James Monroe

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Portrait, James MonroeJames Monroe 5th President of the United States (March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1825) Nicknames: “The Last Cocked Hat”; “Era-of-Good-Feeling President” Born: April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia Died: July 4, 1831, in New York, New York

Father: Spence Monroe Mother: Elizabeth Jones Monroe Married: Elizabeth “Eliza” Kortright Monroe (1768-1830), on February 16, 1786 Children: Eliza Kortright Monroe (1786-1835); James Spence Monroe (1799-1800); Maria Hester Monroe (1803-50) Religion: Episcopalian Education: Graduated from College of William and Mary (1776) Occupation: Lawyer Political Party: Democratic-Republican Other Government Positions:

  • Member of Continental Congress, 1783-86
  • United States Senator, 1790-94
  • Minister to France, 1794-96
  • Governor of Virginia, 1799-1802
  • Minister to France and England, 1803-07
  • Secretary of State, 1811-17 (under tiny U.S. flag Madison)
  • Secretary of War, 1814-15 (under tiny U.S. flag Madison)

Presidential Salary: $25,000/year James Monroe was the last of the US presidents to have taken part in the Revolutionary War. Soon after joining the Continental Army at 18 (cutting short his studies at the College of William and Mary), he took part in, and was wounded during the pivotal Battle of Trenton. Having met tiny U.S. flagThomas Jefferson whilst in the army, after the war Monroe studied law under his tutelage, forging a close relationship with him and through him, with tiny U.S. flag James Madison as well.  Monroe embarked on a long and eventful political career that saw him become the governor of Virginia and then dispatched in a diplomatic capacity to France and Great Britain. He helped negotiate the crucial Louisiana Purchase and a few eventually unratified treaties with Britain. Prior to becoming president, Monroe also served as Secretary of State under old friend James Madison. He held this critical office governing foreign policy jointly with that of the Secretary of War during the War of 1812 against Great Britain and her allies.  Taking office during a time dubbed the “Era of Good Feelings” due to burgeoning nationalist pride following the war, Madison oversaw a period when internal divides over the question of slavery began to occupy much public debate fueled by increased expansion to the West. The expansion also led to the US’ first financial crisis, the Panic of 1817. Tensions with European states too were at a high resulting in the Spanish surrender of the territory of Florida and the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine.

Presidential Election Results:
YearElectoral Votes
1816James Monroe183
Rufus King34
(Votes Not Cast)4
1820James Monroe231
tiny U.S. flag John Q. Adams1
(Votes Not Cast)3

Vice President: Daniel D. Tompkins (1817-1825) Cabinet:

Secretary of State
tiny U.S. flag John Quincy Adams (1817-25) [Won the 1824 presidential race. He was the oldest son of tiny U.S. flag John Adams, the second POTUS.]
Secretary of the Treasury
William H. Crawford (1817-25) [Was the Democratic-Republican candidate for president in the 1824 elections. He lost to fellow cabinet member tiny U.S. flag John Quincy Adams.]
Secretary of War
John C. Calhoun (1817-25) [Was an outspoken advocate for slavery and the rights of states to continue the institution. Also created the Bureau of Indian Affairs]
Attorney General
Richard Rush (1817)
William Wirt (1817-25)
Secretary of the Navy
Benjamin W. Crowninshield (1817-18)
Smith Thompson (1819-23)
Samuel L. Southard (1823-25)

Supreme Court Appointments:

Associate Justice
Smith Thompson (1823-43)

Notable Events:

  • 1817
    • President Monroe embarks on his first national tour.
    • A position of neutrality is adopted in the case of Latin American countries fighting for independence.
    • Mississippi is granted statehood.
    • The First Seminole War begins.
  • 1818
    • The number of stripes on the U.S. flag is set at 13 by Congress to honor the original colonies.
    • The Anglo-American Convention sets the border with Canada at the 49th parallel.
    • Illinois and Alabama become states in the Union.
  • 1819
    • The Panic of 1819 grips the country.
    • Debates on the nature of Missouri’s statehood begin in Congress.
    • Florida is ceded by Spain to the United States as part of the Transcontinental Treaty. The U.S. cancels Spain’s $5 million debt.
  • 1820
  • 1821
    • Missouri is admitted to the Union as a state.
  • 1823
  • 1824

Internet Biographies:

James Monroe — from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
James Monroe — from American Presidents: Life Portraits — C-SPAN
Biographical information, trivia, key events, video, and other reference materials. Website created to accompany C-SPAN’s 20th Anniversary Television Series, American Presidents: Life Portraits.
James Monroe — from U.S. Presidents
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.

Historical Documents:

First Inaugural Address (1817)
Second Inaugural Address (1821)
Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Other Internet Resources:

Ash Lawn — Highland
The Virginia home of James Madison from 1799-1826. Contains a short biography of the president, tourist information, and interior photographs of the estate.
James Monroe Museum & Memorial Library
Tourist and exhibit information about the museum, run by the University of Mary Washington.

Points of Interest:

  • Monroe was the first president to ride on a steamboat.
  • At sixteen years old, Monroe attended the college of William and Mary.
  • He was the first president to have been a U.S. senator.
  • James Monroe was the last of the “Founding Father presidents”.
  • In the election of 1820 Monroe received every electoral vote except one. A New Hampshire delegate wanted tiny U.S. flag Washington to be the only president elected unanimously.
  • Monroe’s inauguration in 1817 was the first to be held outdoors.
  • The bride in the first White House wedding was Monroe’s daughter.
  • The U.S. Marine Band played at Monroe’s 1821 inauguration and at every inauguration since.


  • Did James Monroe support slavery?

While he was a slave owner himself, James Monroe recognized the institution of slavery as a threat to the unity and strength of the country. As governor of Virginia, he struggled between treating those who planned a slave insurrection (called Gabriel’s rebellion) with mercy or severity. Over his years as diplomat, and throughout his presidency, James Monroe supported the idea of colonization (transporting enslaved African-Americans to colonies in Africa) and a solution to the issue. In fact, the capital of Liberia, a country resulting from such colonization, was named Monrovia after him.  However, he presided over multiple enslaved households (including the White House) throughout his life, having been born into a wealthy slave-owning family, and being dependent on their labor on his farm properties. The only record of him having freed a slave is his deathbed wish that his manservant named Peter Marks be freed and then employed.

  • What is the Monroe Doctrine?

The Monroe Doctrine is a principle of foreign policy formulated by James Monroe with his Secretary of State John Adams Quincy in 1823. It articulates US intention to stay out of Europe’s internal political matters, and it calls upon the European powers to not attempt further colonization in the Western hemisphere.  The principle was not immediately referred to as the Monroe Doctrine. The name was given about 30 years later, during the presidency of James Polk, and has been an important element of the US’ foreign policy since then.

  • What role did James Monroe play during the War of 1812?

James Monroe was the Secretary of State when the War of 1812 was declared (which he supported). Two years later he was also made the War Secretary, and served both roles simultaneously. Under his instruction, John Adams Quincy travelled to Ghent to negotiate the end of the war. James Monroe’s leadership during the war helped him win the election in 1816.

  • What is the Missouri Compromise?

The Missouri Compromise is the bill that admitted the states of Missouri and Maine to the Union, the first as a slave state, and the second as a free state. It also prohibited slavery in all other states above the 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude (roughly the southern border of Missouri).

Related Resources:

Previous President: tiny U.S. flag James Madison | Next President: tiny U.S. flag John Quincy Adams

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