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Monroe, James | First printing of the Monroe Doctrine

Monroe, James | First printing of the Monroe Doctrine

Monroe, James | First printing of the Monroe Doctrine

Monroe, James

President's Message. National Intelligencer … Extra. Washington, Tuesday, December 2, 1823. This day, at 12 o'clock, the President of the United States transmitted to both Houses of Congress … the following Message. … James Monroe. Washington: [Joseph Gales & William Winston Seaton,] December 2, 1823

Broadside newspaper extra on a full sheet of wove paper, unwatermarked (560 x 378 mm, preserving deckle on all edges). Text in 5 columns separated by thin rules, 3 headlines; a few light spots of foxing. Half red morocco folding-case gilt.

First printing of the Monroe Doctrine, one of the most important of American state papers and the guiding principle of United States diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere since its promulgation; a unique variant issue, previously unrecorded.

The fear that the continental powers were planning to reconquer the Latin American republics that had declared their independence from Spain—coupled with irritation over Russia's intention to quarantine the Northwest coast of America from all but Russian vessels—led President Monroe to articulate a policy that would obligate the European powers to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States' sphere of influence and prevent their intervention in the New World. His eponymous doctrine boldly declared that "the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for further colonization by any European powers," and that any subsequent European meddling in the Americas could not be viewed "in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States."

The fifteen-page Government Printing Office pamphlet of the Monroe Doctrine was assumed to have precedence as the earliest appearance of the text, until the Streeter copy of the present broadside extra of the National Intelligencer appeared. The Intelligencer was founded in 1810, and shortly after the War of 1812 it became the de facto (and, on occasion, the official) administration organ and congressional printer, a position it maintained until Andrew Jackson succeeded John Quincy Adams in the White House.

Very rare. Only three or four copies seem to be known and none has been sold at auction for a quarter century. The present copy differs from the others in several points: the second headline, "National Intelligencer … Extra," is set in much larger type; a paragraph in the third column has been reset; and there are a few differences in capitalization and other settings. No priority can be established between the two issues, which may have been printed concurrently on separate presses in the newspaper's offices. At least two of the other copies (Streeter, which was resold by us in the Stanley Paul Sax auction, 17 January 1998, lot 187; and another copy sold by us 13 December 1995, lot 280) are either badly stained or worn with some loss of text. The present copy is darkly printed and beautifully preserved in original condition. The text of the Monroe Doctrine did not appear in the National Intelligencer proper until the issue of 4 December.


Celebration of My Country 167; Streeter 3:1734; cf. Grolier/American 33 (government pamphlet printing)

Condition as described in catalogue entry.

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