James Monroe

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James Monroe
James Monroe.gif
United States Senator from Virginia
In office
November 9, 1970-March 29, 1794
Preceded by John Walker
Succeeded by Stevens Mason
United States Minister to France
In office
May 28, 1794-September 9, 1796
Preceded by Gouverneur Morris
Succeeded by Charles Pinckney
United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
April 18, 1803-February 26, 1808
Preceded by Rufus King
Succeeded by William Pinkney
12th and 16th Governor of Virginia
In office
December 28, 1799-December 1, 1802; January 16, 1811-April 2, 1811
Preceded by James Wood; George William Smith
Succeeded by John Page; George William Smith
7th United States Secretary of State
In office
April2, 1811-March 4, 1817
Preceded by Robert Smith
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams
8th United States Secretary of War
In office
September 27, 1814-March 2, 1815
Preceded by John Armstrong, Jr.
Succeeded by William Crawford
5th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1817-March 4, 1825
Preceded by James Madison
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams
In office
Preceded by {{{8thofficepreceded}}}
Succeeded by {{{8thofficesucceeded}}}
Personal details
Born April 28, 1758
  Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died July 4, 1831
  New York City, New York
Resting place Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
Residence(s) Ash Lawn
Alma mater The College of William & Mary
Profession Soldier, lawyer, and politician
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Kortright
Known for The Monroe Doctrine, The Missouri Compromise
Signature [[File:{{{signature}}}|left|200px]]

James Monroe (1758 – 1831) was born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Spencer Monroe and Elizabeth Jones.[1] He and his siblings grew up on his parent's 600-acre plantation until his father's death in 1774. Monroe's uncle, Joseph Jones, became Monroe's guardian and took an "active interest" in his nephew. With Jones' encouragement, Monroe entered the College of William & Mary in 1774 as the first of his family to attend college.[2]

However, Monroe's education was short lived. In 1775 he enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment and was soon fighting with General Washington in New York. During this time, "[Monroe] 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." He also served as aide-de-camp to General William Alexander.[3]

In 1780 Monroe returned to the College of William & Mary to study law. It is unclear whether Monroe attended any of Wythe's lectures during his time at William & Mary. Monroe seems to have been torn over attending Wythe, or following Thomas Jefferson to Richmond. This indecision is reflected in a letter Monroe received from his uncle dated March 7, 1780:

If Mr. Wythe means to pursue Mr. Blackstone's method, I should think you ought to attend him from the commencement of his course, if at all ... indeed I incline to think Mr. Wythe under the present state of our laws will be much embarrassed to deliver lectures with that perspicuity and precision which might be expected from him under a more established and settled state of them. The undertaking is arduous and the subject intricate at the best.... Whichever method he may like, or whatever plan he may lay down to govern him, I doubt not it will be executed with credit to himself and benefit to his auditors.[4]

Ultimately, Monroe followed Jefferson to Richmond, but he may have also connected with Wythe. Scholars consistently still list Monroe as one of Wythe's pupils, although both Clarkin and Dill disagree.[5]

In 1782 Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and in 1783 was chosen to attend the Confederation Congress. There, he advocated a strong central government and opposed the Constitution since Monroe believed it "granted too much power to the Senate and authorized direct taxation."[6]

In 1786 Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright, with whom he had two daughters. At this time he began practicing law in Fredericksburg, Virginia. [7] In 1789 Monroe purchased and moved to a plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, near Jefferson's Monticello.[8]

After his election to the United States Senate in 1790, Monroe worked to establish the Republican party with his friend James Madison. In 1799, Monroe became the 12th Governor of Virginia. In 1800 he successfully defended against Gabriel's Rebellion, but predicted that "such [slave] uprisings were inevitable unless slavery were eliminated." After his term as governor, Monroe assisted Robert Livingston as envoy to France to aid in buying a port of deposit on the Mississippi. Monroe also served as minister to Great Britain from 1803 to 1807, but was frustrated when Jefferson rejected his treaty "because it lacked a formal ban on impressment."[9]

Republicans entered Monroe into the 1808 elected against Madison, but Monroe "did not participate... and received little support." But in 1811, Madison elected Monroe as his Secretary of State. Monroe resigned as Secretary of State in 1814 when he was appointed as Secretary of War. [10]

In 1816 Monroe was elected the fifth United States President. The beginning of his term was declared by the Federalist newspaper as the "Era of Good Feelings."[11] Monroe's cabinet was comprised of Daniel D. Tompkins as Vice-President, John Quincy Adams as Secretary of State, and John C. Calhoun an Secretary of War. Monroe brought back "the formality of the Washington administration," by limiting relationships with foreign diplomats and city residents to purely official or ceremonial interactions. Monroe did retain Jefferson and Madison's policy towards states' rights in that "he regarded federal support of internal improvements as unconstitutional." However, according to Ammon, Monroe's most significant achievements as President were over foreign affairs. This was in part due to the efficient working relationship he had with Adams in which the two of them shared the goal of national political independence.[12]

However, this "Era of Good Feelings" ended abruptly with the Missouri Compromise of 1819-1820. Monroe stated that he would veto any bills granting Missouri statehood contingent upon the abolition of slavery. To reach a compromise, Monroe admitted Maine as a free state to balance out Missouri's entrance into the Union without restrictions.[13] Monroe's last two years as President were the opposite of his first, and that time became known as the "Era of Bad Feelings." Although Monroe strived to remain neutral in the "struggle for succession," he was still subjected to harsh criticism.[14]

In 1827 Monroe happily retired to his estate in Loudoun County, Oak Hill. After his wife died in 1830, Monroe moved to New York City to live with his youngest daughter. Monroe died on July 4, 1831 in New York City, where he was originally buried. In 1858 Monroe was reinterred in Richmond, Virginia. [15]

See also


  1. American National Biography Online, s.v. "Monroe, James," by Harry Ammon, accessed February 15, 2016.
  2. Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1971), accessed February 15, 2016.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Joseph Jones to James Monroe, March 7, 1780, quoted in ibid.
  5. Ammon, James Monroe; Thomas Hunter, "The Teaching of George Wythe," in The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentaries and Primary Sources, ed. Steve Sheppard (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1999), 1:138-168.
  6. Ammon, "Monroe, James."
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ammon, James Monroe.
  9. Ammon, "Monroe, James."
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ammon, "Monroe, James."
  12. Ammon, "Monroe, James."
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ammon, James Monroe.
  15. Ammon, "Monroe, James."

Further Reading

  • Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1971) accessed February 15, 2016.
  • William Clarkin, Serene Patriot: A Life of George Wythe (Alan Publications, 1970).