The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine justified US military intervention in other countries. It was President Theodore Roosevelt’s response to Britain, Italy, and Germany’s naval blockade against Venezuela for refusing to pay foreign debts.


The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy issued on December 2, 1823. At that time, the majority of Latin American colonies had gained independence from their First World powers. Under the Doctrine, the US would deem aggression by the First World powers against those colonies as aggression and hostile intent towards itself.

This established the Old World and the New World as distinct and separate spheres of influence and sought to prevent further colonial conflict. Furthermore, the Doctrine asserted that the Old World and New World powers are not to interfere in each other’s affairs.

Over the 19th century, the Monroe Doctrine received support from Britain but had little influence on world politics. The US initially failed to enforce it over European territorial claims against several New World colonies, such as the Falkland Islands and Argentina.

However, in the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895, a territorial dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela, the United States enforced the Doctrine, demanding the conflict to be arbitrated. The demand was ultimately accepted, and a tribunal convened to decide on the issue.

This development gave the US precedent to intervene in such disputes directly. In 1898, the US’ intervention in the Cuban War for Independence, claiming several former colonies, such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Thus, the Monroe Doctrine was increasingly used to justify active interference rather than enforce non-interference from the Old World powers.

The final event that preceded Roosevelt’s Corollary was the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-1903, when Venezuela’s president refused to pay foreign debts incurred during the recent civil wars in the country. Germany, Italy, and the UK enforced a naval blockade of Venezuela.

The version of the Monroe Doctrine current at the time prevented intervention in this case, as it specifically applied to territorial claims. However, US President Theodore Roosevelt saw the ultimate resolution of the matter, which awarded blockading powers preferential treatment, as another dangerous precedent that would allow further European military aggression.

The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904, made during the president’s fourth annual message, was a preventive measure against such European intervention. It is often described as an expression of Roosevelt’s “Big stick policy”, which relied on heavy military backing of political or diplomatic claims.

The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine called for American intervention in countries that were failing economically if this would prevent or preclude European action. This was used as justification for several foreign interventions and occupations in the early 20th century, such as Cuba (1906-1909) and Haiti (1915-1934).

Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine’s significance is strengthening and justifying the country’s policy of interventionism and establishing it as a major world military power and political influence.

Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine