James Monroe

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James Monroe
James Monroe
Term of office March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1825
Preceded by James Madison
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams
Date of birth April 28, 1758
Place of birth Westmoreland County, Virginia
Spouse Elizabeth Kortright Monroe
Political party Democratic-Republican

James Monroe (April 28, 1758July 4, 1831) was the fifth (18171825) President of the United States. He is the author of the Monroe Doctrine, although his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, convinced Monroe that the original statement be expanded, and therefore softened, so as to be more palatable to the powers of Europe. There is confusion that Adams conceived the Doctrine himself, which is not true, although he did work with Monroe to flesh out the original concept.


Early years

Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe attended the school of Campelltown Academy and received his education at the College of William and Mary, both in Virginia. After graduating from William & Mary in 1776, Monroe fought with distinction in the Continental Army and practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His father Spence Monroe (ca. 1727-1774) was a carpenter, joiner, and modest tobacco planter. He and his wife, Elizabeth Jones (born ca. 1729) had significant land holdings, but little money.

He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, and then he served in the Continental Congress from 1783-1786. As a youthful politician, he joined the anti-Federalists in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution, and in 1790, an advocate of Jeffersonian policies, was elected United States Senator. As Minister to France in 1794-1796, he displayed strong sympathies for the French cause; later, with Robert R. Livingston and under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He was Governor of Virginia 1799-1802. He was Minister to France again in 1803 and then Minister to Britain from 1803-1807. He received three electoral votes for vice president in 1808. He then returned to the Virginia House of Delegates and then he was elected to an another term as Governor of Virginia in 1811, but he resigned a few months into the term. He then served as Secretary of State from 1811-1814 and again from 1815-1817. Finally he served as Secretary of War from 1814-1815.


Following the War of 1812, Monroe was elected president in the election of 1816, and re-elected in 1820. In both those elections Monroe went nearly uncontested.

Monroe made strong Cabinet choices, naming a Southerner, John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, and a Northerner, John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State. Only Henry Clay's refusal kept Monroe from adding an outstanding Westerner. Both of these individuals are considered outstanding leaders of their time.

Monroe's presidency was later labeled "The Era of Good Feelings", in part because partisan politics were almost nonexistent. The Federalist Party had died out, and the rift between the Democratic Party and the Whig Party had not yet happened. Practically every politician belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party.

Unfortunately these "good feelings" did not endure, although Monroe, his popularity undiminished, followed nationalist policies. Across the facade of nationalism, ugly sectional cracks appeared. A painful economic depression undoubtedly increased the dismay of the people of the Missouri Territory in 1819 when their application for admission to the Union as a slave state failed. An amended bill for gradually eliminating slavery in Missouri precipitated two years of bitter debate in Congress. The Missouri Compromise bill resolved the struggle, pairing Missouri as a slave state with Maine, a free state, and barring slavery north and west of Missouri forever.

Monroe is probably best known for the Monroe Doctrine, which he delivered in his message to Congress on December 2, 1823. In it, he proclaimed the Americas should be free from future European colonization and free from European interference in sovereign countries' affairs. It further stated the United States's intention to stay neutral in European wars and wars between European powers and their colonies but to consider any new colonies or interference with independent countries in the Americas as hostile acts toward the United States. Monroe did not begin formally to recognize the young sister republics until 1822, after ascertaining that Congress would vote appropriations for diplomatic missions. He and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wished to avoid trouble with Spain until it had ceded the Floridas, as was done in 1821.

The United Kingdom, with its powerful navy, also opposed reconquest of Latin America and suggested that the United States join in proclaiming "hands off." Ex-Presidents Jefferson and Madison counseled Monroe to accept the offer, but Secretary Adams advised, "It would be more candid ... to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cock-boat in the wake of the British man-of-war." Monroe accepted Adams's advice. Not only must Latin America be left alone, he warned, but also Russia must not encroach southward on the Pacific coast. "... the American continents," he stated, "by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power." Some 20 years after Monroe died in 1831, this became known as the Monroe Doctrine.


Upon leaving the White House after Monroe's presidency expired on March 4, 1825, James Monroe had racked up debts over the years of public life. As a result, he was forced to sell off his Highland plantation (now known as Ash Lawn-Highland) to pay off the debts, since then he never financially recovered, his wife's poor health made matters worse. As a result, he and his wife Elizabeth lived in Oak Hill until Elizabeth's death on September 23, 1830. Upon Elizabeth's death, Monroe moved to live with his daughter Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur in New York City and died there peacefully from heart failure and tuberculosis on July 4, 1831; 55 years after the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed and 5 years after the death of Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He was originally buried in New York but, in 1858 he was reinterred in the President's Circle at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.


President James Monroe 1817–1825
Vice President Daniel Tompkins 1817–1825
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams 1817–1825
Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford 1817–1825
Secretary of War George Graham (ad interim) 1817
  John C. Calhoun 1817–1825
Attorney General Richard Rush 1817
  William Wirt 1817–1825
Postmaster General Return Meigs 1817–1823
  John McLean 1823–1825
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield 1817–1818
  John C. Calhoun 1818–1819
  Smith Thompson 1819–1823
  Samuel L. Southard 1823–1825

Supreme Court appointments

Monroe appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

States Admitted to the Union


Monroe remains the only president to have held two Cabinet secretary positions. He served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under James Madison.

External links

Preceded by:
John Walker
United States Senator from Virginia
Succeeded by:
Stevens T. Mason
Preceded by:
Gouverneur Morris
U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France
Succeeded by:
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Preceded by:
James Wood
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by:
John Page
Preceded by:
John Tyler, Sr.
Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by:
George William Smith
Preceded by:
Robert Smith
United States Secretary of State
April 2, 1811September 30, 1814;
February 28, 1815March 4, 1817
Succeeded by:
John Quincy Adams
Preceded by:
John Armstrong, Jr.
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
William H. Crawford
Preceded by:
James Madison
Republican Party presidential candidate
1816 (won), 1820 (won)
Succeeded by:
John Quincy Adams,
Henry Clay,
William Harris Crawford,
Andrew Jackson (a)
Preceded by:
James Madison
President of the United States
March 4, 1817March 3, 1825
Succeeded by:
John Quincy Adams
(a) The Republican Party split in 1824, fielding four separate candidates.

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