James Monroe was an American politician, revolutionary, and statesman. He was also one of his country’s founding fathers. He was the last president of the Virginia dynasty, serving from 1817 to 1825, and was instrumental in ushering in what is known as the ‘Era of Good Feelings.’ Monroe was born in the Virginia Colony and grew up in a planter family. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he dropped out of college to join the Continental Army. After the war, Monroe studied law for three years under Thomas Jefferson before being elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress. Monroe, a staunch anti-federalist, actively opposed ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1790, he was elected to the first United States Congress as a senator and later joined the Democratic-Republicans. He served as Governor of Virginia and then as Ambassador to France, gaining valuable experience as a statesman, administrator, and diplomat. During the War of 1812, Monroe served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War in the Madison administration. He was elected President in 1816, a year after the war ended, with no opposition from a splintered Federalist Party. During his presidency, he was well-liked and most historians consider him to be an above-average president. His presidency marked the end of the first period of American presidential history preceding the Jacksonian democracy and the Second Party System. Like the majority of the founding fathers, Monroe kept slaves on his plantation. Later in life, he ran into financial difficulties and had to sell a large portion of his properties to pay off his debt.
Childhood and Adolescence
Spence Monroe and Elizabeth Jones gave birth to James Monroe on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He had three brothers, Spence, Andrew, and Joseph Jones, and one sister, Elizabeth. His father was a well-to-do planter and carpenter who married his mother in 1752. He had Scottish and Welsh ancestors.
His family allowed him to attend the only school in his county when he was 11 years old. He only went there for eleven weeks a year because he worked on his father’s farm. During this time, Monroe developed a friendship with a two-year-old boy named John Marshall, who would go on to become the fourth Chief Justice of the United States.
His mother died in 1772, and his father died two years later. Monroe, 16, dropped out of school to help support his younger siblings. One of his maternal uncles, who was childless, stepped in to care for the Monroe children.
Jones was instrumental in shaping James as a statesman. For example, he made sure that James could go to the College of William and Mary. He also played a role in the first meeting between James and Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Washington.
The American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War began in 1775, and by early 1776, Monroe had left college to join the Continental Army’s 3rd Virginia Regiment. After completing mandatory training, Monroe was promoted to lieutenant and was assigned to the New York and New Jersey campaigns.
He took part in a surprise attack on a Hessian encampment in December 1776. While the attack was successful, Monroe came dangerously close to death due to a severed artery. Following the battle, George Washington praised him and his captain, William Washington, for their valor and promoted Monroe to the rank of captain.
Monroe met the Marquis de Lafayette while serving on the staff of General William Alexander, Lord Stirling. When they met, they formed a strong friendship. De Lafayette helped him understand war in the context of religious and political tyranny.
He was completely destitute after the Battle of Monmouth, in which he took part, and decided to visit his uncle in Philadelphia. He had resigned from his commission in December 1778. He eventually chose to study law in Williamsburg under Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson was Governor of Virginia at the time. After the British began to make more efforts to reclaim the Southern colonies, he relocated the state capital to Richmond, a more fortified city. He had command of the state militia and promoted Monroe to the rank of colonel. Monroe held the distinction of being the last President of the United States to have served in the Revolutionary War.
Politics in Early Years
He was a member of Virginia’s Executive Council for a short time before joining the Congress of the Confederation in November 1783. Monroe was a strong supporter of western expansion, and he was a big part of the creation and passage of the Northwest Ordinance.
After resigning from Congress in 1786 to pursue his legal career, he was re-elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1787. The following year, he served as a delegate at the Virginia Ratifying Convention.
Virginians held a wide range of views on the ratification of the proposed constitution. Some were for it, while others were against it. Monroe and a few others were known as “federalists for amendments.” They argued for a bill of rights and were concerned about giving the central government taxing power. As time went on, the constitution was approved by a very small margin at the convention, even though Monroe had voted against it.
In the election for a House seat in the First Congress, Monroe was defeated by James Madison, who would go on to be his immediate predecessor as US President. Later, he was chosen to fill the remaining term of Senator William Grayson, who died in 1790.
During Washington’s presidency, there was an increase in political conflict in the United States. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, Jefferson, Monroe, and others backed the French, while Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and their followers backed the British. Washington sought a compromise that would keep America out of another war. He sent Monroe and Jay to be the US ambassadors to France and the United Kingdom.
Monroe’s tenure as US ambassador to France was only moderately successful. He obtained the release of de Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne de La Fayette, as well as protection for US trade against French attacks. However, his failure to persuade the French of the significance of the Jay Treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States compelled Washington to summon him back to the United States. Monroe decided to take a break from national politics to focus on farming, his work as a lawyer, and state politics.
Diplomacy and Governorship
Monroe was elected Governor of Virginia on a one-party ticket in 1799. Initially, his power was severely limited by the Virginia Constitution, but Monroe sought to change that. He altered the state legislature’s functionality, assisted in the establishment of the state’s first penitentiary, and actively opposed Federalist views. As well, he sent the state militia to put down Gabriel’s Rebellion, which started on a plantation six miles from Richmond and spread to other slaves.
After Monroe’s governorship ended, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched him to France to assist Ambassador Robert R. Livingston with the Louisiana Purchase. It was a good investment because the United States bought all of Louisiana from France for $15 million.
In 1803, he was appointed as the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom. Three years later, he negotiated the Monroe–Pinkney Treaty, which extended the Jay Treaty’s understandings between the nations for another ten years. It was opposed by President Jefferson because it did not limit the British impressment of US sailors. The US administration did not seek another treaty with Britain, and the ensuing animosity between the nations paved the way for the War of 1812.
In 1811, Monroe was preparing to serve another term as Governor of Virginia when US President James Madison approached him about becoming Secretary of State. At first, Monroe was hesitant to accept the position because his relationship with Madison had deteriorated over the years. It worked for Madison, on the other hand. Monroe took office in April 1811, and Madison was able to get him to agree.
Monroe’s primary goal from the start was to put a stop to French and British attacks on US merchant ships. He attempted to negotiate with the French, but the British continued to prey on US ships. This diplomatic failure increased his dissatisfaction with the British, and he, too, began demanding war with the British Empire.
The war did not start well for the Americans, and they sought peace but were turned down by the British. Madison later appointed Monroe as Secretary of War, and he held both positions for a time. On December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, bringing the War of 1812 to a close. It brought back the way things were before the war. Many of the problems between the two countries that existed before the war still existed.
The United States’ fifth President
James Monroe had risen to national prominence as a result of his wartime leadership and was widely regarded as the most likely successor to Madison’s position. In the presidential election of 1816, the Democratic-Republican Party candidate Monroe beat the Federalist Party candidate Rufus King by 183 out of 217 votes.
In 1817, a newspaper in Boston dubbed his visit to the city the “Beginning of the Era of Good Feelings.” In his administration, Vice President Daniel D. In 1820, was re-elected almost unopposed.
Major Works as President of the United States
The people of the Missouri Territory were looking for a way to be admitted to the Union, and in February 1819, a bill was passed stating that if they created a state constitution, they would be admitted. However, Congressman James Tallmadge, Jr.’s Tallmadge Amendment, which demanded further reductions in slavery in Missouri, almost made that impossible. In the end, the Senate rejected both bills, and Missouri was admitted to the Union on January 26, 1820.
On the diplomatic front, Monroe strengthened America’s ties with Britain and Russia by signing several treaties with each country. He backed rebellions against Spain in several South American countries and officially recognized Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico as independent nations. He also oversaw the United States’ acquisition of Florida from Spain.
Monroe was a slave owner. He even brought slaves to the White House to serve him and his family. He was a member of the American Colonization Society, which aimed to establish a colony for freed slaves outside of America. The primary reason for this was to keep free blacks from inciting slaves to revolt. With approximately $100,000 in federal grant funds, the society purchased land in Africa. Liberia was the name given to this land later on. Monrovia, the capital, was named after Monroe.
Personal History and Legacy
On February 16, 1786, in New York, James Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright, a native of New York. They honeymooned on Long Island, New York, before returning to New York City to stay with Elizabeth’s father until Congress adjourned. In 1789, they relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they purchased the Ash Lawn-Highland estate. In 1799, the Monroes made their home there. They were the parents of three children.
Their first child was Eliza Kortright Monroe Hay (1786–1840). During her father’s tenure as US ambassador to France, she was educated in Paris. Due to her mother’s deteriorating health, she took on a number of official hostess duties. In 1899, James Spence Monroe was born a year after Eliza. He died in infancy, however, 16 months later. Maria Hester Monroe (1804–50) was the youngest daughter of James and Elizabeth Monroe. On March 8, 1820, she married her cousin, Samuel L. Gouverneur. Their wedding was the first to be held in the White House for a president’s child.
Scholars are divided on his religious beliefs. Over the years, no letter in which he expressed his religious beliefs has been discovered. His parents were Church of England members, and as an adult, he attended Episcopal churches. Many historians believe he had “deistic tendencies” because he talked about an impersonal god in many of his musings. James Renwick Willson, a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, called him a “second-rate Athenian philosopher” in 1832.
He had accumulated a significant amount of debt during his time as a public figure. To pay off the debt, he frequently had to sell land or other properties. In 1829–1830, he was a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention.
Elizabeth, his wife, died on September 23, 1830. Monroe then moved in with Maria and her husband, Samuel. He had been afflicted with health problems since the late 1820s. Monroe died of heart failure and tuberculosis on July 4, 1831 (Independence Day). He was initially buried in the Gouverneur family’s vault in New York City’s Marble Cemetery, but his remains were exhumed and reburied at the President’s Circle in Hollywood Cemetery 20 years later.