What Personal Beliefs Did Teddy Roosevelt Have That Affected His Attitude Toward Latin America?
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president of the 20th century, and set the tone for American affairs abroad when he entered office in 1901. Many of his policies meshed with his personal beliefs, especially those concerning Latin America. Stemming from his time in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt's attitude toward Latin America is represented in how he approached foreign affairs.
1 Paternalist Racism
Roosevelt's particular relationship with Latin America can be described as one of "paternal racism," according to historian Creighton Miller. Common among Americans at the time, Roosevelt identified Filipinos as America's "little brown brothers," and that they needed to be watched over and supervised during the U.S.'s occupation of the Philippines. According to the National Park Service, the term is not meant to be a derogatory ethnic slur, but simply a characterization of the relationship between both countries.
2 Anglo-Saxon Superiority
Roosevelt also believed the Anglo-Saxon race was superior to other races. Roosevelt cracked down on immigration and even made speeches against white Americans using birth control. Because ethnic minorities were procreating at higher rates than whites, Roosevelt feared that white Americans were committing "race suicide" and that it was a matter of patriotism to produce more white babies.
3 Manifest Destiny
Roosevelt was a strong nationalist who believed in the idea of manifest destiny. This meant that it was considered America's destiny to be a powerful country and expand its character and values by influencing others. This idea can be seen in Roosevelt's aggressive advocating of intervention in the Philippines when he was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1898 and his support for a Panamanian Revolution to build the Panama Canal in 1903. He believed it was America's right to intervene in Latin America if it benefited the U.S.
4 Roosevelt Corollary
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine is another political manifestation of Roosevelt's personal beliefs. In 1904, Roosevelt declared that Europe was not allowed to intervene in any affairs in the Western Hemisphere. All issues would be handled by the U.S., thus increasing American influence and power over smaller Latin American nations. Roosevelt believed that America should essentially be the policeman of the Western Hemisphere, but according to the U.S. Department of State, "Over the long term the corollary had little to do with relations between the Western Hemisphere and Europe, but it did serve as justification for U.S. intervention in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic."
- 1 University of Virginia Miller Center: Theodore Roosevelt: A Reference Resource
- 2 National Park Service: The Philippine War: Suppressing An Insurrection
- 3 Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt: Political Cartoons: "Race Suicide" Controversy
- 4 U.S. Department of State: Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, 1904