Our 5th President: 1817-1825
Just the Facts:
- James Monroe was President during the “Era of Good Feelings.”
- His wife, Elizabeth, wasn’t very popular
- His daughter, Maria, was the first to be married in the White House.
- He was the first president to cross the Atlantic on a steamship.
- Monroe had a long and impressive political career.
- He was the last of the Revolutionary generation to be president.
- He was the only president to have a foreign capitol named after him - Monrovia, Liberia
He grew up in Virginia on a plantation with four brothers and sisters. His parents died when he was only 16, and James suddenly was in charge of both the farm and his family. He fought in the Revolutionary War and served under George Washington – he was with Washington during the famous crossing of the Delaware River. Monroe was shot in the War and the bullet stayed in his shoulder for the rest of his life.
Monroe dropped out of college to serve in the Revolutionary War and never went back to get his degree. Instead, he decided to study law in Thomas Jefferson’s office. He had an impressive career of public service before becoming president – he was the minister to France and ambassador to England. He also helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He was both the Secretary of War and Secretary of State under President Madison. He was even the governor of Virginia a couple times!
The Whites House was still being repaired from the war of 1812 when he came to office. He used that time to tour the country for 4 months – he was the first president to take his show on the road. He also traveled to Europe in one of the worlds first steamships. He served as president for two terms (1817-1825) – it was a happy, peaceful time in American and was named the “era of good feeling.” He was the last of the revolutionary leaders to be elected president.
James Monroe was famous for the “Monroe Doctrine” – which stated that Europe should stay out of the Western Hemisphere (America is in charge over here – leave us alone). He was concerned that Spain would try to regain its colonies in South America and He purchased Florida from Spain.
Another important event during his presidency was tremendous growth – five states were admitted to the union – Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine, Missouri. This upset the delicate balance in the country regarding the issue of slavery – would slavery be allowed or banned in these new states? The Missouri Compromise (1829) banned slavery in all new states that were north of Missouri (like Minnesota).
Monroe married Elizabeth when she was only 17 years old, and they spent the early part of their marriage in Europe. Some Americans thought she was a little snooty and called her “Queen Elizabeth” (which she didn’t like one bit). The French, however, called her the “Beautiful American.” They had three children.
James and Elizabeth retired to their plantation in Virginia. He spent time with his daughter in New York after Elizabeth died, because he didn’t want to be at their home without her. He died on the Fourth of July (the third president to pass on our Independence Day).
“The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”
“Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things, but possess the most precious of all – liberty!”
Want to learn more?
Take a tour of his home in Virginia, Ash Lawn Highland, at http://ashlawnhighland.org
Visit the Monroe museum and library in Fredricksburg, Virginia at http://jamesmonroemuseum.umw.edu
Learn more at one of these websites: