American diplomacy toward the beginning of a “Good Neighbor Policy” with its Latin American neighbors.
See other foreign policy activity during the Coolidge administration.