HistoryJames Monroe

Biography of James Monroe

by John Vanderlyn

The fifth president of the United States of America and the last President from the founding fathers, James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland county, Virginia. His parents were Elizabeth Jones Monroe and Spence Monroe who were a bountiful planter.

His father was a descendant of soldiers during the time of Charles I during English Civil War and were exiled in Virginia in 1649; meanwhile, his mother came from a Welsh descent.

James Monroe’s Education

James entered a school ran by Reverend Archibald Campbell at the age of 11. He overlapped with the John Marshall who became a chief justice of the USA during his stay on that school.

James attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774. He did not stay for long since he together with some the students fled to join the Continental Army in 1775 to fight in the American Revolution serving as a Second Lieutenant under Colonel Hugh Mercer in the 3rd Virginia Regiment.

Around 1780, he started to study law with the help of the Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson.

James Monroe’s Early Career

A couple of years after studying law, in 1782, his political career began to blossom when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and a year later, served in the Congress under the Articles of the Confederation, which was the first written constitution in the United States until 1786. 

That same year, he married his young wife, Elizabeth Kortwright from New York who was only 17 at the time of their marriage. The newly wed moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia where he practiced law. A year after, he was chosen to become a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and got involved in numerous ratifications of the new federal constitution.

He was elected as a senator in 1790. In 1794, he was appointed by President George Washington as the ambassador to France until 1796.

In the spring of 1797, James returned to the United States of America and published a 500-page pamphlet entitled A View of the Conduct of the Executive, in the Foreign Affairs of the United States. He was elected as Governor of Virginia from in 1799 and was reelected twice. He served as a governor until 1802.

James Monroe’s Road to the White House

Charging from all of James’ prior experiences, he resolved an impending war regarding the purchase of the Louisiana Territory After resolving the matter in a peaceful dealing, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Britain from 1803 to 1807 with a brief period of working as a special emissary to Spain in 1805.

He shortly served as the governor of Virginia again in 1811. In due course, he was chosen to serve as Secretary of State under President James Madison.

The troubled foreign affairs sparked the war of 1812. The British charged to Washington D.C. and torched most of the government establishments. After the capture of Washington D.C. in September 27, 1814, he held another cabinet position as he was appointed as the Secretary of War.

James became popular with the new generation of war veterans due to his leadership, fondness and respect. He was elected as president of the United States as the Republican candidate and won against the Federalist candidate, Rufus King.

James Monroe’s Presidency

On March 4, 1817, he sworn into office and was the first president to have his ceremony outdoors and gave his inaugural speech to the public. His presidency was known as the “Era of Good Feelings”. The U.S. carries the sense of pride and confidence after its victory against the British. The economy is rapidly growing, offering opportunities to its citizens.

In 1819, James successfully negotiated the purchase of Florida for $5 million to further expand the U.S. territories. Eventually, due to the expansion, money became a significant problem. It let to the four years of truncated economy known as the Panic of 1819.

Slavery became another contentious issue that surfaced during his presidency. It was peacefully settled as he signed the Missouri Compromise in 1820 which eventually eliminated and resolved slavery in Missouri and avoid a possible civil war.

Even though the economy was suffering, he was elected to a second term as president. In his second term, with the assistance of John Quincy Adams, had authored the Monroe Doctrine.

Due to expansion matters, attempts to colonize the Western Hemisphere and prevent European countries to intercede the American continent, the Monroe Doctrine was created to showcase an established relationship between United States, Central and South America. It includes the opportunity in investing in Latin America and if necessary, military involvement.

After his second term in 1825, James Monroe returned to Virginia. In 1829, he continued to help presiding over new constitutions. After the death of his wife in 1830, James moved to New York with his daughter, where he died on July 4, 1831 at the age of 73.

James Monroe was one of the most qualified men to came to presidency. His legacy still lives on as one of the leaders who shaped this fragile country into an influential and prevailing nation.

 

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