James Monroe

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: USA Presidents

James Monroe
James Monroe

In office
March 4, 1817 –  March 4, 1825
Vice President(s)   Daniel D. Tompkins
Preceded by James Madison
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams

7th United States Secretary of State
In office
April 2, 1811 –  September 30, 1814
February 28, 1815 – March 3, 1817
Preceded by Robert Smith
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams

Born April 28, 1758
Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died July 4, 1831
New York City
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse Elizabeth Kortright Monroe
Religion Church of England, Episcopal, Deist

James Monroe ( April 28, 1758- July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817-1825). His administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida (1819), the Missouri Compromise (1820), in which Missouri was declared a slave state, and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), declaring U.S. opposition to European interference in the Americas.

Early years

The President’s parents, father Spence Monroe (ca. 1727–1774), a woodworker and tobacco farmer, and mother Elizabeth Jones Monroe had significant land holdings but little money. Like his parents, he was a slaveholder. Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe went to school at Campbelltown Academy and then the College of William and Mary, both in Virginia. After graduating in 1776, Monroe fought in the Continental Army, serving with distinction at the Battle of Trenton, where he was shot in his left shoulder. Following his military service, he practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia. James Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright on February 16, 1786 at the Trinity Church in New York.

Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782 and served in the Continental Congress 1783–1786. As a youthful politician, he joined the anti-Federalists in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution, and in 1790, was elected United States Senator. As Minister to France in 1794–1796, he displayed strong sympathies for the French Revolution; later, with Robert R. Livingston and under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He served as Governor of Virginia from 1799 to 1802. He was Minister to France again in 1803 and then Minister to the Court of St. James (Britain) from 1803 to 1807. In 1807 he negotiated a treaty with Britain to replace the Jay Treaty of 1794, but Jefferson rejected it as unsatisfactory and the two nations moved toward the War of 1812. Monroe returned to the Virginia House of Delegates and was elected to 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 to 1814. When he was appointed to Secretary of War in 1814, he stayed on as the interim Secretary of State. In 1815 he was again commissioned as the permanent Secretary of State, and left his position as Secretary of War. Thus from October 1, 1814 to February 28, 1815, Monroe held the two cabinet posts. Monroe stayed on as Secretary of State until the end of the James Madison Presidency, and the following day Monroe began his term as the new President of the United States.

Presidency 1817-1825: The Era of Good Feelings


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

Attentive to detail, well prepared on most issues, non-partisan in spirit, and above all pragmatic, Monroe managed his presidential duties well. He 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. Most appointments went to deserving Democratic-Republicans, but he did not try to use them to build the party's base. Indeed, he allowed the base to decay, which reduced tensions and led to the naming of his era as the " Era of Good Feelings". To build good will, he made two long tours in 1817. Frequent stops allowed innumerable ceremonies of welcome and good will. The Federalist Party dwindled and eventually died out, starting with the Hartford Convention. Practically every politician belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party, but the party lost its vitality and organizational integrity. The party's Congressional caucus stopped meeting, and there were no national conventions.

These "good feelings" endured until 1824. Monroe, with his popularity undiminished, followed nationalist policies. Across the commitment to nationalism, sectional cracks appeared. The Panic of 1819 caused a painful economic depression. The application for statehood by the Missouri Territory, in 1819, 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 began to formally recognize the young sister republics (the former Spanish colonies) in 1822. He and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wished to avoid trouble with Spain until it had ceded the Floridas to the U.S., which was done in 1821.

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' 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.

Britain, with its powerful navy, also opposed re-conquest 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' 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.

Administration and Cabinet

James Vanderlyn, James Monroe, 1816, oil on canvas, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
James Vanderlyn, James Monroe, 1816, oil on canvas, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
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 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:

  • Smith Thompson – 1822

States admitted to the Union

  • Mississippi December 10, 1817
  • Illinois December 3, 1818
  • Alabama December 14, 1819
  • Maine March 15, 1820
  • Missouri August 10, 1821


Upon leaving the White House after his presidency expired on March 4, 1825, James Monroe moved to live at Monroe Hill on the grounds of the University of Virginia. This university's modern campus was originally Monroe's family farm from 1788 to 1817, but he had sold it in the first year of his Presidency to the new college. He served on the Board of Visitors under Jefferson and then under the second rector and another former President James Madison, until his death.

Monroe had racked up many debts during his years of public life. As a result, he was forced to sell off his Highland Plantation (now called Ash Lawn-Highland; it is owned by his alma mater, the College of William and Mary, which has opened it to the public). He never financially recovered throughout his entire life, and his wife's poor health made matters worse. For these reasons, he and his wife 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 Governor in New York City and died there from heart failure and tuberculosis on July 4, 1831, 55 years after the U.S. 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 he was re-interred in 1858 to the President's Circle at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Statue of Monroe at Ash Lawn-Highland
Statue of Monroe at Ash Lawn-Highland

Religious beliefs

"When it comes to Monroe's ...thoughts on religion", Bliss Isely comments in his The Presidents: Men of Faith, "less is known than that of any other President." He burned much of his correspondence with his wife, and no letters survive in which he might have discussed his religious beliefs. Nor did his friends, family or associates write about his beliefs. Letters that do survive, such as ones written on the occasion of the death of his son, contain no discussion of religion.

Monroe was raised in a family that belonged to the Church of England when it was the state church in Virginia, and as an adult frequently attended Episcopalian churches, though there is no record he ever took communion. He has been classified by some historians as a Deist, and he did use deistic language to refer to God. Jefferson had been attacked as an atheist and infidel for his deistic views, but never Monroe. Unlike Jefferson, Monroe was not anticlerical. [Holmes 2003]


  • Apart from George Washington and Washington DC, James Monroe is the only U.S. President to have had a country's capital city named after him—that of Monrovia in Liberia which was founded by the American Colonization Society, in 1822, as a haven for freed slaves.
  • Monroe was the third president to die on July 4.
  • Monroe was (arguably) the last president to have fought in the Revolutionary War, although Andrew Jackson served as a 13-year-old courier in the Continental Army and was taken as a prisoner of war by the British.
  • In the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware (also depicted on the New Jersey state quarter), Monroe is standing behind George Washington and holds the American Flag

Monroe is considered to be the president who was in the most paintings; throughout the 1800's he was in over 350.

Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Monroe"