INAUGURATION day, 4 March 1817, was one of those rare late winter days in Washington with more than a hint of spring—sunny and balmy. Throughout the morning a steady stream of citizens hastened along the dusty, rutted streets toward the temporary congressional quarters in a frame structure across from the burned-out Capitol. The crowd, largely composed of residents of the city, included visitors from as far away as New York who had taken advantage of the cheaper rapid transportation offered by the newly introduced steamboats. By noon a crowd estimated at eight thousand, the largest ever assembled in Washington, had gathered.
The circumstances that occasioned an outdoor ceremony were entirely fortuitous. Usually inaugurations were held in the House chamber, but the refusal of the representatives to let the senators bring with them their new red upholstered armchairs had culminated in a deadlock broken only by deciding to move the ceremony outdoors. The managers were so distracted by this dispute that they forgot to invite the diplomatic corps, which was conspicuously absent. President-elect James Monroe and his vice president, Daniel D. Tompkins, arrived shortly before noon, escorted by a troop of volunteer cavalry. After being greeted by retiring President James Madison, the party entered the House chamber, where the vice president was sworn in, before returning to the outdoor platform. Monroe was then administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Marshall, a friend of his youth but since alienated by political differences.
The new president, who stepped forth to deliver his inaugural address, was a familiar figure to Washingtonians, who were accustomed to seeing him go about the city clad in the smallclothes of an earlier age—a black coat, black knee breeches, and black silk stockings. On ceremonial occasions he often wore a blue coat and buff knee breeches, an outfit reminiscent of Revolutionary War uniforms. Now in his fifty-ninth year, Monroe was erect in bearing, robust and vigorous in manner. His hair (worn long and tied behind with a black ribbon) had grayed, and his face had become deeply lined during the recent war. Nearly six feet tall, with dignified and formal manners, he was an impressive figure but by no means handsome—his face was plain, the nose large though regular. His wide-set gray eyes were his most striking feature, exhibiting a generosity of spirit confirmed by the warmth of his smile. Never arousing the same passionate devotion as Jefferson, Monroe was admired for his heroism during the Revolution and for his long service to the nation.
In his inaugural address—described by one auditor as of a "plain homespun character"—Monroe spoke of the renewed sense of national unity apparent after the difficulties of the war years. Espousing a course of moderate nationalism, he recommended the continued protection of domestic manufactures. He also stressed the need for the construction of roads and canals to facilitate the movement of commerce, but failed to clarify his position on the constitutionality of federally funded internal improvements. He devoted the lengthiest portion of his message to a project in which he took a personal interest—the need to improve the defenses of the nation by maintaining a larger peacetime army and by the construction of a chain of coastal fortifications to avert the danger of future invasion.
Early Political and Diplomatic Career
James Monroe, the fifth president and the last of the great trio of Virginia Republicans who had held the presidency since 1801, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on 28 April 1758. His father's family, of Scottish origin, had been settled in the county for a century, but with modest holdings of only six hundred acres the Monroes had never cut a large figure in colonial affairs. When his father, Spence, died in 1774, Monroe, his sister, and two younger brothers were placed under the guardianship of his uncle, Joseph Jones of King George County, one of the most influential leaders during the revolutionary era. Jones, who was then childless, took an active interest in his nephew, and it was with Jones's encouragement that Monroe entered William and Mary College in 1774—the first of his family to attend college, as he later proudly recalled—but his residence there was brief.
Caught up in the enthusiasm for the revolutionary cause, he enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment in the spring of 1775. Within months the young lieutenant was fighting with Washington at New York. He won fame and promotion to major for his heroism when he and a handful of men put out of action the British cannons blocking Washington's advance at Trenton. As aide-de-camp to General William Alexander, Monroe wintered at Valley Forge and fought at Monmouth. Preferring a field command to the routine of a staff officer, Monroe returned to Virginia in the summer of 1779, in the hope of raising a regiment.
Unable to obtain recruits, Monroe's spirits were at a low ebb when he met Thomas Jefferson, the governor of Virginia. This meeting constituted a turning point in Monroe's life, establishing a close and enduring friendship, cemented by common intellectual interests and political objectives. Jefferson sensed in Monroe not only a warm and generous character but also a powerful determination to be of service to his country no matter what the cost might be. Monroe's close association with one of the most original and best informed minds of the day was a decisive influence in his intellectual development.
In 1782, Monroe entered the House of Burgesses from King George County, where he had begun to practice law. His abilities were immediately recognized by the established leaders in the state and the next year won him membership in the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress, along with Jefferson. When Jefferson left in July 1784 to take up his post as minister to France, he left for Monroe a collection of books and his French cook, but his most valuable gift was a letter of introduction to James Madison. Jefferson's praise of Monroe to his old friend was unstinted: "The scrupulousness of his honor will make you safe in the most confidential communications. A better man cannot be." Thus was forged the final link in the great collaboration that shaped the future of the early Republic.
In Congress, Monroe moved rapidly to the fore-front of the leaders committed to strengthening the Articles of Confederation. His most constructive work as a delegate was the drafting of the plan of territorial government incorporated in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the blocking of the move to close the Mississippi to American navigation in return for commercial concessions from Spain.
When his term ended in 1786, Monroe was not alone on his homeward trip to Virginia. Beside him in his carriage was his bride of eight months, the former Elizabeth Kortright, daughter of a once wealthy New York merchant. Much admired for her beauty, the elegance of her dress, and the refinement of her polished, if rather formal, manners, she brought to Monroe the happiness of family life so much prized by his generation. In the terms of the age, she conducted herself as an ideal wife should, devoted to her children and never obtruding in political concerns. The Monroes lived for two years in Fredericksburg, where he opened a law office. Then, in 1789, they moved to a plantation he purchased in Albemarle County, thus realizing Monroe's cherished dream of living within a few miles of Jefferson's estate, Monticello. Since the Madisons lived but twenty miles away in Orange County, social visits and political conferences were easily arranged. It was in Virginia that Monroe's two daughters were born—Eliza in 1786 and Maria Hester in 1802.
At home in Virginia, Monroe combined an active county law practice with the management of his plantation and membership in the state legislature. As a member of the Virginia ratifying convention, he opposed the Constitution, objecting to the excessive power granted to the Senate and the president. The law had little appeal for Monroe, and he readily abandoned his practice after his election to the United States Senate in 1790. He continued, nonetheless, to supervise his plantation, which remained the principal source of his income. He always considered farming his profession and politics but an avocation.
As a senator, Monroe worked closely with Madison, then in the House, in combating the Hamiltonian fiscal program. He aided Jefferson and Madison in laying the groundwork of opposition to Washington's policies, which culminated in the formation of the Republican party. In 1794, President Washington appointed Monroe to succeed Federalist Gouverneur Morris as minister to France in the hope that the selection of a Republican would improve relations strained by France's conviction that the Washington administration was pro-British. The ratification of Jay's Treaty in 1795 confirmed the French government in its belief that Washington was hostile to the revolutionary movement and rendered ineffective Monroe's efforts at reconciliation. Irritated by Monroe's open enthusiasm for the revolutionary regime, Washington abruptly recalled him in 1796. Monroe responded with a lengthy pamphlet attacking the administration. His View of the Conduct of the Executive in Foreign Affairs . . . (Philadelphia, 1798) was approved by fellow Republicans and won him the governorship of Virginia in 1799.
Just before leaving for France in 1794, Monroe had purchased a more extensive estate adjacent to Monticello. Selling his earlier holdings, he now made his home on his new plantation of twenty-five hundred acres, which he named Highlands (now known as Ashlawn). Until his election as president, he and his family lived in a simple frame house at Highlands.
As Virginia's governor from 1799 to 1802, Monroe improved the administrative organization of the state government, providing stronger leadership than his predecessors. He was the first governor to use the annual message to outline matters needing legislative action. His effective handling of the abortive slave uprising known as Gabriel's Rebellion was highly praised.
Monroe's third term as governor had no sooner ended than Jefferson, in January 1803, appointed him as special envoy to France to negotiate the purchase of a site on the lower Mississippi as a port of deposit. The abrupt suspension of the right of deposit by the Spanish authorities made the mission an urgent one. Accompanied by his wife and daughters, Monroe reached Paris on 12 April 1803, to be coolly greeted by the resident minister, Robert R. Livingston, who had just learned after months of importuning that Napoleon was willing to sell all Louisiana. Faced by the fact that it was all or nothing, Livingston and Monroe ignored the limitations of their instructions and signed an agreement. Monroe rightly assumed that his friendship with President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison would ensure the acceptance of the treaty.
After completing his mission to France, Monroe was named minister to Great Britain, where he remained until 1807 except for a foray to Madrid in a vain effort to purchase Florida. His main objectives in England were to secure recognition of American principles of neutral rights and a cessation of impressment. Not until 1806, when Charles James Fox became foreign secretary after twenty years in opposition, did Monroe see any hope of a modification of long-standing British policy. He at once began negotiations but had to postpone them, pending the arrival of special envoy William Pinkney.
Fox's illness and death a few months after Pinkney's arrival so weakened the cabinet that major policy changes could not be undertaken. Nonetheless, Monroe and Pinkney concluded an agreement that modified British commercial restrictions but contained no provision on impressment. The best they could obtain from the British commissioners was a note appended to the treaty promising that the "strictest care" would be taken "to preserve the citizens of the United States from any molestation or injury." In accepting this informal statement, Monroe assured Madison that it meant the end of impressment. Although the British, he said, would never abandon a basic principle, they would alter policy through admiralty orders.
