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James Monroe

James Monroe

James Monroe

(Alternate image)
Order: 5th President
Term of Office: March 4, 1817March 3, 1825
Followed: James Madison
Succeeded by: John Quincy Adams
Date of Birth April 28, 1758
Place of Birth: Westmoreland County, Virginia
Date of Death: July 4, 1831
Place of Death: New York City, New York
First Lady: Elizabeth Kortright Monroe
Occupation: lawyer
Political Party: Democratic-Republican
Vice President: Daniel D. Tompkins

James Monroe (April 28, 1758July 4, 1831) was the fifth (18171825) President of the United States. He is the namesake of the Monroe Doctrine, although it was his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who actually devised it.


Early years

Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, as an only child, in 1758, Monroe attended the College of William and Mary, fought with distinction in the Continental Army, and practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His parents Spence Monroe (c. 1727-1774) and Elizabeth Jones (born c. 1729) were well-to-do farmers.

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.


Following the War of 1812, Monroe was elected president in the election of 1816, and re-elected in 1820. Monroe, the last American Revolutionary War veteran to serve as president, was almost uncontested in his two elections.

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 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.


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 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:

See also

External links

  • First Inaugural Address
  • Second Inaugural Address
  • A genealogical profile of the President

Preceded by:
James Madison
President of the United States
Succeeded by:
John Quincy Adams
Preceded by:
Robert Smith
United States Secretary of State
1811–1814, 1815–1817
Succeeded by:
John Quincy Adams
Preceded by:
John Armstrong, Jr.
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
William H. Crawford

Last updated: 02-06-2005 06:41:53
Last updated: 02-28-2005 11:09:06