Then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams used this speech to lay out his vision for American foreign policy. In a famous passage, he states that “[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” His argument in this speech was that the United States should not interfere in the affairs of the European great powers, but rather focus on her own neighborhood.

“And now, Friends and Countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind?

Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.

She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights…”

Stay up to date with us


Get weekly Canon roundups straight to your inbox