James Monroe, 5th US President, 1817-1825
Image by Tony Fischer Photography
The President during the Era of Good Feeling was James Monroe. The last of the Virginia Dynasty, he lived nearby Madison and Jefferson.
Monroe’s parents had significant land holdings but little money. Like his parents, he was a slaveholder. Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe attended the College of William and Mary. After graduating, Monroe fought in the Continental Army, serving with distinction at the Battle of Trenton, where he was shot in his left shoulder. He is depicted holding the flag in the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. Following his war 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 from 1783 to 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.
After his term in the Senate, Monroe was appointed Minister to France from 1794 to 1796. Afterward, he returned to practicing law in Virginia until elected governor there, serving from 1799 to 1802. Under the first Jefferson administration, Monroe was dispatched to France to assist Robert R. Livingston to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. Monroe was then appointed Minister to the Court of St. James (Britain) from 1803 to 1807.
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 the post of Secretary of War in 1814, he stayed on as the Secretary of State ad interim. At the war’s end 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 effectively held both 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.
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, as well as breaking all ties with France remaining from the War of 1812.
In both the presidential elections of 1816 and 1820 Monroe ran nearly unopposed. 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 to accept a position kept Monroe from adding an outstanding
James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 and died July 4, 1831, the third president to die on the 4th…….
art: Mellon Collection