On July 21, 1821, John Quincy Adams, who would go on to become the sixth president of the United States, warned that if America were ever to abandon its founding principle of non-interventionism in foreign affairs, she might well become the dictatress of the world.
Adams issued his warning in a speech he delivered to Congress, a speech that has gone down in history with the title “In Search of Monsters to Destroy.”
Adams was referring to the fact that the United States was founded as a constitutional republic, one whose military forces did not go around the world helping people who were suffering the horrors of dictators, despots, civil wars, revolutions, famines, oppression, or anything else. That’s not to say that America didn’t sympathize with people struggling to experience lives of freedom, peace, and prosperity. It was simply that the US government would not go abroad to slay such monsters.
Here is how Adams expressed it:
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
Adams was summing up the founding foreign policy of the United States, a policy of non-interventionism in the affairs of other nations, specifically Europe and Asia.
And that’s the way the American people wanted it. If Americans had been told after the Constitutional Convention that the US government would be intervening around the world, there is no way that they would have ever approved the Constitution.
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