Portrait of President James Monroe.


5th President, 1817–1825

Party Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Chief 1816 Opponent: Rufus King (Federalist) Chief 1820 Opponent: None


Where and when was James Monroe born?

James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Spence Monroe and Elizabeth James Monroe on April 28, 1758.

What was his father’s occupation?

Spence Monroe was a carpenter and a farmer.

Who were James Monroe’s siblings?

He had four siblings—a sister named Elizabeth Monroe Buckner and three brothers named Spence Jr., Andrew, and Joseph. Spence died at age one, while Andrew and Joseph lived longer lives.

Where did James receive his early education?

James received homeschooling until age eleven. After that, he studied at Campbell town Academy, a prestigious school headed by Reverend Archibald Campbell. John Marshall, the future fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was one of his young classmates at the academy. At age sixteen, Monroe entered The College of William & Mary. He dropped out of college to fight in the Revolutionary War. 

What family member assisted Monroe in his education and upbringing?

Monroe’s father died in 1774 when James was only sixteen years old. James, as the eldest son, had the responsibility of providing for the education and care of his younger siblings. James turned for help to his uncle, Joseph Jones. Jones was a judge in Fredericksburg who had no children of his own at the time. Judge Jones had a special bond with his young nephew and provided him with key guidance for many years. Judge Jones later served on the Virginia Supreme Court and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Jones’s connections proved vital to his young nephew’s later political successes 

Who was his wife?

Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright on February 16, 1786, in New York, New York. Elizabeth was the product of a wealthy family, as her father, Captain Lawrence Kort- right made a sizeable fortune during the French and Indian War.

Did he have any children?

Yes, James and Elizabeth had three children: Eliza, James, and Maria. James died at age two, while the two daughters lived into adulthood.


What incident in college was a precursor to Monroe’s military career?

Monroe joined a group of twenty-four young men led by Theodorick Bland Jr. that marched on the governor’s palace, protesting his connection to the British government. The young men removed two hundred muskets and three hundred swords from the palace and gave them to the local militia.

When did Monroe turn to a military career?

Monroe and his college roommate John F. Mercer left William & Mary in the spring of 1776 and joined the Third Virginia Infantry. Monroe and Mercer were commissioned as lieutenants.


Who was the first general under whom Monroe received training?

Monroe received training under General Andrew Lewis, who had served under George Washington at Fort Necessity during the French and Indian War. He later led expeditions against the Shawnee Indians and was considered a first-rate military commander.

What was Monroe’s war experience?

Monroe served in the Virginia Regiment and later in the Continental Army. The Third Virginia Infantry later met up with General George Washington. Monroe was serving under Washington during the Battle of Trenton. In this battle, Monroe suffered a gunshot wound after leading the troops into battle. Fortunately, Dr. Riker saved Monroe and stopped the severe bleeding. After his bravery at the battle, Monroe was promoted to the rank of captain. He had to take three months off to heal.

He returned to camp as a major, under the command of William Alexander, a brigade commander for George Washington. Monroe served during the rough winter of Valley Forge. For his service, Washington sent a positive letter of recommendation to Virginia officials, who named Monroe a lieutenant-colonel in the Virginia Regiment. However, he had no cadre of soldiers to lead and later transitioned to a career in politics.

Monroe remained very proud of his military service throughout his life. Even while he was president, he preferred the title “colonel.” He even donned a blue tunic like the one worn by General Washington during the time of the Revolutionary War.

What did Monroe do after the war but before he entered politics?

Monroe studied law under Thomas Jefferson for three years from 1780 until 1783. Jefferson was quite fond of Monroe and spoke of his protégé in glowing terms: “Turn his soul wrong side outwards and there is not a speck on it.” He then practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.


What was Monroe’s first political position?

Monroe served in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782 after being elected at age twenty-four.

What experiences did Monroe have during his time with the Confederation Congress?

Monroe served the Confederation Congress—the congress set forth by the Articles o Confederation—for three years beginning in 1783. During this time, Monroe traveled out west toward the Great Lakes area. He learned a great deal during this trip and later developed a plan for adding territories to the United States. Some of his ideas later culminated in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Who defeated Monroe in a run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives?

Monroe lost to fellow Virginian and friend James Madison in 1789 for a House of Representative position. Monroe lost to Madison by 330 votes. However, Monroe rebounded to win a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1790.

Why did Monroe leave the Senate?

Monroe left the Senate after President George Washington appointed him as a minister to France in 1794. During his time as minister to France, Monroe negotiated the release of Thomas Paine, the American writer who authored Common Sense. Monroe also obtained the release of other American prisoners in France. However, Monroe objected to U.S. foreign policy and the Jay Treaty, which he felt too closely aligned American interests with Great Britain as opposed to France. Washington discharged him from his position.

What was Monroe’s next political position?

After leaving the minister to France position, Monroe practiced law until he was elected governor of Virginia in 1799. Monroe quelled the slave rebellion led by Gabriel during his time as governor.

What was Monroe’s role during the Jefferson presidency?

In 1803, Jefferson appointed Monroe minister plenipotentiary to France and instructed him to negotiate with French leaders for the purchase of New Orleans. Along with Robert Livingstone, Monroe negotiated what became known as the Louisiana Purchase.

What were James Monroe’s positions during the Madison administration?