Monroe was truly shocked when Jefferson rejected the treaty without submitting it to the Senate. Having been absent so long, Monroe did not realize that the administration regarded impressment as the central issue. Madison, expecting Monroe to return much earlier, had failed to make the point clear in his instructions. The treaty had the misfortune to arrive in Washington at the same time as the news of the British orders-in-council of January 1807, which banned neutral trade with the Continent.
When Monroe returned home in 1807, he was warmly received by Jefferson and Madison but disappointed at their failure to seek his advice on foreign affairs. During the next few years his relations with Madison, whom he blamed for the rejection of the treaty, were strained. No longer did the Madisons stop at Highlands on their regular visits to Monticello. It was through Jefferson's good offices that the friendship was restored, for, as Jefferson told Monroe, if he were to lose the friendship of either he would regard it as the "greatest of calamities which could assail my future peace of mind."
Secretary of State, 1811–1817
With Madison's foreign policy subject to rising criticism from Republicans and Federalists alike, in March 1811 he replaced Secretary of State Robert Smith with Monroe. Both critics and friends of the administration welcomed the appointment of Monroe, an experienced diplomat, for Smith was widely regarded as incompetent. In bringing Monroe into the cabinet, Madison had decided to take a firmer stand with the European belligerents by refusing to settle minor issues unless major concerns were first resolved. As Monroe explained to John Taylor of Caroline, the time had come for the nation to "cease dealing in the small way of embargoes, non-intercourse, and non-importation" and prepare to defend its rights by force. Since neither the French minister nor his British counterpart had authority to make concessions, Monroe's efforts to press them for alterations in policy proved fruitless.
During August 1811 the president and Monroe met while in Virginia and agreed that unless the 1807 orders-in-council were repealed, the only recourse would be to declare war. When Congress met, Monroe worked closely with Speaker Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Their cooperation, as well as the support of younger War Hawks, enabled Madison to secure the approval of defense measures. Monroe, in fact, helped Calhoun's committee draft a response to Madison's war message of 1 June 1812. The House responded promptly, but not until 18 June did the Senate concur.
Monroe preferred a field command during the war rather than the relative inactivity of the State Department, but this proved impossible, since it would have meant placing him over officers who had held higher ranks during the Revolution. When Secretary of War William Eustis, overwhelmed by the increased administrative burden, resigned late in 1812, Madison had to abandon his plan of appointing Monroe after it was learned that confirmation would encounter opposition from northern Republicans and Federalists critical of continued Virginia domination of the national government. To mollify his critics, Madison turned to John Armstrong, Robert Livingston's brother-in-law.
From the outset friction was evident between the two secretaries, for Armstrong felt that Monroe had deprived Livingston of the proper credit due for the Louisiana Purchase. Armstrong vigorously opposed the recommendation made by Monroe and others that the defenses of the capital and Chesapeake Bay area needed strengthening against the possibility of an invasion. Preferring to direct the affairs of his department from the field with the northern army, Armstrong continued to minimize the threat even after it was learned in the spring of 1814 that the British were amassing a large force in the West Indies.
On 2 July, disregarding Armstrong's objections, Madison created a new military district for the bay area under the command of General William Winder, whose preparations were persistently obstructed by the secretary of war. Thus, when a large British force appeared in the bay, no arrangements had been made for reconnaissance. It was Monroe, riding out with a troop of volunteer cavalry, who brought the first reports of the British movement.
Armstrong was blamed for the resultant fiasco at Bladensburg—where the president, Monroe, and Armstrong were all on the field—and the subsequent British occupation of Washington and burning of the public buildings in August 1814. Armstrong's resignation and his replacement by Monroe, who continued as acting secretary of state, were greeted enthusiastically by the citizens of Washington and the military.
Working long hours—frequently sleeping in his office—Monroe brought order into the confused state of affairs in the War Department. His service came too late to affect the outcome of the war, for the Treaty of Ghent arrived in February 1815. As secretary of state, Monroe had drafted the original instructions for the peace commissioners as well as the later modification authorizing them to abandon the American demands on impressment and neutral rights. After relinquishing the War Department in March 1815, Monroe left for a much needed rest in Virginia. Not until six months later was he well enough to return to the capital and begin the negotiations that culminated in the Rush-Bagot agreement to demilitarize the Great Lakes.
With the war over, public interest promptly focused on the coming presidential election. It was generally assumed that Monroe, because of his close association with Jefferson and Madison and long service to the nation, would be the Republican nominee. However, the nomination was by no means assured, for many northern politicians were weary of Virginia domination. New Yorkers were the most outspoken, feeling that they had too long been relegated to the second place on the ticket. Without a northern candidate of national stature, they turned to the secretary of the treasury, William H. Crawford. A former senator from Georgia, Crawford owed his prominence to the fact that his easygoing, jovial manner had made him immensely well liked by congressmen; since the nomination was in the hands of a congressional caucus, his personal popularity was a major asset. He also had the backing of Jefferson's secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, to whose influence Crawford owed his elevation to the Treasury.
Monroe and his congressional supporters were sufficiently worried by Crawford's candidacy that they considered boycotting the congressional caucus in favor of a state nomination. Madison, following Jefferson's example, was outwardly neutral, but his preference for Monroe was well known. The columns of the National Intelligencer, the semi-official administration paper, were full of pro-Monroe items. Crawford, only forty-four, was reluctant to challenge his senior colleague but did not publicly withdraw his name. Consequently, when the caucus met in March 1816, Monroe was nominated by the disappointingly small margin of sixty-five to fifty-four. In effect the caucus was the real election, since the Federalists were so weakened by their opposition to the war that they mustered only minimal support for Rufus King, who received 34 electoral votes to the 183 cast for Monroe.
The disparity in the electoral count marked the end of the first two-party system, a development welcomed by leaders of Monroe's generation in both parties. They had long regarded party conflict as a divisive element tending to destroy republican institutions. They cherished the ideal expressed by Washington in his farewell address of a nation without parties, governed by men chosen on their merits. Shortly after his election Monroe expressed his commitment to this goal when he observed that the "Chief Magistrate of the Country ought not to be the head of a party, but of the nation itself." However, he did not fall in with Andrew Jackson's suggestion that the process of party amalgamation be facilitated by appointing Federalists to high office. Free government, Monroe told Jackson, must still depend on its "decided friends, who stood firm in the day of trial."
Monroe as President: The "Era of Good Feelings" Begins
In choosing his cabinet Monroe honored established precedent, reappointing his predecessor's secretaries and preserving a geographical balance. Crawford was continued in the Treasury, although he had hoped for a transfer to the State Department as the probable successor to Monroe. Benjamin Crownin-shield, a New Englander with a mercantile background, remained in the Navy Department, and Richard Rush of Pennsylvania continued as attorney general until late in 1817, when he was named minister to Great Britain, a post more to his liking. Rush's replacement was William Wirt, a successful Baltimore lawyer celebrated for his popular biography of Patrick Henry. Having no political ambitions, Wirt continued to busy himself with his private practice, since the attorney generalship was a part-time office.
In an effort to broaden the geographical basis of his administration, Monroe wanted to place a westerner in the War Department. After a series of refusals, including one from Henry Clay, who, as a presidential aspirant, was unwilling to enter the cabinet in a lesser post than that held by Crawford, Monroe selected John C. Calhoun. The South Carolinian had demonstrated a command of military affairs while a member of the House during the war. Intellectually gifted, tall, and handsome, the thirty-five-year-old Calhoun presented an image vastly different from the gloomy one of his later years. He gave the War Department an efficient administration that effected substantial economies.
The major post, that of secretary of state, went to John Quincy Adams, who had been absent from the United States since 1809 on a series of diplomatic appointments that had taken him from St. Petersburg, to Ghent, and then to London. The son of a Federalist president and himself a former Federalist, he had been one of the moderate Federalists who had entered Republican ranks during Jefferson's administration. Monroe chose Adams because of his extensive diplomatic experience, a consideration Monroe felt had been ignored by previous administrations. Monroe also intended to disabuse people of the notion that the incumbent in the Department of State was necessarily the president's hand-picked successor. In this Monroe failed. Within a year Adams had developed a solid core of supporters in Congress and was considered a major candidate for the presidency.
Adams—a cold, pedantic man, ill at ease in large gatherings and unprepossessing in appearance (he was short, plump, and balding)—proved the ablest of the secretaries and intensely loyal to his chief. Adams' passion for work, concern for detail, and ability to draft forceful and logical state papers made him invaluable. He genuinely admired Monroe for his sound judgment, although he was frequently irked by the deliberate processes of the president's mind. Sharing, as they did, a common view of American foreign policy goals, their working relationship was extremely harmonious. While Monroe kept full control over policy decisions, he entrusted Adams with all discussions with foreign diplomats. Because Monroe felt that Jefferson's and Madison's habit of casual discussion with diplomats had been a source of confusion, the president restricted his contact with diplomats to formal and ceremonial occasions. Adams' lengthy political diary provides an intimate view of the workings of the Monroe administration.
