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James Monroe
5th U.S. President
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States, serving between 1817 and 1825. Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States and the last president from the Virginian dynasty and the Republican Generation. Wikipedia
Born: April 28, 1758, Monroe Hall, Virginia, VA
Died: July 4, 1831, New York City, NY
Succeeded by: John Quincy Adams
Presidential term: March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
Party: Democratic-Republican Party
Spouse: Elizabeth Monroe (m. 1786–1830)

James Monroe's Presidency
James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, oversaw the major westward expansion of the U.S. and strengthened American foreign policy in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, a warning to European countries against further colonization and intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe, a Virginia native, fought with the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) then embarked on a long political career. A protégé of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Monroe was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as a U.S. senator, governor of Virginia and minister to France and Great Britain. In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S. As president, he acquired Florida, and also dealt with the contentious issue of slavery in new states joining the Union with the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Spence Monroe (1727-74), a farmer and carpenter, and Elizabeth Jones Monroe (1730-74). In 1774, at age 16, Monroe entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He cut his college studies short in 1776 to join the Continental Army and fight for independence from Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83).

Did You Know?
Monrovia, the capital of the West African country Liberia, is named after James Monroe. As president, Monroe supported the work of the American Colonization Society to create a home for freed African slaves in Liberia.

During the war, Monroe saw action in battles in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He was wounded at the Battle of Trenton, New Jersey, in 1776, and was with General George Washington (1732-99) and his troops at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the difficult winter of 1777 to 1778. During his time with the army, Monroe became acquainted with Thomas Jefferson, then the governor of Virginia. In 1780, Monroe began studying law under Jefferson, who would become his political mentor and friend. (Over a decade later, in 1793, Monroe bought a farm, named Highland, located next to Monticello, Jefferson’s Charlottesville, Virginia, estate.)

In 1786, Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright (1768-1830), the teenage daughter of a New York merchant. The couple had two daughters and a son who died as an infant.

Monroe resumed his political career in 1799 when he became governor of Virginia. He held this office for three years until President Thomas Jefferson requested that Monroe returns to France to help negotiate the purchase of the port of New Orleans. In France, Monroe learned that French leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) wanted to sell the entire Louisiana Territory (the land extending between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico to present-day Canada), not only New Orleans, for $15 million. Monroe and the U.S. minister to France, Robert R. Livingston, did not have time to gain presidential approval for such a large purchase. Instead, they approved and signed the Louisiana Purchase agreement themselves in 1803 and effectively doubled the size of the United States.

Monroe, who garnered acclaim for the Louisiana Purchase, then became the minister to Great Britain and drafted a treaty that would help strengthen the bonds between Britain and the U.S. Jefferson, however, did not approve the agreement because it did not stem Britain’s practice of capturing American sailors for its navy. Monroe was upset by Jefferson’s actions and his friendship with both Jefferson and his secretary of state, Madison, soured.

Monroe’s presidency ushered in what was known as the “Era of Good Feelings.” The U.S. had a new sense of confidence from its various victories during the War of 1812 and was growing quickly and offering new opportunities to its citizens. Additionally, fighting between the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists was finally beginning to ebb.

One issue Monroe had to contend with during his first term in office was deteriorating relations with Spain. Conflicts arose between the U.S. military in Georgia and pirates and Native Americans in the Spanish-held territory of Florida. In 1819, Monroe was able to successfully address the problem by negotiating for the purchase of Florida for $5 million, further expanding U.S. territories.

With all the expansion came significant money troubles. Speculators were borrowing large sums of money to purchase land to sell to settlers and banks were leveraging assets they did not have to loan the money. This, along with diminished trade between the U.S. and Europe, led to a four-year economic downturn, known as the Panic of 1819.

Slavery was also becoming a contentious issue during Monroe’s presidency. The North had banned slavery, but the Southern states still supported it. In 1818, Missouri wanted to join the Union; the North wanted it to be declared a free state while the South wanted it to be a slave state. Finally, an agreement was made allowing Missouri to join the Union as a slave state and Maine to join as a free state. The Missouri Compromise soon followed, outlawing slavery in the Louisiana Territory above the parallel 36°30′ north, excluding the state of Missouri. Although Monroe did not think Congress had the constitutional authority to impose such conditions on Missouri’s admission to the Union, he signed the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to avoid civil war.

In 1820, though the U.S. economy was suffering, Monroe ran unopposed and was elected to a second term as president. During this term, he wanted to exert the growing power of the U.S. in the world arena and make a statement of support for free governments in the Americas. Monroe was helped greatly by foreign policy by his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848). With Adams’ assistance, Monroe addressed Congress in 1823 with what became known as his Monroe Doctrine, which in part developed out of his concern that European powers would want to re-establish Spanish control of South America.

Also, Monroe continued to lead the U.S. in expanding westward across the continent. He helped build transportation infrastructure and laid the foundation for America to become a world power. Five states entered the Union during Monroe’s time in office: Mississippi (1817), Illinois (1818), Alabama (1819), Maine (1820) and Missouri (1821).

In 1825, Monroe left office and retired to Virginia, where he helped preside over a new state constitution in 1829. After his wife died in 1830, Monroe moved in with his daughter in New York City, where he died on July 4, 1831, at age 73. His passing came exactly five years after the deaths of fellow presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (1735-1826). In 1858, Monroe’s body was re-interred at the Hollywood Cemetery in his home state of Virginia.