James Monroe served as James Madison’s trusted secretary of state but also filled in as secretary of war after the resignation of John Armstrong. He is the only person in his- tory to serve as both secretary of state and secretary of war simultaneously.


Whom did Monroe defeat in the election of 1816?

Monroe trounced Federalist Rufus King during the election of 1816. King was a former signer of the U.S. Constitution, a former U.S. senator from New York and a former Federalist candidate for vice president before running for president in 1816. Mon- roe soundly defeated King by an electoral vote landslide of 183 to 34.

What treaty helped soothe relations between the U.S. and Britain in Monroe’s first year of office?

The two countries signed the Rush-Bagot treaty in 1817, which demilitarized the Great Lakes area by the northern border of the U.S. This had been a hotly contested area of military conflict during the War of 1812. Under the treaty, each side would remove military posts and a border was established between the U.S. and British territory (later Canada). The treaty was named after U.S. Secretary of State Richard Rush and British minister Sir Charles Bagot.

What members of Monroe’s cabinet later ran for president?

Monroe’s secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, later became his successor and the sixth president of the United States. His secretary of the treasury, William H. Craw- ford, ran against Quincy Adams and others during the election of 1824. Monroe’s attorney general, William Wirt, ran as a minor third-party candidate during the election of 1832.

What was “The Era of Good Feelings”?

”The Era of Good Feelings” was a time period of relative domestic and political calm, often used to describe the time period of much of the Monroe presidency. Benjamin Rus- sell, a journalist with the Boston newspaper the Columbian Centinel, coined the term after President Monroe visited the New England area to quell any sectional differences.

What was the Panic of 1819?

The Panic of 1819 was a major financial crisis marked by mortgage foreclosures, inflation, and banks recalling loans. The federal government and Monroe responded with the Land Act of 1820, which helped alleviate some of the financial pressure.


What treaty at least temporarily averted national problems over the slavery question?

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 at least temporarily averted a national battle between pro-slave and anti-slave states. The controversy arose in 1819 when the territory of Missouri applied for statehood. Representative James Tallmadge Jr. of New York introduced an amendment that would prohibit slavery in Missouri. The Missouri Compromise allowed slavery in Missouri and land south of Missouri, but prohibited slavery in lands in the northern half of the U.S., roughly the latitude of Missouri.

Who did Monroe defeat to win his second term as president?

Monroe had no opposition in his second term. He received a near-unanimous vote in the electoral college. One elector, William Plumer of New Hampshire, cast a vote for John Quincy Adams—without the approval of Adams.

What state did Monroe acquire from Spain?

President Monroe obtained what is now the state of Florida from Spain in February 1819 under the Adams-Onis Treaty. The treaty was named after U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and Spanish foreign minister Luis de Onis. Under the treaty, Spain ceded Florida to the United States and the two countries set the southern borders of the United States and established that U.S. territory extended out to the Pacific Ocean.

Whom did Monroe send to deal with the Seminole Indians on the Georgia–Florida border?

Monroe sent General Andrew Jackson down to the border to deal with the Seminole Indians, who had conducted a series of raids in southern Georgia. Jackson exceeded Monroe’s orders and traveled into Florida, going so far as to order the hanging of two British subjects who Jackson claimed were inciting the Seminole attacks.

What countries to the south of the United States did President Monroe and the United States recognize?

The United States recognized Mexico as an independent country in December 1822 and Argentina in January 1823. Both were former Spanish colonies.

What was the Monroe Doctrine?

The Monroe Doctrine was a foreign policy statement announced by President Monroe during his seventh annual address to Congress delivered in December 1823. The doctrine established that the United States would not interfere with developments on the European continent, but that the United States would oppose vigorously any attempt by European countries with suspicion and “as dangerous to our peace and safety.” Historians have lauded the doctrine as one of the most significant statements in the history of American foreign policy.

What foreign capital city is named after James Monroe?

Monrovia, the capital city of the West African country Liberia, is named after President James Monroe. The president had favored the colonization of the area and had been a supporter of the American Colonization Society, which advocated resettling freed blacks from the United States in West Africa.

What was Monroe’s policy toward Native Americans?

Monroe supported a policy that would protect the rights of Native Americans to land. In his first inaugural address, he said: “With the Indian tribes it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations and to act with kindness and liberality in all our transactions.” He advocated a policy that would set aside land for the Native Americans—a policy some of his successors did not follow.

Who were Monroe’s U.S. Supreme Court appointees?

Monroe had the opportunity to nominate only one person to the U.S. Supreme Court even though he was a two-term president. He nominated Smith Thompson, who had served on the New York State Supreme Court and as United States secretary of the navy under Mon- roe. Thompson served on the High Court for twenty years until his death in 1843.


After the presidency what did Monroe do?

President Monroe spent much of their time at his estate, Oak Hill. He spent a great deal of time with his friend James Madison. He also spent a great deal of time reading in his library, which contained more than three thousand books. Unfortunately, Monroe’s financial situation had deteriorated over the years and he had to sell off some of his lands to pay off debts. He applied to recover monies from the federal government for his years of service, finally receiving a congressional grant of $30,000—less than half the sum recommended by a congressional committee.

President Monroe also provided service to the University of Virginia, where he worked with Presidents Jefferson and Madison. He committed himself to write, including The Political Writings of James Monroe.

When did President Monroe die?

President Monroe died in New York, New York, on July 4, 1831. Ironically, he died on the same day—July fourth—as Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

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