The only significant change in the cabinet during Monroe's two terms was in the Navy Department. Crowninshield resigned in 1818 and was replaced by Smith Thompson of New York, who remained until 1823, when he was shunted to the Supreme Court at the request of Senator Martin Van Buren of New York. Van Buren, a rising power in the Republican party, was committed to Crawford and felt it essential to squelch Thompson's ambitions. Thompson was succeeded (probably at Calhoun's suggestion) by former Senator Samuel L. Southard of New Jersey. Personally agreeable, Southard was a close friend of Samuel L. Gouverneur, the New Yorker who married Monroe's younger daughter, Maria Hester.
To signalize the coming era of party harmony and the renewal of national unity, Monroe followed George Washington's example by embarking on a tour of the nation. This he completed in two segments, visiting New England and the Middle Atlantic states in 1817 and making a less extensive tour in the West and South two years later. His purpose was clearly understood. Fittingly, it was in a Federalist newspaper, as the editor welcomed the approaching end of party warfare, that the phrase "Era of Good Feelings" made its appearance. Monroe's northward journey was the occasion of unprecedented demonstrations—troops of militia, parades, banquets, and delegations of citizens who greeted him fulsomely not only as president but as a celebrated hero of the Revolution.
The high point was reached in Boston, where the streets were lined with a crowd estimated at forty thousand. After a public banquet attended by leading Federalists, Monroe made a round of private visits to old opponents of his party. So great was the rush of Federalists to do him homage that, as Abigail Adams shrewdly remarked, it was like an "expiation" for sins. She attributed Monroe's success in winning approval to "his agreeable affability . . . unassuming manners . . . [and] his polite attentions to all orders and ranks."
Monroe had every reason to feel that his tour had succeeded in its objectives. By 1819 every New England state but one was in the hands of the Republicans. The presidential election of 1820, in which he received all but one of the electoral votes, seemed another proof that party conflict had ceased to be a factor in national political life.
The president and his family did not move into the executive mansion until September 1817, for not until then were the renovations after the fire completed. It was at this time that the mansion, covered with white paint to conceal the scars of fire, became widely known as the White House. At first the Monroes used their own furniture, awaiting the arrival from France of draperies, china, furniture, wall coverings, marble mantelpieces, and ormolu clocks (ordered without nudes). During their residences in France, Monroe and his wife had acquired a preference for French styles not only in furnishings but in social usages.
The presidential family consisted of Mrs. Monroe; Eliza and her husband, George Hay; and the president's youngest brother, Joseph, who acted as a private secretary. Until he returned to New York in 1820 after marrying Maria Hester, Monroe's youngest daughter, Samuel L. Gouverneur was a frequent resident and occasional secretary to the president. Since funds were not provided for staffing the White House, Monroe employed his own servants. With the Monroes a note of formality reminiscent of the Washington years reappeared. At official dinner parties, strict precedence, much to the pleasure of the diplomats, replaced Jefferson's pell-mell. Dinners were served in the formal French manner, with the dishes handed around by the servants. It took official and social Washington some time to recover from Mrs. Monroe's announcement that she, unlike Dolley Madison, would neither return nor make calls. She would, however, be at home in the mornings to receive callers. During Monroe's second term his wife was frequently ill, and so her duties as hostess were filled by her daughter Eliza.
Monroe continued the custom of biweekly evening receptions (known as drawing rooms), which had been abandoned by Jefferson but resumed by the Madisons. The doors were open to all citizens properly dressed. The president received guests standing in the Oval Room. His wife and Eliza, whose stylish dresses were the envy of every Washington lady, were seated beside him. As the guests walked about the rooms, servants passed trays of refreshments and music was usually provided by the marine band. Apart from these occasions, the president and his family led a very private life. When his daughter Maria Hester was married in the White House, only members of the family were present. The president, again following Washington's usage, did not accept invitations from the diplomatic corps, members of the cabinet, or members of Congress.
During the sessions there might be as many as twenty at dinner, for every caller was usually invited to dine. On these all-male occasions Mrs. Monroe was not present. Since the president's salary of $25,000 without any supplements was inadequate to cover the cost of entertaining, Monroe's indebtedness, already large, increased rapidly.
During the war years Monroe had been able to make infrequent visits to Albemarle. He preferred to stay at Oak Hill, a property he had acquired many years earlier, only thirty miles from the capital. Although the plantation was not as large as Highlands, he regarded the Oak Hill estate as more fertile and potentially more productive; consequently, after his election to the presidency, he decided to make it his principal residence and constructed a handsome porticoed mansion.
In response to the disappearance of political parties, Monroe developed new methods of executive leadership. Every president since Washington had relied upon party loyalty to ensure congressional approval of administration measures. Bereft of party support, Monroe turned to the members of his cabinet as a source of power. Three of the secretaries—Adams, Crawford, and Calhoun—as aspirants to the presidency had substantial followings in Congress. Of the leading hopefuls only Henry Clay had elected to remain outside the administration. It was not until Monroe's second term that Andrew Jackson's strength as a candidate was evident. As John Quincy Adams' diary makes abundantly clear, Monroe's frequent cabinet meetings were not held to secure advice but to hammer out a consensus. It is noteworthy that Monroe was able to win congressional approval for every measure that had the support of the cabinet. He never consulted the secretaries when he knew agreement was impossible.
To a greater extent than his predecessors, Monroe used his annual messages to outline concerns needing legislative attention rather than merely as a general report on the main events of the past years. Personal contact with congressmen played an important role, and here Monroe's openness and personal warmth were effective. Every day during the sessions of Congress there was a constant stream of visitors to the White House; no appointments were needed, the president received all, and, as was expected, he usually invited his callers to dinner.
Although foreign affairs, which the Constitution placed directly under the control of the executive, occupied much of his attention, a variety of domestic issues required executive involvement. In his first annual message, Monroe startled the members of Congress by recommending that the Constitution be amended to authorize federal construction of roads and canals. In making this proposal Monroe was attempting to resolve the dilemma created when Madison, just before leaving office, vetoed as unconstitutional a bill appropriating dividends from the federally owned stock in the Bank of the United States for internal improvements. Madison's action had seemed inconsistent to many, for Madison, like Jefferson, had signed bills for the construction of the Cumberland Road. When Monroe queried Madison, he received the unsatisfactory response that the earlier bills had been signed hastily, without full consideration of the issue.
Monroe's recommendation produced some acrimonious debates, but action on an amendment was blocked by those who insisted that Congress had adequate power. Monroe, to his surprise and pain, was vigorously criticized for meddling in a purely legislative matter. In the next few years Monroe contributed to the confusion by signing bills for the extension of the Cumberland Road. Not until 1822, when he vetoed a bill for the collection of tolls on the Cumberland Road, did he have an opportunity to clarify his position. In a lengthy essay he argued that the collection of tolls was an invasion of the police power of the states. It was true that the road had been built with federal funds, but jurisdiction had remained in the hands of the states that had cleared the right of way. This finespun argument did not strike contemporaries as very convincing, no matter where they stood on the issue.
Monroe took a particular interest in the strengthening of the defenses of the nation. Just before leaving the War Department in 1815, he had submitted a report to Congress recommending that the army be retained at twenty thousand men rather than returned to the prewar figure of ten thousand. He also outlined an extensive plan for constructing coastal fortifications. Although Congress reduced the army to its prewar level, the substantial sum of $400,000 was appropriated in 1818 for coastal fortifications. The next year the sum was increased to $800,000. However, the decline in federal revenues following the Panic of 1819 led to a cutback in 1821 to $220,000. Only after revenues improved in 1822 did Congress raise the annual appropriation to $400,000, in response to Monroe's plea for the need to defend Florida.
Midway in his first term Monroe was confronted by two unexpected domestic crises. During his western tour in 1819, Monroe had become aware of the distress precipitated by the first peacetime depression—the so-called Panic of 1819. There was large-scale unemployment in urban areas, farm prices were depressed, and business failures were numerous in the new industries established during the war. The depression was the result of complex factors ill understood at that time. Monroe shared the prevailing opinion that the major causes were the influx of cheap European manufactures, which forced the closing of factories, and the financial instability resulting from excessive note issues and careless loan practices by state-chartered banks. Neither Monroe nor his contemporaries appreciated the role of the extensive speculation in western lands nor the impact of the catastrophic drop in cotton prices in 1818.
Contemporaries unjustly blamed the financial distress on the policies of the second Bank of the United States (rechartered in 1817), admittedly badly managed by William Jones, its first president. Monroe, who considered the bank essential to ensure a sound currency and to control the careless habits of state banks in making loans, succeeded in 1819 in persuading the directors to replace Jones with Lang-don Cheves, a far abler financier. Monroe approved Chief Justice Marshall's decision in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), which upheld the constitutionality of the bank.
Within the limitations of current thinking about the role of government in the economy, there was little that Congress could do to ameliorate the suffering caused by the depression. In his annual message of 1819, the president urged citizens to respond to the current difficulties, which he considered temporary, by practicing industry and economy—a policy also considered proper for the federal government. In response to his suggestion that Congress "give encouragement to domestic industries," a bill was introduced providing for increased duties on textiles, the industry most hurt by imports. This mild protectionist measure encountered immediate opposition from southern congressmen, many of whom had eagerly supported the tariff of 1816. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate by one vote.
The only form of governmental intervention familiar to Americans during economic crises was in the form of debtor relief provided by the states. Although debtor problems lay mostly within the jurisdiction of the states, the federal government was faced with extensive defaults in payments for purchases of public land. In his annual message of 1820, Monroe recommended that purchasers who acquired the land when prices were high be granted a "reasonable indulgence." Following a specific plan submitted by Crawford, a bill was passed permitting debtors unable to pay the balance to secure title for that portion for which they had already paid. A discount was granted those making their payments on time.
