Foreign Possessions in the Caribbean Area

June 10, 1940

Report Outline
Acquisition or Defense of Foreign Colonies
Strategic Importance of Caribbean Islands
West Indies Trade and Governments
United States Problems in the Caribbean

Acquisition or Defense of Foreign Colonies

Any foreign attempt to change the status of the American colonies of belligerent powers would immediately involve the Western Hemisphere in the present European conflict. In order to forestall such a possibility, Congress is now considering a resolution which would give warning that the United States “would not acquiesce” in any transfer of territory in this hemisphere from one non-American power to another. Senator Reynolds (D., N. C.) had previously offered a resolution proposing the outright acquisition by the United States of islands and territory in Central and South America now owned by European belligerents.

Maintenance of the statua quo of European possessions in the Western Hemisphere has long been regarded as a direct implication of the Monroe Doctrine, although President Monroe himself said only that: “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.” When Congress was considering the purchase of the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917, Secretary Lansing wrote:

The Caribbean is within the peculiar sphere of influence of the United States, especially since the completion of the Panama Canal, and the possibility of a change of sovereignty of any of the islands now under foreign jurisdiction is of grave concern to the United States. Moreover, the Monroe Doctrine, a settled national policy of the United States, would have caused this country to look with disfavor upon the transfer of sovereignty of the Danish West Indies to any other European nation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 18, 2005  Haiti's Dilemma
Feb. 01, 1985  Caribbean Basin Revisited
Jan. 13, 1984  Caribbean Basin Policy
Jan. 11, 1980  Caribbean Security
Jul. 08, 1977  Puerto Rican Status Debate
Oct. 24, 1969  West Indies: Power Vacuum
Apr. 13, 1966  Dominican Dilemma
Nov. 21, 1962  Security in the Caribbean
Jul. 22, 1959  Invasion and Intervention in the Caribbean Area
Nov. 06, 1957  Caribbean Problems and Prospects
Jun. 14, 1943  Problems of the Caribbean Area
Jun. 10, 1940  Foreign Possessions in the Caribbean Area
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean