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James Monroe

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James Monroe

James Monroe
5th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
Vice President Daniel Tompkins
Preceded by James Madison
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams
8th United States Secretary of War
In office
September 27, 1814 – March 2, 1815
President James Madison
Preceded by John Armstrong, Jr.
Succeeded by William Crawford
7th United States Secretary of State
In office
April 2, 1811 – March 4, 1817
President James Madison
Preceded by Robert Smith
Succeeded by John Quincy Adams
12th and 16th Governor of Virginia
In office
December 28, 1799 – December 1, 1802
Preceded by James Wood
Succeeded by John Page
In office
January 16, 1811 – April 2, 1811
Preceded by George William Smith
Succeeded by George William Smith
United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
April 18, 1803 – February 26, 1808
Nominated by Thomas Jefferson
Preceded by Rufus King
Succeeded by William Pinkney
United States Minister to France
In office
May 28, 1794 – September 9, 1796
Nominated by George Washington
Preceded by Gouverneur Morris
Succeeded by Charles Pinckney
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
November 9, 1790 – March 29, 1794
Preceded by John Walker
Succeeded by Stevens Mason
Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation
from Virginia
In office
November 3, 1783 – November 7, 1786
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Henry Lee
Personal details
Born (1758-04-28)April 28, 1758
Monroe Hall, Virginia
Died July 4, 1831(1831-07-04) (aged 73)
New York City
Resting place Hollywood Cemetery
Richmond, Virginia
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Kortright
(1786-1830; her death)
Children Eliza
Residence Ash Lawn
Alma mater College of William and Mary
Profession Lawyer
College Administrator
Religion Episcopal
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Continental Army
Virginia Militia
Years of service 1775–1777 (Army)
1777–1780 (Militia)
Rank Major (Army)
Colonel (Militia)
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
 • Battle of Trenton

James Monroe (; April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825). Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation.[1] He was of French and Scottish descent. Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe was of the planter class and fought in the American Revolutionary War. He was wounded in the Battle of Trenton with a musket ball to his shoulder. After studying law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, he served as a delegate in the Continental Congress. As an anti-federalist delegate to the Virginia convention that considered ratification of the United States Constitution, Monroe opposed ratification, claiming it gave too much power to the central government. He took an active part in the new government, and in 1790 he was elected to the Senate of the first United States Congress, where he joined the Jeffersonians. He gained experience as an executive as the Governor of Virginia and rose to national prominence as a diplomat in France, when he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During the War of 1812, Monroe held the critical roles of Secretary of State and the Secretary of War under President James Madison.[2]

Facing little opposition from the fractured Federalist Party, Monroe was easily elected president in 1816, winning over 80 percent of the electoral vote and becoming the last president during the First Party System era of American politics. As president, he bought Florida from Spain and sought to ease partisan tensions, embarking on a tour of the country that was generally well received. With the ratification of the Treaty of 1818, under the successful diplomacy of his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the United States extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, giving America harbor and fishing rights in the Pacific Northwest. The United States and Britain jointly occupied the Oregon Country. In addition to the acquisition of Florida, the landmark Treaty of 1819 secured the border of the United States along the 42nd Parallel to the Pacific Ocean and represented America's first determined attempt at creating an "American global empire".[3] As nationalism surged, partisan fury subsided and the "Era of Good Feelings" ensued until the Panic of 1819 struck and dispute over the admission of Missouri embroiled the country in 1820. Nonetheless, Monroe won near-unanimous reelection.

Monroe supported the founding of colonies in Africa for free African Americans that would eventually form the nation of Liberia, whose capital, Monrovia, is named in his honor. In 1823, he announced the United States' opposition to any European intervention in the recently independent countries of the Americas with the Monroe Doctrine, which became a landmark in American foreign policy. His presidency concluded the first period of American presidential history before the beginning of Jacksonian democracy and the Second Party System era. Following his retirement in 1825, Monroe was plagued by financial difficulties. He died in New York City on July 4, 1831.


  • Early life 1
    • Education 1.1
    • Military service in the Revolutionary War and serious wounding 1.2
  • Marriage and family 2
  • Plantations and slavery 3
  • Early political career 4
    • Virginia politics 4.1
    • Ambassador to France 4.2
  • Governor of Virginia and diplomat 5
    • 1808 election and the Quids 5.1
  • Secretary of State and Secretary of War 6
  • Presidential elections of 1816 and 1820 7
  • Presidency 8
    • Domestic politics 8.1
      • Democratic-Republican Party dominance 8.1.1
      • Domestic troubles 8.1.2
      • Cumberland Road 8.1.3
      • Indigenous American Policies 8.1.4
    • Foreign policy 8.2
      • Spanish Florida 8.2.1
      • Monroe Doctrine 8.2.2
    • Administration and Cabinet 8.3
    • Judicial appointments 8.4
    • States admitted to the Union 8.5
  • Post-presidency 9
  • Death 10
  • Religious beliefs 11
  • Slavery 12
  • Legacy and memory 13
  • See also 14
  • Notes 15
  • References 16
  • Bibliography 17
  • External links 18

Early life

Marker designating the site of James Monroe's birthplace in Monroe Hall, Virginia

James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758, in his parents' house located in a wooded area of Westmoreland County, Virginia. The site is marked and is one mile from the unincorporated community known today as Monroe Hall, Virginia. The James Monroe Family Home Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[4] His father Spence Monroe (1727–1774) was a moderately prosperous planter who also practiced carpentry. His mother Elizabeth Jones (1730–1774) married Spence Monroe in 1752 and they had several children.[5]

His paternal great-grandfather Andrew Monroe emigrated to America from Scotland in the mid-17th century. In 1650 he patented a large tract of land in Washington Parish, Westmoreland County, Virginia. Among James Monroe's ancestors were French Huguenot immigrants, who came to Virginia in 1700.[5]


First tutored at home by his mother Elizabeth, between the ages of 11 and 16, the young Monroe studied at Campbell town Academy, a school run by Reverend Archibald Campbell of Washington Parish. There he excelled as a pupil and progressed through Latin and mathematics faster than most boys his age. John Marshall, later Chief Justice of the United States, was among his classmates.

Upon the death of his father in 1774, Monroe inherited his small King George III.

Military service in the Revolutionary War and serious wounding

Battle of Trenton and Hessian guns seized by Virginians led by Captain William Washington and Lt. Monroe who were severely wounded

In early 1775, just one year after his enrollment, Monroe dropped out of college and joined the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Continental Army where his background as a college student and the son of a well-known planer enabled him to obtain an officer's commission . He never returned to earn a degree.[7] In June 1775, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Monroe joined 24 older men in raiding the arsenal at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg. They used the loot of 200 muskets and 300 swords to arm the Williamsburg militia.

Although Washington decided that only a bold step could save the Army and the revolutionary cause from oblivion. Washington ordered his force, that had shrunk 90% since the Battle of Brooklyn which is also known by the wider name, Battle of Long Island, and down to under 3000 effective soldiers, to cross the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 in the Battle of Trenton. Monroe and his regiment crossed over and marched through a Nor'easter snow storm north and then east towards Trenton. Along the way, the soldiers were spotted by a young patriot doctor, John Riker, whose dogs had been awakened in the pre-dawn early morning. Riker volunteered to lend his medical bag to the efforts saying that as many doctors as possible would be needed fearing severe casualties from a clash with the battle-tested German-speaking Hessian professional mercenary soldiers. Avoiding detection, the Americans approached the center of Trenton from north and south. When the Hessians sounded the alarm, they tried to get several of their artillery pieces in action to pour grapeshot into the Americans marching down towards the homes they had commandeered. Knowing that this would slow the assault, after a volley of artillery fire, Lieutenant Monroe and General Washington's cousin, Captain William Washington and their men rushed to seize the guns before they could fire. Both young officers were severely wounded. Captain Washington was badly wounded in both hands, and young Lieutenant James Monroe was carried from the field bleeding badly after he was struck in the left shoulder by a musket ball, which severed an artery. It would be the young volunteer doctor, John Riker who clamped the artery, keeping him from bleeding to death and saving the life of a man who would go on to achieve so much in politics both as a Virginian and on the national stage as a future President.[9] The wounded soldier, Monroe was sent home to Virginia to nurse his injuries. The Battle of Trenton would be Monroe's only battle as he would spend the next three months recuperating from his wound. In John Trumbull's painting Capture of the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, Monroe can be seen lying wounded at left center of the painting. In the famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Monroe is depicted holding the American flag.[10][11]

After recuperating from his wound, he was appointed as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia, and tasked to recruit and lead a regiment, but the regiment was never raised. In 1780 the British invaded Richmond, and Governor Thomas Jefferson commissioned Monroe as a Colonel to command the militia raised in response, and act as liaison to the Continental Army in North Carolina.[12][13]

Monroe studied law under Jefferson from 1780 to 1783.[14][15] Monroe was not particularly interested in legal theory or practice, but chose to take it up because he thought that it offered "the most immediate rewards" and could ease his path to wealth, social standing, and political influence.[15] After passing the bar, he practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.[10]

Marriage and family

James Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright (1768–1830),[16] daughter of Laurence Kortright and Hannah Aspinwall Kortright, on February 16, 1786, in New York City. He had met her while serving with the Continental Congress, which then met in New York, the temporary capital of the new nation. After a brief honeymoon on Long Island, New York, the Monroes returned to New York City to live with her father until Congress adjourned. The Monroes had the following children:

  • Eliza Monroe (1786–1835) – married
  • Maria Hester Monroe (1803–1850) – married her cousin Samuel L. Gouverneur on March 8, 1820, in the first wedding of a president's child in the White House.[17][18]

Plantations and slavery

Oak Hill Mansion

Monroe sold his small inherited Virginia plantation in 1783 to enter law and politics. Monroe later fulfilled his youthful dream of becoming the owner of a large plantation and wielding great political power, but his plantation was never profitable. Although he owned much more land and slaves and speculated in property, he was rarely on-site to oversee the operations. Overseers treated the slaves harshly to force production, but the plantations barely broke even. Monroe incurred debts by his lavish and expensive lifestyle and often sold property (including slaves) to pay them off.[19]

Monroe was a wealthy Loudoun County plantation owner who owned numerous slave plantations including "Oak Hill".[20] Monroe was an absentee slaveholder in that he had his overseers run the plantations while he lived elsewhere.[20] Overseers moved or separated slave families from different Monroe plantations in accordance with production and maintenance needs of each satellite plantation.[20] One of Monroe's slaves named Daniel often ran away from Monroe's plantation in Albermarle County, to visit other slaves or separated family members.[21] Monroe commonly referred to Daniel as a "scoundrel" and described the "worthlessness" of Daniel as a runaway slave.[21] Monroe's practice of moving and separating slave families was common treatment of slaves in the South.[21]

Early political career

Virginia politics

Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782. He was elected to Congress in November 1783 and served in Annapolis until Congress left for Trenton in June 1784. He had served a total of three years when he finally retired from that office by the rule of rotation.[22] By that time, the government was meeting in the temporary capital of New York City.

In Virginia, the struggle in 1788 over the ratification of the proposed Constitution involved more than a simple clash between federalists and anti-federalists. Virginians held a full spectrum of opinions about the merits of the proposed change in national government. Edmund Pendleton, these "federalists who are for amendments," criticized the absence of a bill of rights and worried about surrendering taxation powers to the central government. Virginia ratified the Constitution in June 1788, largely because Monroe, Pendleton and followers suspended their reservations and vowed to press for changes after the new government had been established.[23]

Virginia narrowly ratified the Constitution. Monroe ran for a House seat in the First Congress but was defeated by Madison. In 1790 he was elected by the Virginia legislature as United States Senator. He soon joined the "Democratic-Republican" faction led by Jefferson and Madison, and by 1791 was the party leader in the Senate.[24]

Ambassador to France

The earliest preserved portrait of James Monroe as Minister Plenipotentiary to France in 1794.

Monroe resigned his Senate seat after being appointed Minister to France in 1794.[25] As ambassador, Monroe secured the release of Thomas Paine in revolutionary France after his arrest for opposition to the execution of Louis XVI. The government insisted that Paine be deported to the United States.[26]

Monroe arranged to free all the Americans held in French prisons. He also gained the freedom of Adrienne de La Fayette and issued her and her family American passports (they had been granted citizenship by the US government for contributions during the Revolution.) She used that for travel to her husband, imprisoned in Olmutz.[27]

A strong friend of the Jay Treaty in London. With France and Britain at war, the Jay Treaty alarmed and angered the French. Washington had differences with Monroe and discharged him as Minister to France, claiming his "inefficiency, disruptive maneuvers, and failure to safeguard the interests of his country."[28]

Monroe had long been concerned about foreign influence on the presidency. He was alarmed by the Spanish diplomat Don Diego de Gardoqui, who in 1785 tried to convince Congress to allow Spain to close the Mississippi River to American traffic for 30 years. Spain controlled much of the Mississippi since taking over former French territory, including the important port of New Orleans. Monroe thought that Spain could have endangered the US retention of its Southwest and caused the dominance of the Northeast.[29] Monroe believed in both a strong presidency and the system of checks and balances.

In the 1790s he fretted over an aging George Washington being too much influenced by close advisers such as Alexander Hamilton, whom Monroe thought too close to Britain. He was humiliated by Washington's criticism for his support of revolutionary France as minister to the nation.[30]

Governor of Virginia and diplomat

Out of office, Monroe returned to practicing law in Virginia until elected governor there as a Democratic-Republican, his first term serving from 1799 to 1802. He was reelected Virginia's governor four times.[31] He called out the state militia to suppress Gabriel's Rebellion. Gabriel and 26 other enslaved people who participated were all hanged for treason. Monroe thought that foreign and Federalist elements had created the Quasi War of 1798–1800 and were behind efforts to prevent the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800. As governor he considered using the Virginia militia to force the outcome in favor of Jefferson.[32] Federalists were likewise suspicious of Monroe, some seeing him as at best a French dupe and at worst a traitor.[33]

President Jefferson sent Monroe to France to assist Robert R. Livingston in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase. Monroe was then appointed Minister to the Court of St. James's in London from 1803 to 1807. In 1806 he negotiated a treaty with Great Britain, known as the Monroe–Pinkney Treaty. It would have extended the Jay Treaty of 1794 which had expired after ten years. Jefferson had fought the Jay Treaty intensely in 1794–95 because he felt it would allow the British to subvert American republicanism. The treaty had produced ten years of peace and highly lucrative trade for American merchants, but Jefferson was still hostile. When Monroe and the British signed a renewal in December 1806, Jefferson decided not to even submit it to the Senate for ratification. Although the new treaty called for ten more years of trade between the United States and the British Empire and gave American merchants guarantees that would have been good for business, Jefferson refused to give up the potential weapon of commercial warfare against Britain and was unhappy that it did not end the hated British practice of impressment of American sailors. Jefferson did not attempt to obtain another treaty, and as a result, the two nations drifted from peace toward the War of 1812.[34]

1808 election and the Quids

The Democratic-Republican Party was increasingly factionalized, with "Old Republicans" or "Quids" denouncing the Jefferson administration for abandoning true republican principles. The Quids, seeing that Monroe's foreign policy had been rejected by Jefferson, tried to enlist Monroe in their cause. The plan was to run Monroe for president in the 1808 election in cooperation with the Federalist Party, which had a strong base in New England. John Randolph of Roanoke led the Quid effort to stop Jefferson's choice of James Madison. However, the regular Democratic-Republicans overcame the Quids in the nominating caucus, kept control of the party in Virginia, and protected Madison's base. Monroe was not a candidate for president, and Madison was elected.[35]

Secretary of State and Secretary of War

Monroe returned to the Virginia House of Delegates and was elected to another term as governor in 1811, but only served four months. He became Secretary of State in April of that year. He had little to do with the War of 1812, as President Madison and the War Hawks in Congress were dominant. The war went very badly, and when the British burned the U.S. Capitol and the White House on August 24, 1814, Madison removed John Armstrong as Secretary of War and turned to Monroe for help, appointing him Secretary of War on September 27.[36] Monroe resigned as Secretary of State on October 1, but no successor was ever appointed and thus from October 1, 1814 to February 28, 1815, Monroe effectively held both Cabinet posts. Monroe formulated plans for an offensive invasion of Canada to win the war, but a peace treaty was ratified in February 1815, before any armies moved north. Monroe therefore resigned as Secretary of War on March 15, 1815 and was formally reappointed Secretary of State. Monroe stayed on at State until March 4, 1817, when he began his term as the new President of the United States.[2]

Presidential elections of 1816 and 1820

The William H. Crawford, Daniel Tompkins, Henry Clay or another possible contender weakened opposition to Monroe. The boycott by Virginia delegates of the March 12 caucus removed the chances of Monroe's opponents, and he received the caucus nomination four days later.[37] With the Federalist Party in disarray due to the unpopularity of their opposition to the War of 1812, Monroe easily won election.[38] The Federalists did not even name a candidate, though Rufus King of New York did run in opposition to Monroe under the Federalist banner.[38] King carried only Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts and won only 34 of 217 electoral votes cast.[38]

The collapse of the Federalists left Monroe with no organized opposition at the end of his first term, and he ran for reelection unopposed,[38] the only president other than Washington to do so. A single elector from New Hampshire cast a vote for John Quincy Adams, preventing a unanimous vote in the Electoral College.[38]


BEP engraved portrait of Monroe as President.
BEP engraved portrait of Monroe as President.

Domestic politics

Democratic-Republican Party dominance

Monroe largely ignored old party lines in making appointments to lower posts, which reduced political tensions and enabled the "Democratic-Republican Party's Congressional caucus stopped meeting, and for practical purposes the Democratic-Republican Party stopped operating.[39]

Domestic troubles

Monroe's popularity was undiminished even when following difficult nationalist policies as the country's commitment to nationalism was starting to show serious fractures. The Panic of 1819 caused a painful economic depression. The application for statehood in 1819 by the Missouri Territory 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 of latitude 36/30' N forever. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1857, when it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States as part of the Dred Scott decision.

Cumberland Road

Congress demanded high subsidies for internal improvements, such as for the improvement of the Cumberland Road, during Monroe's presidency.[40] Monroe vetoed the Cumberland Road Bill, which provided for yearly improvements to the road, because he believed it to be unconstitutional for the government to have such a large hand in what was essentially a civics bill deserving of attention on a state by state basis. This defiance underlined Monroe's populist ideals and added credit to the local offices that he was so fond of visiting on his speech tours.[41]

Indigenous American Policies

Monroe sparked a constitutional controversy when, in 1817, he sent General Andrew Jackson to move against Spanish Florida to pursue hostile Seminole Indians and punish the Spanish for aiding them. News of Jackson's exploits ignited a congressional investigation of the 1st Seminole War. Dominated by Democratic-Republicans, the 15th Congress was generally expansionist and more likely to support the popular Jackson. Ulterior political agendas of many congressmen dismantled partisan and sectional coalitions, so that Jackson's opponents argued weakly and became easily discredited. After much debate, the House of Representatives voted down all resolutions that condemned Jackson in any way, thus implicitly endorsing Monroe's actions and leaving the issue surrounding the role of the executive with respect to war powers unanswered.[42]

Monroe believed that the Indians must progress from the hunting stage to become an agricultural people, noting in 1817, "A hunter or savage state requires a greater extent of territory to sustain it than is compatible with progress and just claims of civilised life."[43] His proposals to speed up the assimilation process were ignored by Congress.[44]

Foreign policy

Spanish Florida

Relations with Spain over the purchase of Spanish Florida proved to be troublesome, especially after Andrew Jackson invaded that territory on what he believed to be the president's authorization, which Monroe later denied giving. But largely through the skillful work of John Quincy Adams, a treaty was signed with Spain in 1819 that ceded Florida to the United States in return for the assumption of $5,000,000 (about $92,592,593 in 2014 dollars) in claims and the relinquishment of any claims to Texas.[45] Florida was ceded to the U.S. in 1821.

Monroe Doctrine

After the Napoleonic wars (which ended in 1815), almost all of Spain's and Portugal's colonies in Latin America revolted and declared independence. Americans welcomed this development as a validation of the spirit of Republicanism. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams suggested delaying formal recognition until Florida was secured. The problem of imperial invasion was intensified by a Russian claim to the Pacific coast down to the fifty-first parallel and simultaneous European pressure to have all of Latin America returned to its colonial status.

Monroe informed Congress in March 1822 that permanent stable governments had been established in the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (the core of present-day Argentina), Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. Adams, under Monroe's supervision, wrote the instructions for the ministers (ambassadors) to these new countries. They declared that the policy of the United States was to uphold republican institutions and to seek treaties of commerce on a most-favored-nation basis. The United States would support inter-American congresses dedicated to the development of economic and political institutions fundamentally differing from those prevailing in Europe. The articulation of an "American system" distinct from that of Europe was a basic tenet of Monroe's policy toward Latin America. Monroe took pride as the United States was the first nation to extend recognition and to set an example to the rest of the world for its support of the "cause of liberty and humanity".

Monroe formally announced in his message to Congress on December 2, 1823, what was later called the Monroe Doctrine. He proclaimed that 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 new colonies or interference with independent countries in the Americas as hostile acts toward the United States.

Although it is Monroe's most famous contribution to history, the speech was written by Adams, who designed the doctrine in cooperation with Britain.[46] Monroe and Adams realized that American recognition would not protect the new countries against military intervention to restore Spain's power. In October 1823, Latin America and suggested that the United States join in proclaiming a "hands off" policy. Galvanized by the British initiative, Monroe consulted with American leaders and then formulated a plan with Adams. Ex-Presidents Jefferson and Madison counseled Monroe to accept the offer, but 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."

The Monroe Doctrine at the time of its adoption thus pertained more to the Russians in North America than to the former Spanish colonies. The result was a system of American isolationism under the sponsorship of the British navy. The Monroe Doctrine held that the United States considered the Western Hemisphere as no longer a place for European colonization; that any future effort to gain further political control in the hemisphere or to violate the independence of existing states would be treated as an act of hostility; and finally that there existed two different and incompatible political systems in the world. The United States, therefore, promised to refrain from intervention in European affairs and demanded Europe to abstain from interfering with American matters. There were few serious European attempts at intervention.[46]

Administration and Cabinet

Monroe made balanced Cabinet choices, naming a southerner,

External links

  • Ammon, Harry. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. (1971, 2nd ed. 1990). 706 pp. standard scholarly biography excerpt and text search
  • Ammon, Harry. "James Monroe" in Henry F. Graff ed., The Presidents: A Reference History (1997)
  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy (1949), the standard history of Monroe's foreign policy.
  • Cresson, William P. James Monroe (1946). 577 pp. good scholarly biography
  • Cunningham, Noble E., Jr. The Presidency of James Monroe. 1996. 246 pp. standard scholarly survey
  • Dangerfield, George. Era of Good Feelings (1953) excerpt and text search
  • Dangerfield, George. The Awakening of American Nationalism: 1815–1828 (1965) standard scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995). most advanced analysis of the politics of the 1790s. online edition
  • Heidler, David S. "The Politics of National Aggression: Congress and the First Seminole War," Journal of the Early Republic 1993 13(4): 501–530. in JSTOR
  • Finkelman, Paul, ed. Encyclopedia of the New American Nation, 1754–1829 (2005), 1600 pp.
  • Gilman, Daniel Coit. James Monroe (1911) 312 pages; old barely adequate biography. online edition
  • Hart, Gary. James Monroe (2005) superficial, short, popular biography
  • Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (2007), Pulitzer Prize; a sweeping interpretation of the entire era
  • Holmes, David L. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, May 2006, online version
  • Kranish, Michael. "At Capitol, slavery's story turns full circle", The Boston GLobe, Boston, December 28, 2008.
  • May, Ernest R. The Making of the Monroe Doctrine (1975), argues it was issued to influence the outcome of the presidential election of 1824.
  • Morgan, George. The Life of James Monroe (1921) 484 pages; old and barely adequate biography. online edition
  • Perkins, Bradford. Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812–1823 (1964)
  • Perkins, Dexter. The Monroe Doctrine, 1823–1826 (1927), the standard monograph about the origins of the doctrine.
  • Powell, Walter & Steinberg, Richard. The nonprofit sector: a research handbook, Yale, 2006, pg 40.
  • Renehan Edward J., Jr. The Monroe Doctrine: The Cornerstone of American Foreign Policy (2007)
  • Scherr, Arthur. "James Monroe and John Adams: An Unlikely 'Friendship'". The Historian 67#3 (2005) pp 405+. online edition
  • Skeen, Carl Edward. 1816: America Rising (1993) popular history
  • Scherr, Arthur. "James Monroe on the Presidency and 'Foreign Influence;: from the Virginia Ratifying Convention (1788) to Jefferson's Election (1801)." Mid-America 2002 84(1–3): 145–206. ISSN 0026-2927.
  • Scherr, Arthur. "Governor James Monroe and the Southampton Slave Resistance of 1799." Historian 1999 61(3): 557–578. ISSN 0018-2370 Fulltext online in SwetsWise and Ebsco.
  • Styron, Arthur. The Last of the Cocked Hats: James Monroe and the Virginia Dynasty (1945). 480 pp. thorough, scholarly treatment of the man and his times.
  • Unger, Harlow G.. "The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness" (2009), a new biography.
  • White, Leonard D. The Jeffersonians: A Study in Administrative History, 1801–1829 (1951), explains the operation and organization of federal administration
  • Whitaker, Arthur P. The United States and the Independence of Latin America (1941)
  • Wilmerding, Jr., Lucius, James Monroe: Public Claimant (1960) A study regarding Monroe's attempts to get reimbursement for personal expenses and losses from his years in public service after his Presidency ended.
  • Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A history of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)


  • Monroe, James. The Political Writings of James Monroe. ed. by James P. Lucier, (2002). 863 pp.
  • Writings of James Monroe, edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., 7 vols. (1898–1903) online edition at


  1. ^ Harlow Unger, James Monroe: The Last Founding Father (2009).
  2. ^ a b Hart, Gary, 'James Monroe' (2005), p.68
  3. ^ Weeks, William Earl (1992). John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire. University of Kentucky Press. p. 1. 
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  5. ^ a b Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (1990), p. 577
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See also

$100 silver certificate depicting Monroe 
Presidential Dollar of James Monroe 
First Monroe Postage stamp, Issue of 1904 
Statue of Monroe at Ash Lawn-Highland 
Monroe Hall at the University of Virginia; Monroe once owned the land on which the university sits. 

Legacy and memory

[67] after President Monroe.Monrovia was named Liberia The capital of [66] Monroe was part of the

As president of Virginia's constitutional convention in the fall of 1829, Monroe reiterated his belief that slavery was a blight which, even as a British colony, Virginia had attempted to eradicate. "What was the origin of our slave population?" he rhetorically asked. "The evil commenced when we were in our Colonial state, but acts were passed by our Colonial Legislature, prohibiting the importation, of more slaves, into the Colony. These were rejected by the Crown." To the dismay of states' rights proponents, he was willing to accept the federal government's financial assistance to emancipate and transport freed slaves to other countries. At the convention, Monroe made his final public statement on slavery, proposing that Virginia emancipate and deport its bondsmen with "the aid of the Union."[65]

In response, Governor Monroe called out the militia; the slave patrols soon captured some slaves accused of involvement. Sidbury says some trials had a few measures to prevent abuses, such as an appointed attorney, but they were "hardly 'fair'". Slave codes prevented slaves from being treated like whites, and they were given quick trials without a jury.[63] Monroe influenced the Executive Council to pardon and sell some slaves instead of hanging them.[64] Historians say the Virginia courts executed between 26 and 35 slaves. None of the executed slaves had killed any whites because the uprising had been foiled before it began.[59]

When Monroe was Governor of Virginia in 1800, hundreds of slaves from Virginia planned to kidnap him, take Richmond, and negotiate for their freedom. Due to a storm on August 30, they were unable to attack. What became known as Gabriel's slave conspiracy became public knowledge.[62]

On October 15, 1799, as some slaves revolted and killed the traders.[59] According to Scheer's article on the subject, a nearby slave patrol responded and killed ten slaves on the spot in extrajudicial killings without the benefit of trial. Of the initial group, the patrol took five slaves alive. They were tried in an oyer and terminer court without the benefit of a jury,[60] and four were convicted. (The fifth pleaded benefit of clergy and was flogged and branded). Governor Monroe postponed the slaves' executions to check their identities; he granted a pardon to one, and allowed two to hang. The fourth died in jail from exposure to the cold. Scheer says that Monroe "help[ed] secure a modicum of civil protection for slaves sentenced to death for capital crimes."[61]

Monroe owned dozens of slaves. According to William Seale, he took several slaves with him to Washington to serve at the White House from 1817 to 1825. This was typical of other slaveholders, as Congress did not provide for domestic staff of the presidents at that time.[58]


"If we persevere...we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence...My fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor."[57]

Monroe may have believed in an interactive God for he said:

As Secretary of State, Monroe dismissed Mordecai Manuel Noah in 1815 from his post as consul to Tunis because he was Jewish.[55] Noah protested and gained letters from Adams, Jefferson, and Madison supporting church-state separation and tolerance for Jews.[56]

Monroe was raised in a family that belonged to the Church of England when it was the state church in Virginia before the Revolution. As an adult, he frequently attended Episcopal churches, though there is no record he ever took communion. Some historians see "deistic tendencies" in his few references to an impersonal God.[53] Unlike Jefferson, Monroe was rarely attacked as an atheist or infidel. In 1832 James Renwick Willson, a Reformed Presbyterian minister in Albany, New York, criticized Monroe for having "lived and died like a second-rate Athenian philosopher."[54]

"When it comes to Monroe's thoughts on religion," Bliss Isely notes, "less is known than that of any other President." No letters survive in which he discussed his religious beliefs. Nor did his friends, family or associates comment on his beliefs. Letters that do survive, such as ones written after the death of his son, contain no discussion of religion.[52]

Religious beliefs

Monroe died there from heart failure and tuberculosis on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third president to have died on Independence Day, July 4. His death came 55 years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was proclaimed and 5 years after the death of two other Founding Fathers who became Presidents: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Monroe was originally buried in New York at the Gouverneur family's vault in the New York City Marble Cemetery. Twenty-seven years later, in 1858, the body was re-interred to the President's Circle at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. The James Monroe Tomb is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Upon Elizabeth's death in 1830, Monroe moved to New York City to live with his daughter Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur who had married Samuel L. Gouverneur in the White House. Monroe's health began to slowly fail by the end of the 1820s and John Quincy Adams visited him there in April 1831.[51] Adams found him alert and eager to discuss the situation in Europe, but in ill health. Adams cut the visit short when he thought he was tiring Monroe.

Monroe's grave at Hollywood Cemetery. John Tyler's grave is visible in the background.


He and his wife lived in Oak Hill, Virginia, until Elizabeth's death on September 23, 1830. In August 1825, the Monroes had received the Marquis de Lafayette and President John Quincy Adams as guests there.[50]

Monroe had racked up many debts during his years of public life. He sold off his Highland Plantation (now called Ash Lawn-Highland). It is now owned by his alma mater, the College of William and Mary, which has opened it to the public as an historic site. Throughout his life, he was not financially solvent, and his wife's poor health made matters worse.[49]

When his presidency ended on March 4, 1825, James Monroe resided at Monroe Hill, what is now included in the grounds of the University of Virginia. He had operated the family farm from 1788 to 1817, but sold it in the first year of his presidency to the new college. He served on the college's Board of Visitors under Jefferson and under the second rector James Madison, both former presidents, almost until his death.

Monroe once owned a farm at the location of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville


States admitted to the Union

Monroe appointed one Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, Smith Thompson. He appointed 21 other federal judges, all to United States district courts, as no vacancies occurred on the one circuit court existing at the time.

Judicial appointments

The Monroe Cabinet
Office Name Term
President James Monroe 1817–1825
Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins 1817–1825
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams 1817–1825
Secretary of Treasury William H. Crawford 1817–1825
Secretary of War John C. Calhoun 1817–1825
Attorney General Richard Rush 1817
William Wirt 1817–1825
Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield 1817–1818
Smith Thompson 1819–1823
Samuel L. Southard 1823–1825

the State Department, and Clay turned down the War Department and remained Speaker of the House, so Monroe lacked an outstanding westerner in his cabinet. Henry Clay Monroe decided on political grounds not to offer [48]

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