Since government revenues from customs and land sales had declined so sharply, the Treasury in 1820 was faced with a deficit of $7 million, a sizable sum in a budget of only $25 million. Calhoun had made substantial economies in the operation of the War Department, which absorbed nearly a third of the budget in 1818, but they were insufficient to reduce the deficit substantially. Regarding the depression as only temporary, Monroe accepted Crawford's recommendation that the deficit be met by loans. However, as Monroe noted in his second inaugural, if the depression continued, he would request additional taxes.
Not until after the Missouri question (see below) had been laid to rest near the end of the session of 1820–1821 did Congress move to enact measures to reduce governmental expenditures. The main thrust of the economizers was against the War Department, not only because it absorbed such a large share of the budget but because supporters of rival candidates used it as a means of attacking Calhoun. Republicans of the old school, who had always been hostile to military expansion, were only too happy to join the attack. In addition to cutting appropriations for fortifications, in March 1821 Congress approved a bill reducing the army from a complement of ten thousand men to six thousand, to effect a saving estimated at $2 million. Even after the revenues improved, the reduction in the army was made permanent.
The Missouri Question
In the winter of 1819–1820 the president and Congress engaged in the more serious, protracted conflict over the effort to prevent the admission of Missouri as a slave state. Nearly the whole session was consumed in this bitter controversy while the two houses remained deadlocked. The lower house insisted that slavery be banned as a condition for the admission of Missouri, but the Senate stubbornly rejected all measures imposing restrictions. Although deeply concerned over this issue, which threatened to divide the nation into two hostile sections, Monroe never raised the question with his cabinet prior to the passage of the final compromise, knowing that an agreement on the issue would be impossible. Monroe genuinely believed, and this was a widely held opinion, that the restrictionists, among whose leaders were many former Federalists, were trying to revive the old two-party system on a sectional basis.
Within the framework of the then current interpretation of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, it was impossible for Monroe to intervene directly in the controversy. From the outset he let it be known that he would veto any measure restricting slavery in Missouri, since this would be contrary to the provision of the Constitution requiring that new states be admitted on an equal footing with the older states. Slavery was a legal institution and imposing limitations on Missouri would deprive that state of the right to determine a basic institution. In opposing restriction, Monroe was not only concerned with the constitutional issue: he shared the common view of many southerners that confining slavery to a few states would ensure its perpetuation. Slavery, he believed, would be more easily eliminated if it were diffused throughout the nation.
Monroe was himself a slaveholder. Like most southerners of the revolutionary generation, he condemned it as evil and anticipated its eventual destruction. He agreed with Jefferson, with whom he corresponded on the subject, that the only solution was the removal of blacks to Africa. He was a member of the American Colonization Society, which had this objective as its ultimate goal, and in 1821 he assisted the society in acquiring title to Liberia as a refuge for freed slaves. It was in gratitude for his efforts that the directors named the capital Monrovia.
While the Missouri debates were raging in Congress, Monroe was kept informed of developments by Senator James Barbour of Virginia. Through Barbour, Monroe let it be known that he would approve Henry Clay's compromise admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state and banning slavery in territory north of 36°30'. When Monroe finally consulted his secretaries after the passage of the compromise, he received only a qualified approval.
When the compromise was pending Monroe enlisted the aid of George Hay, his son-in-law (then in Richmond), to calm the Virginia hotheads who loudly talked of secession if southern interests were sacrificed. As Monroe told Jefferson, the plot to destroy the Union had been prevented only by the "patriotic devotion of several members of the non-slave-owning states, who preferred to sacrifice themselves at home, to a violation of the obvious principles of the Constitution." Monroe—and this was typical of most southerners—failed to grasp the intensity of northern antislavery sentiment.
In spite of the furor over the Missouri question and the problems created by the depression, the presidential election of 1820 aroused scant popular interest. Fewer voters turned out than for local elections in which there was a real contest. As the only candidate (there was no caucus, the nomination being left to state legislatures), Monroe received all the electoral votes but one. The only conflict over the election took place in Congress when northern restrictionists objected to the inclusion of Missouri's electoral vote in the final count, since the state had not as yet been formally admitted. The issue was solved by reporting two sets of electoral votes, one with, and the other without, Missouri's three votes. This was by no means the end of the dispute over Missouri. During the session of 1820–1821 there was a prolonged conflict over provisions in the Missouri constitution making it illegal for free blacks to enter Missouri and forbidding manumission without specific authorization of the state legislature. Clay worked out a compromise providing that no provision of the Missouri constitution should be construed as denying any citizen the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. While Clay labored in Congress, Monroe quietly helped round up the votes needed to ensure the passage of what has been termed "the second Missouri Compromise."
In view of the responsibility the Constitution assigned to the executive for the conduct of foreign relations, Monroe understandably gave close attention to this aspect of his office. When Monroe and Adams were in the capital, daily conferences were the rule, for the State Department was but a few minutes—walk from the White House. When the president was at Oak Hill during the summer, messengers regularly brought him dispatches. Monroe read all the diplomatic correspondence, scrutinizing and frequently revising Adams' notes.
Foundations of the Monroe Doctrine
Now that the wars precipitated by the French Revolution were over, Monroe had an opportunity to develop foreign policy in new directions. No longer need the executive be preoccupied with the protection of neutral rights and the need to preserve American neutrality. Among Monroe's major objectives, fully supported by Adams, was the recognition of the United States as the only republic of consequence in the world and the strongest power in the Americas. The nation no longer would seek its aims through the patronage of European powers, as Jefferson had relied on France, but would pursue an independent course. Monroe shared the expansionist aims of his generation and with Adams' help fully exploited every opportunity for expanding American territories.
The most immediate problems demanding attention after his inauguration were those arising from the revolutionary movements in Spain's Latin American colonies. Some had been resolved while he was secretary of state, when he had helped formulate a policy of neutrality highly beneficial to the insurgents. Monroe, deeply sympathetic to the revolutionary movements, was determined that the United States should never repeat the policies of the Washington administration during the French Revolution, when the nation had failed to demonstrate its sympathy for the aspirations of peoples seeking to establish republican governments. He did not envisage military involvement but only the provision of moral support. To go beyond this would do the colonies more harm than good, since it would invite European intervention to restore them to Spain. Monroe's caution was justified, for the European powers had intervened in Europe to suppress revolutions in Spain itself and in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Monroe's policy was also shaped by his desire to obtain from Spain the long-sought cession of Florida and a definition of the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase. Premature action in extending recognition
to the former colonies would jeopardize the possibility of a settlement with Spain. Still, recognition had to be considered. In order to obtain more accurate information than that appearing in the press, Monroe, shortly after he entered office, sent a special commission to South America to report on the stability of the newly independent states.
As soon as Adams arrived in October 1817 to take his place in the cabinet, Monroe discussed a more immediate issue than recognition. The various insurgents had freely issued letters of marque to privateers, many of whom were Americans. Behaving more like pirates than privateers, they had made their headquarters on Amelia Island, within the jurisdiction of Spanish Florida. With the approval of his cabinet, Monroe authorized an expedition to occupy the island and end this annoyance.
In December, Monroe took more drastic action, authorizing Andrew Jackson to lead an expedition into Florida to pursue Indians raiding the southern frontier. This invasion was justified by the provision of Pinckney's Treaty of 1795, in which Spain had promised to restrain the Indians living under its jurisdiction. Because Jackson had been specifically instructed not to occupy Spanish posts, his seizure of St. Marks and Pensacola was truly embarrassing for the administration. Moreover, his execution of two British traders after a summary trial on the grounds that they were inciting the Indians threatened to create a major international crisis.
Jackson's conduct created a furor, for it was widely alleged that by his actions he had infringed on the congressional power to declare war. The cabinet was sharply divided on this issue. Calhoun and Crawford were among the many who urged that the general be repudiated, while Adams, sensing that at last Jackson had given the administration the lever needed to pry Florida from Spain, recommended that his conduct be approved.
Sensitive to the constitutional issues and yet unwilling to give Spain an advantage by an outright condemnation of the general, Monroe found a middle course acceptable to the secretaries. In reporting on events in Florida in his annual message, he informed Congress that Jackson had indeed overstepped his orders but had done so on information received during the campaign that made the action necessary. Monroe added that the posts had promptly been restored once Jackson had achieved his objectives. Monroe's position was effective in checking the massive anti-Jackson campaign launched in Congress by states' rightists and those anxious to weaken Jackson's standing as a presidential candidate. Jackson was not pleased with Monroe's formula, which fell short of the positive approval he believed he merited. His sensitivity on this point was a major factor in his breach with Calhoun in 1830.
The congressional debate on the resolutions condemning Jackson were under way at the very time that Adams and the Spanish minister were concluding a treaty for the cession of Florida and the extension of Louisiana's western boundary line northward and westward to the Pacific. The administration's concern that Jackson's execution of British subjects might lead to war proved unfounded. The British, having more important concerns on the Continent, made no protest. When Spain failed to ratify the treaty within the six-month time limit, the president contemplated asking Congress in his annual message of 1819 for immediate authority to occupy Florida. However, after he learned that France and Britain were exerting pressure on Spain to ratify, he requested instead contingent authority, suspending action until the arrival of a special emissary from Spain. Although Clay and other advocates of immediate recognition of the new Latin American states were critical of Monroe's delay, they were too much absorbed in the Missouri debates to raise serious objections in Congress.
Spain ratified the treaty late in 1820, but Monroe still held back from immediate recognition of the new Latin American regimes because of doubts about their stability. Not until March 1822 did he inform Congress that permanent governments had been established in the United Provinces of La Plata (present-day Argentina), Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico. He requested an appropriation for diplomatic missions to these nations.
Adams' instructions for the new ministers, drafted under Monroe's careful supervision, declared that the policy of the United States was to uphold republican institutions and to seek treaties of commerce on a most-favored-nation basis. The new diplomats were also instructed to let it be known that the United States would support inter-American congresses dedicated to the development of economic and political institutions fundamentally differing from those prevailing in Europe. The articulation of an "American system" distinct from that of Europe was a basic tenet of Monroe's policy toward Latin America. Monroe took pride in the fact that the United States was the first nation to extend recognition and to set an example to the rest of the world for its support of the "cause of liberty and humanity."
Monroe was aware that recognition did not provide an effective shield against foreign intervention to restore Spain's colonies. This threat became an immediate concern in October 1823 when dispatches arrived from Richard Rush, the minister in London, informing the president that Foreign Secretary George Canning was proposing that the United States and Great Britain jointly declare their opposition to European intervention. This astounding proposal from so recent an enemy was given the closest consideration.
Monroe at once wrote Madison and Jefferson, who both urged him to accept. In spite of their endorsement, Monroe had serious doubts. To accept the British proposal would make the nation once again seem subordinate to a European power and would not enhance American prestige among Spain's former colonies. Acceptance would also involve a declaration repudiating further territorial expansion at Spain's expense and thus rule out the prospect of acquiring Cuba, an event Adams and many others thought most likely. Monroe also sensed that the people were not yet ready for such close cooperation with Great Britain.
Monroe explored the proposal in detail with his secretaries at lengthy cabinet meetings in November 1823. (Crawford, then seriously ill, was absent.) All agreed that joint action was neither possible nor essential, since the British cabinet had obviously already decided on its policy. At first Monroe felt that a circular diplomatic note would be sufficient to state American opposition to intervention. This had the disadvantage that as a private communication it would not be publicized.
It was the president who hit on the means of announcing the American position to the world: he would include a general statement in his annual message of 2 December 1823. Putting forward the principle that "the political system of the allied powers is essentially different . . . from that of America," he announced that the United States would view any interference in the internal affairs of the American states as an "unfriendly" act. He coupled this with the statement that the United States itself adhered to a policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations. A third principle, the work of Secretary Adams, concerned Russian expansion on the West Coast and declared that the United States considered the Americas closed to European colonization.
A few days after Monroe delivered his message, the American press reported that a large expedition destined for South America was being collected at Cádiz. This report, which later proved erroneous, led Monroe to review the position of the administration and to inform Rush that the United States would undertake further discussions with the British on the possibility of cooperation, should intervention take place. This did not mean, as he explained in a private letter to Rush, that he was committing the nation to "engage in war." What Monroe did not know in December 1823 was that the threat of intervention had vanished in the face of the express opposition of the British government. (In the early twentieth century President Theodore Roosevelt and his successors employed the Monroe Doctrine to justify American intervention in the internal affairs of Latin American states—an interpretation never intended by its author.)
The rejection of the British proposal in regard to Spain's colonies did not mean that Monroe was averse to joint action that did not make the nation seem to be playing a subordinate role. Since the end of the War of 1812 there had been tentative moves by Great Britain toward a rapprochement. The Great Lakes had been demilitarized by the Rush-Bagot Agreement in 1817, and the following year American negotiators had obtained a concession on the fisheries as well as an agreement compensating Americans for slaves removed by British forces at the end of the war. Efforts to obtain concessions for American trade in the British West Indies had been repeatedly rejected.
A more hopeful step was undertaken in the summer of 1823 when Monroe and Adams negotiated an agreement to establish an international patrol to suppress the slave trade. Monroe had rejected the initial proposal in 1819 because it would have required the United States to abandon its position on neutral rights by permitting British ships to stop and search American ships on the high seas. This objection was apparently lessened in 1822 when the House, yielding to the pressure of the American Anti-Slavery Society, adopted a resolution condemning the slave trade as piracy. Since pirates could not claim the protection of any national flag, suspect ships could be stopped and searched by the international patrol established by the British. Congressman Charles Fenton Mercer, a friend and neighbor of the president's, had been the principal agent in securing the adoption of the resolution. Acting on this basis, Monroe, who had long sought to open the way to a rapprochement with Great Britain, was prepared to make a major change in American policy on neutral rights and participate in the international patrol, a measure long urged by the British. In 1823 an agreement to this effect was negotiated with the approval of all the cabinet except Adams, who suspected (correctly) that he would be blamed for what many would regard as a sacrifice of a basic American right.
The Senate ratified the treaty early in 1824 with such crippling amendments that the British government withdrew its ratification. The opposition was directed by supporters of Crawford seeking to damage Adams' presidential ambitions. Monroe was deeply offended, since Crawford had been one of the most ardent advocates of the proposal. Crawford was too ill to have actively directed the maneuvering against the treaty, but it was not the first instance that Monroe felt that the secretary of the treasury had been disloyal. The year before, Monroe had seriously considered dismissing Crawford from the cabinet but held back, realizing that it would simply exacerbate political rivalries.
During Monroe's last two years as president the struggle over the succession degenerated into what could be called the Era of Bad Feelings. Although Monroe was not a candidate, he was subjected to criticism—often of a petty nature. Crawford, Clay, and Jackson all saw it to their advantage to oppose administration policies. Adams and Calhoun (who withdrew from the campaign early in 1824) remained loyal to Monroe and restrained their supporters. The Crawfordites were especially bitter, since they felt that Monroe owed a particular debt to Crawford for not opposing him in 1816. Monroe remained neutral but the impression prevailed that he preferred Adams.
It was a combination of congressional supporters of Jackson and Crawford who raised questions impugning the president's integrity in the management of the so-called Furniture Fund, money appropriated in 1817 and 1818 for the refurnishing of the White House. The investigation was handled in such a way as to leave a cloud of suspicion, although it was apparent that the only error had been inadequate bookkeeping by the agent Monroe engaged to manage the fund.
The Crawfordites managed to generate considerable embarrassment for the president over the discovery that Ninian Edwards, a Calhoun supporter, had been the author of the "A.B. Letter," which questioned Crawford's management of the Treasury. The subsequent investigation, controlled by Crawford's friends, left the basic issues unanswered but placed the administration in the position of prodding Edwards, just appointed the first minister to Mexico, to resign. A further unpleasantness, stirred up by the Georgia delegation, was aimed at Calhoun but involved an attack on Monroe for refusing to force the Cherokee to agree to land cessions stipulated in earlier treaties.
After the harassments of his last two years in office, it was with a sense of relief that Monroe relinquished the office to Adams in March 1825, happy to retire to Oak Hill and the life of a country gentleman, which he so much loved. He stayed aloof from the political squabbles of the day in spite of all efforts to involve him. He busied himself with the affairs of the University of Virginia, Jefferson's cherished educational project, attending the meetings of the Board of Visitors and serving as rector. Visits to Charlottesville were occasions of joyous reunions with Madison, the two being drawn together in an even closer bond after Jefferson's death in 1826. Monroe's last public service was as a member of the Virginia constitutional convention of 1829, also attended by Madison. Monroe was chosen president but was too feeble to preside, although he did speak on several occasions.
After Monroe's retirement his most pressing concern was to lift the heavy debt, now amounting to $75,000, which had been accumulating since his first mission to France. The depressed state of Virginia land values made it impossible for him to sell Highlands. His efforts to obtain recompense for expenses of his past diplomatic missions (his accounts had never been settled with the State Department) were frustrated by the opposition of Jacksonians and Crawfordites. Finally, in February 1831, as news of the former president's financial plight became generally known, Congress appropriated $30,000 in settlement of his claims. The Bank of the United States took over Highlands in lieu of a $25,000 debt.
The death of Monroe's wife early in 1830 prostrated him with grief; rarely had they ever been separated since their marriage. Monroe's health began to fail so rapidly that he moved to New York to live with his younger daughter, Mrs. Samuel L. Gouverneur. Oak Hill was put up for sale to pay the balance of his debts. Sadly he notified Madison in April 1831 that he would not be able to attend the meeting of the Board of Visitors. When Adams saw his predecessor at that time, he found Monroe extremely weak but nonetheless anxious to discuss the recent revolutions in Europe. On 4 July 1831—the fifth anniversary of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—Monroe died. The funeral, which took place in New York City, was attended by state and civic officials. Vast crowds lined the streets as the cortege made its way to the cemetery. Throughout the country his passing was observed by days of mourning, memorial services, and eulogies, the most moving of which was delivered in Boston by John Quincy Adams. In 1858, Governor Wise of Virginia planned to have Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe reburied in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, but only Monroe's remains were reinterred.
Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., Writings of James Monroe, 7 vols. (New York, 1898–1903), the only printed edition, is of limited value and has now been fully supplanted by microfilm editions of all major collections of Monroe's papers. Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York, 1971; rev. ed., Charlottesville, Va., 1990), is a full-scale biography based on primary materials. George Dangerfield, Era of Good Feelings (New York, 1952), is a limited study depicting Monroe as a dullard and time-serving politician. Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Presidency of James Monroe (Lawrence, Kans., 1996), contains the latest scholarship on the last of the Virginia presidents.
Leonard D. White, The Jeffersonians: A Study in Administrative History, 1801–1829 (New York, 1951), superbly details the operation and organization of federal administration under Monroe. Norman K. Risjord, The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson (New York, 1965), is a scholarly account of the opposition to Monroe's policies from within his own party. Charles M. Wiltse, John C. Calhoun, 3 vols. (New York, 1944–1951), includes an extensive account of Monroe's Indian policy based on original sources.
Alexander DeConde, Entangling Alliance: Politics and Diplomacy Under George Washington (Westport, Conn., 1974), is essential for understanding Monroe's mission to France. Bradford Perkins, Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812–1823 (Berkeley, Calif., 1964), depicts the close working relationship between Monroe and his secretary of state. Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy (New York, 1949), is a definitive study of Monroe's foreign policy. Hugh G. Soulsby, The Right of Search and the Slave Trade in Anglo-American Relations, 1814–1862 (Baltimore, 1933), is a basic study of a major issue confronting Monroe's presidency.
Dexter Perkins, The Monroe Doctrine, 1823–1826 (Cambridge, Mass., 1927), is still the definitive monograph about the origins of the doctrine. Ernest R. May, The Making of the Monroe Doctrine (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), is a revisionist study arguing that it was issued solely to influence the outcome of the presidential election of 1824. Arthur P. Whitaker, The United States and the Independence of Latin America, 1800–1830 (Baltimore, 1941), is indispensible for understanding Monroe's Latin American policy.
Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, 6 vols. (New York, 1948–1981), is a splendid biography with a full account of the impact on American politics of Jefferson and Monroe's lifelong friendship. Irving Brant, James Madison, 6 vols. (Indianapolis, Ind., 1941–1961), touches extensively on his relationship with Monroe. Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767–1821 (New York, 1977), Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822–1832 (New York, 1981), and Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833–1845 (New York, 1984) are scholarly pro-Jackson works highly critical of Monroe's treatment of Jackson; Remini's Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party (New York, 1959) is a fascinating account of Van Buren's reorganization of the Democratic party in its depiction of Monroe as an apostate. Lucius Wilmerding, Jr., James Monroe, Public Claimant (New Brunswick, N.J., 1960), contends that Monroe's postretirement claims for expenses as a diplomat were unjustified.
Harry Ammon, ed., James Monroe: A Bibliography (Westport, Conn., 1991), is a comprehensive annotated bibliography.
"Monroe, James." Presidents: A Reference History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
"Monroe, James." Presidents: A Reference History. . Retrieved April 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
James Monroe (1758-1831), fifth president of the United States, a founder of the Jeffersonian Republican party and a major agent in acquiring Louisiana and Florida, authored the celebrated American foreign policy statement, the Monroe Doctrine.
James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Va., on April 28, 1758, on his parents' small plantation. He enrolled in William and Mary College in 1774 but left 2 years later, with the beginning of the American Revolution, to enlist as a lieutenant in the 3d Virginia Regiment. He was seriously wounded in the action at Trenton, and his heroism earned him the rank of major. In 1777 and 1778 he was aide to Gen. William Alexander (Lord Stirling) with the rank of colonel. Unable to obtain a field command because of the excess of officers, he returned to Virginia and entered the lower house of the legislature in 1782. At this time he formed his friendship with Governor Thomas Jefferson, with whom he began to study law.
In 1783 Monroe was elected to the governor's council; the next year he, Jefferson, and Richard Henry Lee were members of the Virginia delegation to the Confederation Congress. Monroe labored to strengthen the central government, but after failing to secure reform through Congress, he endorsed the recommendation that a special convention be held. He was responsible for the structure of territorial government incorporated in the Ordinance of 1787. In 1786 he led the fight against the proposal of John Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to negotiate a treaty with Spain closing the Mississippi for 20 years in return for commercial concessions. While a member of Congress he married Elizabeth Kortright, one of the most beautiful women of her generation.
Monroe was not a member of the Constitutional Convention, but as a delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention, he opposed ratification unless the Constitution was amended. After the new government was inaugurated and the amending process under way, he ceased his opposition. At this time he shifted his residence to Albemarle County adjacent to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.
After a few years of law practice Monroe entered the U.S. Senate in 1790. He emerged as a leading critic of George Washington's administration, which, he felt, was favoring the commercial class and seeking closer ties with Great Britain. He attributed these policies to the influence of Alexander Hamilton. Monroe joined James Madison and Jefferson in organizing the opposition that developed into the Republican party.
In 1794 Washington appointed Monroe minister to France. Monroe accepted at the urging of the Republicans, who felt that friendship with France was essential for the preservation of republican government in the United States. Arriving in France immediately after the downfall of Robes-pierre, Monroe was able to ease recent tensions, but he irritated Washington by publicly voicing enthusiasm for the French Revolution. The ratification of Jay's Treaty led to a worsening of relations between France and the United States, and Monroe was recalled in 1796 in a manner casting doubt on his conduct. He published a vindication, asserting that the administration was seeking to join England in the war against France.
As proof that Monroe's recall had not shaken party confidence, the Republicans elected him governor of Virginia in 1799. He proved an able administrator, acting decisively to suppress the attempted slave rebellion (Gabriel's Rebellion) in 1800. In 1803 President Jefferson sent him to France to assist Robert R. Livingston in seeking a port for America at the mouth of the Mississippi River after Spanish authorities had closed the river to American ships. In France, Monroe learned that Napoleon, who had acquired Louisiana from Spain, had offered to sell all Louisiana. Although empowered to buy only a small tract, Monroe and Livingston purchased the whole region. From 1804 to 1807 Monroe was minister to Great Britain.
In 1806 Monroe and William Pinkney concluded a treaty with Great Britain permitting American ships to carry produce of the French colonies to France if American duties were paid. Jefferson and his secretary of state, James Madison, did not consider this arrangement a sufficient compensation for the omission of impressment, which they deemed the sine qua non for any treaty with England. Consequently, it was not submitted to the Senate. Deeply offended, Monroe allowed dissident Republicans in Virginia to run him against Madison in the 1808 presidential election. Madison won, but Monroe garnered enough votes to indicate wide support. In 1811 President Madison, plagued by factional conflicts within his own party and a resurgence of federalism, appointed Monroe secretary of state.
Secretary of State
Monroe's entry into the Cabinet did not change the policy of commercial warfare with Great Britain, but it did strengthen the administration. Enjoying great popularity among the younger Republican congressmen, Monroe worked with them to implement presidential policies. He collaborated with the "War Hawks" in drafting the measures that culminated in the declaration of war against England in 1812. He continued in the State Department during the war, serving simultaneously as secretary of war after John Armstrong retired in disgrace following the burning of the capital.
Monroe was named Republican presidential candidate in 1816. The Federalists offered only token opposition. As president, Monroe was an old-fashioned figure, wearing his hair pulled back in a queue and clad in the black clothes of the Revolutionary days. Tall, dignified, and formal in manner, he was admired for his genuine goodness, warmth, and lack of malice. His face was rather plain with massive features, but his widely set gray eyes and his smile reflected benevolence. He did not reach decisions quickly, for he was inclined to reflect carefully on all aspects of a question. His attention to detail gave him a soundness of judgment often lacking in more original minds. His remarkable awareness of the trends of public opinion contributed to his political success. He introduced into the White House a new, more formal note. Although he received congressmen, state party leaders, and citizens freely, he kept diplomats at a distance.
Monroe's Cabinet consisted of John Quincy Adams (State), William H. Crawford (Treasury), John C. Calhoun (War), William Wirt (Attorney General), and Benjamin Crowninshield, followed by Smith Thompson and Samuel L. Southard (Navy). If Monroe's appearance suggested the past, his policies were distinctly contemporary. A moderate nationalist, he supported the Bank of the United States, sought to maintain a large peacetime army, and approved the protective tariff.
Monroe made the restoration of political harmony (which meant, in effect, the elimination of parties) a major goal. To facilitate this, he toured the Union, journeying to New England in 1817 and to the South and West in 1819. The "Era of Good Feeling" that followed was short-lived. In 1820 Monroe, who was unopposed, received all the electoral votes but one.
During Monroe's presidency two major domestic crises occurred. The Panic of 1819 resulted from the overexpansion of credit during and after the War of 1812. The abrupt decline in government revenues forced a drastic reduction in the appropriation for the extensive system of coastal fortifications that Monroe had undertaken. The second crisis took place in 1820, following attempts to make the abolition of slavery a condition for the admission of Missouri to statehood. This conflict so divided the nation that many feared the Union would be destroyed. Monroe opposed any restriction on Missouri, but in the interest of harmony he accepted the compromise admitting Missouri as a slave state but excluding slavery from north of 36°30' in the Louisiana Territory.
Monroe's most important accomplishments were in foreign affairs. In 1819 he capitalized on Andrew Jackson's invasion of Florida to pressure Spain into ceding Florida and establishing the western and northern boundaries of Louisiana. Jackson's seizure of Spanish military posts precipitated a domestic furor. Many felt he should be reprimanded for exceeding his orders. Monroe, who appreciated the advantage Jackson's action gave him in negotiations with Spain, chose a middle course. He restored the posts and acknowledged that though Jackson had violated his orders, he had acted on reasons that seemed sufficient during the campaign.
In spite of considerable pressure for recognizing the new Latin American states, Monroe held off until 1822, after ratification of the treaty with Spain. His concern that the European powers might intervene in South America to restore Spanish authority seemed justified in 1823, after France suppressed revolution in Spain. Consequently, in 1823 Monroe was inclined to accept Britain's proposal that the United States and Great Britain jointly declare opposition to European interference in Latin America. However, though Jefferson and Madison urged him to accept, Monroe, desiring the United States to pursue an independent course, decided to act unilaterally. In his annual message of Dec. 2, 1823 (subsequently known as the Monroe Doctrine), he expressed disapproval of European intervention and affirmed America's intention of not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations. The message also contained a statement that the Americas were not to be considered open to further European colonization.
Monroe's last years in office were harassed by the intraparty battle for the 1824 presidential nomination. His hope for a general rapprochement with England was frustrated when a treaty to suppress the international slave trade was so amended that England withdrew ratification.
Monroe's retirement was plagued by financial difficulties. He obtained some relief when Congress voted him $30,000 in 1826, and a similar sum in 1831. Until his health failed in 1831, he was a member of the board of visitors of the University of Virginia. In 1829, as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention, he joined Madison in an unsuccessful attempt to arrange a compromise between Eastern and Western interests. He died in New York City on July 4, 1831.
The Writings of James Monroe was edited by Stanislaus M. Hamilton (7 vols., 1898-1903). Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1971), concentrates on Monroe's political and public life. Useful older biographies are George Morgan, The Life of James Monroe (1921), and William P. Cresson, James Monroe (1946). Lucius Wilmerding, James Monroe: Public Claimant (1960), is an exhaustive study of a minor aspect of Monroe's career.
The presidential elections of 1816 and 1820 are covered in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., History of American Presidential Elections (4 vols., 1971). For Monroe's presidency, George Dangerfield's colorful but overdrawn The Era of Good Feelings (1952) and his briefer and more restrained The Awakening of American Nationalism, 1815-1828 (1965) are important works. There is much material on Monroe in Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols., 1941-1961), and in Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time (3 vols., 1948-1962).
Among the most important works on Monroe's foreign policy are Bradford Perkins, The Monroe Doctrine (1927; rev. ed. 1966); Philip C. Brooks, Diplomacy and the Borderlands: The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 (1939); Arthur P. Whitaker, The United States and the Independence of Latin America, 1800-1830 (1941); Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy (1949); and Bradford Perkins, Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812-1823 (1964). □
"James Monroe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/james-monroe
"James Monroe." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/james-monroe
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States and a distinguished diplomat. His administration was marked by several foreign-policy accomplishments, including the monroe doctrine, and a period of domestic tranquility that has been called the Era of Good Feelings.
Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on April 28, 1758. He attended the College of William and Mary at the age of 16 but left in 1776 to fight in the Revolutionary War. He was wounded at the Battle of Trenton but served until the end of the war.
During this period he became acquainted with thomas jefferson, then governor of Virginia. Monroe soon adopted Jefferson as his teacher and mentor, a relationship that would endure throughout Monroe's life. In 1780 Monroe began studying law with Jefferson, and in 1786 he established a law practice in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Politics, however, proved a more powerful attraction than a legal career.
Monroe became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, and from 1783 to 1786 he participated in the continental congress. Monroe, like Jefferson, did not favor a highly centralized federal government. He preferred a government system under the articles of confederation, which allocated greater powers to the states, as opposed to the Constitution, which gave the federal government more authority. He did believe in the development of the West and worked with Jefferson to enact laws to further this purpose.
In 1786 he retired from Congress. In 1788 Monroe participated in the Virginia convention that ratified the new federal Constitution. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1790 and served until 1794. After the expiration of his senatorial term, Monroe served as minister to France. President george washington appointed Monroe to this position despite Monroe's opposition to the Washington administration's policies. When Monroe did not follow his diplomatic instructions and made intemperate remarks about policies with which he disagreed, Washington recalled him in 1796.
"Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties."
Monroe quickly reentered Virginia politics. He was elected governor in 1799 and served a three-year term. In 1802 President Jefferson sent Monroe back to France as a special envoy. He and robert r. livingston negotiated the louisiana purchase from France in 1803. Following this success, Jefferson named Monroe minister to England, where he served until 1806.
Again Virginia politics beckoned. Monroe served briefly as governor but left in 1811 to join the cabinet of President james madison. He was secretary of state from 1811 to 1817 and secretary of war, during the war of 1812 and from 1814 to 1815. The successful conclusion of the war and the military triumphs of General andrew jackson helped boost Monroe's popularity.
In 1816 he was elected president of the United States as a member of the democratic-republican party. The federalist party disappeared after the election, and most politicians belonged to the Democratic-Republican party. With an end to the political feuding of the early years of the Republic, Monroe was able to promote what has been called the Era of Good Feelings. His popularity was so great that he was unopposed for reelection in 1820.
Monroe's presidency produced important domestic legislation, including the missouri compromise of 1820, which limited the extension of slavery into new territories. His main efforts, however, were directed at foreign affairs. The Rush-Bagot Treaty, drafted in 1817, restricted the increase of armaments in the Great Lakes area. In 1818 Great Britain agreed to the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary between the United States and Canada from Lake of the Woods on the Minnesota-Ontario border as far west as the Rocky Mountains. In 1819 U.S. diplomats convinced Spain to cede Florida to the United States in return for the cancellation of $5 million in U.S. claims against Spain.
In 1823 Monroe presented the most significant measure of his administration, the Monroe Doctrine. During the Napoleonic Wars, Spain had lost interest in its American colonies. Most of the colonies declared their independence, but the United States was concerned that Spain might try to reassert control. The Monroe Doctrine declared that the Western Hemisphere was closed to further European colonization and that any European intervention would be regarded as a threat to the security of the United States. Conversely, the United States agreed not to intervene in European matters. The Monroe Doctrine would be invoked several times by future presidential administrations.
After leaving the presidency in 1824, Monroe retired to Oak Hill, his estate in Virginia that was near Jefferson's Monticello. He served as a regent of the University of Virginia and in 1829 presided over the Virginia Constitutional Convention.
Monroe's last years were difficult. He left public service a poor man and was too old to rebuild his law practice. He was forced to sell his home and move to New York City to live with his daughter. He died there on July 4, 1831.
Ammon, Harry. 1971. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wilmerding, Lucius. 1960. James Monroe: Public Claimant. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.
"Monroe, James." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
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Monroe, James (1758-1831)
James Monroe (1758-1831)
Fifth president of the united states
Background. James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on 28 April 1758 to Spence and Elizabeth Monroe, the oldest of their five children. Though well off, the Monroe family was not among Virginia’s elite. After a primary education in a private school, Monroe entered the College of William and Mary at the age of sixteen. The American Revolution interrupted his education, and he enlisted as a lieutenant in the Continental Army in 1776. He was present at several major battles and was wounded at Trenton. He caught George Washington’s attention and studied law with Thomas Jefferson, then Virginia’s governor, from 1780 to 1783. In 1786 he married Eliza Kortright, the daughter of a New York merchant who traced his ancestors to early Dutch immigrants.
Early Career. In 1782 Monroe was elected to Virginia’s state legislature and a year later entered the Confederation Congress. He realized that the Articles of Confederation were far too weak, but his fear of a strong central government led him to prefer amending them rather than creating a new government. He was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention but was elected to the Virginia ratifying convention, where he opposed the new constitution. That did not stop him from running for U.S. representative against James Madison. Madison won decisively, but Monroe was selected to fill a vacant United States Senate position. As senator he opposed most Federalist policies but became Washington’s minister to France in 1794. Monroe sought to end French interference with American commerce, but Jay’s Treaty weakened his position, and he was recalled in 1796. Between 1799 and 1802 he was governor of Virginia. From 1803 to 1810 he served in a variety of diplomatic missions, including helping Robert Livingston negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.
Secretary of State. Monroe became Madison’s secretary of state in March 1811. Monroe believed he could resolve the complex problems raised by the Napoleonic Wars, but failed. His service as secretary of state during the War of 1812 was unremarkable, and he hoped for a military command that would raise his prestige and secure him the presidency. He was never commissioned but became secretary of war in late 1814. His brief stint as head of the War Department witnessed better American performance in the field and enhanced his reputation as an effective administrator.
Virginia Dynasty. Monroe was the fifth president and the fourth Virginian to hold the office. Elected in 1816, after the Federalist Party’s demise, Monroe served during the “Era of Good Feelings.” In the 1820 election Monroe secured all but one electoral vote cast. Few pressing domestic issues arose during his presidency though debate over internal improvements and slavery in Missouri did require his close attention. Initially a strict constructionist who vetoed internal improvement bills, he believed that national improvements for the general defense were authorized by the Constitution and signed bills to repair the Cumberland Road and build better harbors. He stayed out of the Missouri debate until congressional legislation settling the crisis arrived at his desk. Although unsure about Congress’s power to restrict slavery, he signed the bill anyway. His most momentous accomplishment was the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine, which articulated the United States’ desire to dominate the Western Hemisphere.
Administrator. While perhaps not among the great presidents, Monroe demonstrated a remarkable ability for administration and for selecting highly effective cabinet members. He approached domestic affairs as a strict constructionist and had no clear policy to alleviate the economic dislocation of the Panic of 1819. His foreign policy, generally directed by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, was far more successful and included the resolution of several pressing issues with Great Britain in the late 1810s, the annexation of Florida, and the Mon roe Doctrine.
