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, the third of them to die on Independence Day, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation. 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 injured 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.
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". 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.
1 Early life
1.2 Military service,
2 Marriage and family,
3 Plantations and slavery,
4 Early political career
4.1 Virginia politics,
4.2 Ambassador to France,
5 Governor of Virginia and Diplomat
5.1 1808 election and the Quids,
6 Secretary of State and Secretary of War,
7 Presidential elections of 1816 and 1820,
8.1 Domestic politics
8.1.1 Republican Party dominance,
8.1.2 Domestic troubles,
8.1.3 Cumberland Road,
8.1.4 Indigenous American Policies,
8.2 Foreign policy
8.2.1 Spanish Florida,
8.2.2 Monroe Doctrine,
8.3 Administration and Cabinet,
8.4 Judicial appointments,
8.5 States admitted to the Union,
11 Religious beliefs,
13 Legacy and memory,
14 See also,
18 External links,
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. 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.
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.
First tutored at home by his mother Elizabeth, between the ages of 11 and 16, the young Monroe studied at Campbelltown Academy, a school run by the Reverend Archibald Campbell of Washington Parish. There he excelled as a pupil and progressed through Latin and mathematics at a rate faster than that of 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 plantation and slaves, officially joining the ruling class of the planter elite in what had become the slave society of Virginia. Sixteen years old, he began forming a close relationship with his maternal uncle, the influential Judge Joseph Jones, who had been educated at the Inns of Court in London and was the executor of his father's estate. That same year, Monroe enrolled in the College of William and Mary. At the time, most students were charged with excitement over the prospect of rebellion against King George.
In the spring of 1775, Monroe dropped out of college and joined the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Continental Army where, as a planter, he was commissioned as an officer. He never returned to earn a degree. In June 1775, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Monroe joined 24 older men in raiding the arsenal at the Governor's Palace. They used the loot of 200 muskets and 300 swords to arm the Williamsburg militia.
Although Andrew Jackson served as a courier in a militia unit at age thirteen, Monroe is regarded as the last U.S. President who was a Revolutionary War veteran, since he served as an officer of the Continental Army and took part in combat. He served with distinction at the Battle of Trenton, where he was shot in his left shoulder. He spent 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 flag.
He left the war, and between 1780 and 1783, Monroe studied law as a legal apprentice under Thomas Jefferson. 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. After passing the bar, he practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Marriage and family:
James Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (1768-1830), 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 George Hay in 1808 and substituted for her ailing mother as official White House hostess for her father's presidential events.,
James Spence Monroe (1799-1801) - his grave reads "J.S. Monroe", so the proper names are speculative but typical of naming patterns of the time, which passed on family names.,
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.,
Plantations and slavery:
He 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 lifestyle and often sold property (including slaves) to pay them off.
Monroe was a wealthy Loudoun County plantation owner who owned numerous slave plantations including "Oak Hill". Monroe was an absentee slaveholder in that he had his overseers run the plantations while he lived elsewhere. Overseers moved or separated slave families from different Monroe plantations in accordance with production and maintenance needs of each satellite plantation. One of Monroe's slaves was named Daniel, who often ran away from Monroe's plantation in Albermarle County, to visit other slaves or separated family members. Monroe commonly referred to Daniel as a "scoundrel" and described the "worthlessness" of Daniel as a runaway slave. Monroe's allowance of moving and separating slave families was common treatment of slaves in the South.
Early political career:
Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782. After serving for the Continental legislature, he was elected to the Fourth Continental Congress in November 1783. He was also elected to and served in the Fifth and Sixth Congresses, serving for a total of three years where he finally retired from that office by the rule of rotation. In those years, the government was meeting in the temporary capital of New York City.
In Virginia, the struggle in 1788 over the ratification of the proposed new 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. George Washington and James Madison were leading supporters; Patrick Henry and George Mason were leading opponents. Those who held the middle ground in the ideological struggle became the central figures. Led by Monroe and 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.
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.
Ambassador to France:
Monroe resigned his Senate seat after being appointed Minister to France in 1794. 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.
Monroe arranged to free all the Americans held in French prisons. He also gained the freedom of Madame Adrienne Lafayette 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.
A strong friend of the French Revolution, Monroe tried to assure France that Washington's policy of strict neutrality did not favor Britain. But American policy had come to favor Britain, and Monroe was stunned by the United States' signing 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."
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. 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.
Governor of Virginia and Diplomat:
Out of office, Monroe returned to practicing law in Virginia until elected governor there as a Republican, his first term serving from 1799 to 1802. He was reelected Virginia's governor four times. 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. Federalists were likewise suspicious of Monroe, some seeing him as at best a French dupe and at worst a traitor.
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.
1808 election and the Quids:
The 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 Republicans overcame the Quids in the Republican 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.
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. 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.
Presidential elections of 1816 and 1820:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1816
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1820
The congressional nominating caucus experienced little opposition during the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, but this situation changed in the election year of 1816. An indeterminate number of anti-Virginia Republicans, led by the New York delegation, objected to the caucus system along with the Federalists. Disorganization and failure to agree on 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. With the Federalist Party in disarray due to the unpopularity of their opposition to the War of 1812, Monroe easily won election. The Federalists did not even name a candidate, though Rufus King of New York did run in opposition to Monroe under the Federalist banner. King carried only Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts and won only 34 of 217 electoral votes cast.
The collapse of the Federalists left Monroe with no organized opposition at the end of his first term, and he ran for reelection unopposed, 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.
Republican Party dominance:
Monroe largely ignored old party lines in making appointments to lower posts, which reduced political tensions and enabled the "Era of Good Feelings", which lasted through his administration. He made two long national tours in 1817 to build national trust. Frequent stops on these tours allowed innumerable ceremonies of welcome and expressions of good will. The Federalist Party continued to fade away during his administration; it maintained its vitality and organizational integrity in Delaware and a few localities, but was no longer a national factor. Lacking serious opposition, the Republican party's Congressional caucus stopped meeting, and for practical purposes the Republican Party stopped operating.
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 U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Dred Scott decision.
Congress demanded high subsidies for internal improvements, such as for the improvement of the Cumberland Road, during Monroe's presidency. 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.
Indigenous American Policies:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole_Wars
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.
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." His proposals to speed up the assimilation process were ignored by Congress.
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 in claims and the relinquishment of any claims to Texas. Florida was ceded to the U.S. in 1821.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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. Monroe and Adams realized that American recognition would not protect the new countries against military intervention to restore Spain's power. In October 1823, Richard Rush, the American minister in London, advised that Foreign Secretary George Canning was proposing that the U.S. and Britain jointly declare their opposition to European intervention. Britain, with its powerful navy, also opposed re-conquest of 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.
Administration and Cabinet:
Monroe made balanced Cabinet choices, naming a southerner, John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, and a northerner, John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State. Both proved outstanding, as Adams was a master diplomat and Calhoun completely reorganized the War Department to overcome the serious deficiencies that had hobbled it during the war of 1812. Monroe decided on political grounds not to offer Henry Clay 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.
The Monroe Cabinet
Daniel D. Tompkins
Secretary of State
John Quincy Adams
Secretary of Treasury
William H. Crawford
Secretary of War
John C. Calhoun
Secretary of the Navy
Benjamin W. Crowninshield
Samuel L. Southard
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_judges_appointed_by_James_Monroe
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.
States admitted to the Union:
Mississippi - December 10, 1817,
Illinois - December 13, 1818,
Alabama - December 14, 1819,
Maine - March 15, 1820,
Missouri - August 10, 1821,
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 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.
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.
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. 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 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.
"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.
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. 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."
As Secretary of State, Monroe dismissed Mordecai Manuel Noah in 1815 from his post as consul to Tunis because he was Jewish. Noah protested and gained letters from Adams, Jefferson, and Madison supporting church-state separation and tolerance for Jews.
Monroe may have believed in an interactive God for he said:
"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."1
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.
On October 15, 1799, as some slave traders tried to transport a group of slaves from Southampton to Georgia, the slaves revolted and killed the traders. 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, 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 "helped secure a modicum of civil protection for slaves sentenced to death for capital crimes."
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.
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. Monroe influenced the Executive Council to pardon and sell some slaves instead of hanging them. 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.
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."
Monroe was part of the American Colonization Society formed in 1816, which members included Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson. They found common ground with some abolitionists in supporting colonization. They helped send several thousand freed slaves to the new colony of Liberia in Africa from 1820 to 1840. Slave owners like Monroe and Jackson wanted to prevent free blacks from encouraging slaves in the South to rebel. With about $100,000 in Federal grant money, the organization also bought land for the freedmen in what is today Liberia. The capital of Liberia was named Monrovia after President Monroe.
Legacy and memory:
Since its 1824 renaming in his honor, the capital city of the West African country of Liberia has been named Monrovia. It is the only non-American capital city named after a U.S. President.,
On December 12, 1954, the United States Postal Service released a 5¢ Liberty Issue postage stamp honoring Monroe.,
There are academic buildings named after him at the University of Mary Washington, College of William and Mary, George Mason University, and George Washington University.,
The City of Monroe, Michigan is also named for him.,
Monroe County, Pennsylvania, created in 1836, is named for him.,
The City of Monroe, Georgia, incorporated in 1821, is named for him.,
The Township of Monroe, in central New Jersey, founded in 1838, bears his name as well.,
Monroe was the last U.S. President to wear a powdered wig tied in a queue, a tricorne and knee breeches according to the old-fashioned style of the 18th century. That gained him the nickname "The Last Cocked Hat".,
Monroe is the last president who had never been photographed and whose portraits are preserved today only on paintings.,
Monroe was the third consecutive President elected to two consecutive terms, which would not occur again until 2012.,
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.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license