Later Years. Monroe retired in 1825 after his second term and returned to Virginia. His years of public service left him in serious debt, and Congress voted him $30, 000 to settle certain claims. In 1829 he presided over Virginia’s state constitutional convention and opposed expanding the franchise or meddling with slavery. He moved to New York in 1830 and lived with his daughter until his death on 4 July 1831, exactly five years to the day after the death of his mentor and friend, Thomas Jefferson.
Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971).
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James Monroe, 1758–1831, 5th President of the United States (1817–25), b. Westmoreland co., Va.
Leaving the College of William and Mary in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he served in several campaigns and was wounded (Dec., 1776) at the battle of Trenton. He later studied law (1780–83) under Thomas Jefferson, and the friendship that sprang up between them was the foundation for Monroe's political career.
Political and Diplomatic Career
Monroe was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1782 and served (1783–86) in the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. He was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and in his own state he supported Patrick Henry in opposing the Constitution, which seemed to him to create a government so centralized that it encroached on states' rights.
Under the new government, he served (1790–94) in the U.S. Senate, where he proved himself an outstanding lieutenant of Jefferson and a vigorous opponent of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Federalists. Appointed (1794) minister to France in the hope that his Francophile sympathies would smooth the ruffled relations between the two nations, he did nothing to lessen French resentment over Jay's Treaty, and he was recalled in 1796.
Governor of Virginia from 1799 to 1802, he was sent (1802) by President Jefferson to France as a special envoy. There he assisted Robert R. Livingston (1746–1813; see Livingston, family) during negotiations (1803) for the Louisiana Purchase. The next year, in Spain, he aided Charles Pinckney in the unsuccessful negotiations with the Spanish government. A later mission, to England, was even more disastrous. Monroe and William Pinkney struggled to arrive at a commercial treaty to end the disputes between Great Britain and the United States over shipping, but they could get no concessions, and Jefferson did not even submit the treaty they drafted (1806) to the Senate for approval.
In 1808, Monroe made a bid for the presidential nomination. He thus alienated James Madison, but the estrangement did not last long, and Monroe, after serving again as governor of Virginia, was Madison's Secretary of State (1811–17). For a time he was also Secretary of War (1814–15), after the dismissal of John Armstrong.
Presidency and the Monroe Doctrine
In 1816 Monroe obtained the presidential nomination and was easily elected. During his first administration, serious differences over the question of slavery in the territories were accommodated by the Missouri Compromise, which Monroe signed despite his sympathy for the South in this matter. In foreign affairs a number of settlements were reached. The Rush-Bagot agreement with Great Britain (1817) provided for mutual limitation of armaments on the Great Lakes, and the U.S.-Canadian boundary question was also settled. U.S. possession of the Floridas was confirmed by Andrew Jackson's campaigns and a treaty with Spain (1819).
In the 1820 election, despite economic depression, Monroe lost only one vote in the electoral college that reelected him. Late in 1823, he issued what came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, one of the most important principles of U.S. foreign policy. Although this declaration was as much the work of Monroe's Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, as of the President himself, the initiative for presenting it in the annual message to Congress was Monroe's. The experiment of the American Colonization Society in settling Liberia was undertaken with Monroe's blessing, and Monrovia was named for him.
At the end of his term Monroe retired to his estate, Oak Hill, near Leesburg, Va. In 1829 he presided over the Virginia constitutional convention and supported the conservatives on suffrage and slavery. He died during a visit to New York City.
Monroe's writings were edited by S. M. Hamilton (7 vol., 1898–1903, repr. 1969). See his autobiography (ed. with introd. by S. G. Brown, 1959); biographies by G. Morgan (1921, repr. 1969), A. Styron (1945), W. P. Cresson (1946, repr. 1971), and H. G. Unger (2009); studies by L. Wilmerding (1960) and H. Ammon (1971).
"Monroe, James." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
"Monroe, James." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
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In 1782, Monroe entered the Virginia House of Delegates; later he held positions in the Continental Congress (1783–86) and U.S. Senate (1790–93), and as governor of Virginia (1799–1802 and 1811). In 1793–96, he was U.S. minister to France, returning there in 1803 to help negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. Thereafter he served as minister in London and Madrid until 1807.
Monroe became secretary of state and a leading advocate for the diplomatic and military policies of James Madison's administration in 1811. As acting secretary of war during the winter of 1812–13 and secretary of war, October 1814–March 1815, he shaped U.S. manpower policies during the War of 1812.
Monroe's presidency (1817–25) contributed significantly to national defense and security. The 1819 Adams‐Onís Treaty (or Transcontinental Treaty) acquired the Floridas, established clear boundaries for the Louisiana Purchase, and extended U.S. territory to the Pacific. His annual message of 1823, subsequently known as the Monroe Doctrine, laid the foundation for U.S. diplomatic hegemony in the Americas. His administrations improved the efficiency of the army and began the professionalization of its officer corps. In 1825, Monroe retired to New York City; he died on 4 July 1831.
[See also Army, U.S.: 1783–1865; Commander in Chief, President as; Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
William P. Cresson , James Monroe, 1946.
Harry Ammon , James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, 1971.
J. C. A. Stagg
"Monroe, James." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james-0
"Monroe, James." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved April 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james-0
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"Monroe, James." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james
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James Monroe (1758–1831) came from a family of small planters in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He spent two years pursuing a classical education at William and Mary College (1774–1776) but left before graduation to fight in the American Revolution (1775–1783). He served as a lieutenant in the Third Virginia Regiment, and was wounded in the Battle of Harlem Heights (September 16, 1776). He fought again at White Plains (October 28, 1776), and suffered a serious wound in the battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776). There, General George Washington (1732–1799) promoted him to the rank of captain for "bravery under fire." After recuperating from his injuries he returned to fight in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1777 and again at Monmouth, New Jersey (June 1778). Because of an oversupply of officers he resigned his commission and returned to Virginia to serve in the lower house of the legislature.
In 1782 Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served as a member of the Continental Congress (1783–1786). He practiced law for a short time but, after the Constitution came into force in 1788, he won election to the U.S. Senate. There, Monroe became a persistent critic of President George Washington's administration (1789–1797). He charged that the federalist leadership of Alexander Hamilton and George Washington was out to enrich commercial and financial interests and was insufficiently sympathetic to farmers. He accused the federalists of passing coercive legislation, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. In this and in his unabashed support of the French Revolution he found agreement with Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) and James Madison (1751–1836) and became a member of the Democratic Republican Party.
After the United States fought the British to a standstill in the War of 1812 (1812–1814), the country entered a period of relative tranquility. Monroe was elected fifth president of the United States in 1816 and presided for two terms, during what is now called "the era of good feelings." During this period, President James Monroe's (1817–1825) diplomatically adept Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, negotiated a number of treaties and agreements with other countries. The Convention of 1818 extended the northern border between the United States and British Canada along the forty-ninth parallel, from the Lake of the Woods in present day Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains in the west. Another important diplomatic accomplishment was the 1817 agreement between the United States and British Canada to restrict the number of each nation's warships on the Great Lakes. This was called the Rush-Bagot Treaty.
The most reknown diplomatic initiative of the Monroe administration was also suggested by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. This was the Monroe Doctrine. This declaration, which the president articulated in his annual address to Congress in December 1823, warned European nations to refrain from further colonizing, or exploiting instability which might develop in the new nations in the Western Hemisphere. American "rights and interests," according to the Monroe Doctrine, dictated that newly emerging countries in the Americas were not in the future to be interfered with by any European powers. In exchange for this freedom from European intervention in the Americas (both North and South), the United States promised to not become involved in the internal affairs of Europe. Given the relative weakness of the United States as a military power prior to the American Civil War (1861–1865), this was a promise that was easy to keep.
The Monroe Doctrine addressed not only the relationship between the United States and Europe, it also announced a special relationship between the United States and Latin America. The United States would oversee and protect Latin America against European and other foreign invaders. It would also pursue commerce and capital investment with the less developed nations of Latin and South America. The Monroe Doctrine was used as justification for a U.S. policy of military intervention in the "banana republics" of Central and South America. The United States often intervened when the leaderships of these countries appeared ready to become less accommodating to American foreign investment or military interests.
At the end of Monroe's last term of office, political factions emerged in a four-way presidential race which ended in the election of John Quincy Adams (1825–1829) as the sixth president of the United States. On the occasion of Monroe's death in 1831, Adams credited Monroe with stabilizing the nation.
Monroe died in 1831. He was a courageous soldier and a determined partisan of liberty (although, like his colleagues Madison and Jefferson, he did not extend this principle to freeing his slaves). Monroe is best known for the Monroe Doctrine and for other diplomatic expressions of the new nation's nationalism during his presidency.
See also: Monroe Doctrine
Dangerfield, George. The Era of Good Feelings. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963.
Elliot, Ian, ed. James Monroe 1758–1831: Chronology, Documents, Bibliographical Aids. Dobbs Ferry, N. Y.: Oceana Publishers, 1969.
Levine, Isaac D. Hands Off the Panama Canal. Washington: Monticello Books, 1976.
May, Ernest R. The Making of the Monroe Doctrine. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1975.
Perkins, Dexter. Hands Off. Boston: Little, Brown, 1955.
"Monroe, James." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james-1
"Monroe, James." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved April 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monroe-james-1