James Monroe


James Monroe was born in Virginia, where he studied at Campbelltown Academy for five years. At age sixteen, both parents passed away, and he inherited the family fortune before attending the College of William and Mary that same year. By 1775, however, patriotic fervor on the campus had risen to unprecedented levels, and after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Monroe joined a group of older men in raiding the arsenal of the residing governor. They returned with 500 weapons, which armed the Williamsburg militia, and that spring, Monroe left the college and served in the Third Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He never returned to school, though he later studied law under Thomas Jefferson, in order to achieve a life of wealth and social standing. Shortly after the conclusion of his sessions with Jefferson, Monroe met and married Elizabeth Kortright, who later gave birth to three children. He retained a lavish lifestyle, but the plantations he later owned fared poorly, and he often had to sell property to pay his debts.

James Monroe
Monroe first entered politics when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, and after concluding his post he served in the Continental Congress. Monroe worried about the absence of a bill of rights in the new Constitution, but the document was still ratified in Virginia in 1788. Two years later, Monroe was elected to the Senate, and after joining with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, he was soon made party leader. Monroe resigned in 1794, when he was appointed Minister to France instead, and while serving as ambassador, he organized the release of all Americans held in French prisons, including Thomas Paine and the Lafayette family. Yet while Monroe attempted to ensure the French that the U.S. would remain politically neutral, America had in fact come to favor Britain, and Washington soon removed Monroe from his post due to inefficiency. Back at home, Monroe continued to favor France and the idea of a strong presidency, two issues that caused him many enemies.

After Jefferson was elected president, he sent Monroe to the Court of St. James in Britain, where he effectively extended the Jay Treaty of 1794. Unfortunately, Jefferson did not approve of the treaty, and relations between the two countries decreased significantly. Monroe was humiliated once more, and upon his return, the Quid faction of the Republican Party attempted to enlist him to their cause and campaign for his election. The Quids failed to maintain support, however, and Madison was elected President. Monroe was made Secretary of State, and, after the War of 1812, Secretary of War as well.

Monroe was himself elected president in 1816, with little competition from the Federalist Party. During his first term, the party, in disarray after the War of 1812, collapsed, and Monroe ran again with no opposition in 1820. Monroe’s administration was nicknamed the “Era of Good Feelings” because it decreased political tensions, and he remained largely popular even after the Panic of 1819 caused a difficult economic depression. He also passed the Missouri Compromise bill, which lasted until 1857. He added Florida to the U.S. in 1821. Two years later, his Monroe Doctrine, actually written by John Quincy Adams, proclaimed the Americas to be free from European colonization and interference.

Monroe’s term in office concluded in 1825, after which he settled on the grounds of the University of Virginia. Upon his wife’s death in 1830, he moved to New York to live with his daughter, where he fell ill and passed away in 1831. He died on the 4th of July, 55 years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed into authority and five years after John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who died within hours of each other on that same date in 1826.

Key events during the life of James Monroe:

Inherited the family fortune after his parents passed away.
  Attended the College of William and Mary.
Raided the Governor’s palace to procure weapons for the Williamsburg militia.
Dropped out of college and joined the 3rd Virginia Regiment.
Studied law under Thomas Jefferson.
Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
Served in the Continental Congress.
Married Elizabeth Kortright.
Virginia ratified the Constitution.
Was elected Senator.
Appointed Minister to France.
Served as governor of Virginia.
Appointed Minister to the Court of St. James in Britain.
Negotiated the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty.
Became Secretary of State.
Became Secretary of War.
Served as President of the United States.
Panic of 1819.
  Missouri Compromise.
Florida was ceded to the U.S.
Monroe Doctrine.
Death of Elizabeth.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Industrial Heroes  in  South America  by  Hezekiah Butterworth
More Land Bought  in  Story of the Great Republic  by  H. A. Guerber
Monroe—Monroe's Famous Doctrine  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
James Monroe  in  True Stories of Our Presidents  by  Charles Morris
Era of Good Feeling  in  American History Stories, Volume III  by  Mara L. Pratt

Image Links

James Monroe
 in Indian History for Young Folks

James Monroe
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

James Monroe as envoy, purchases Louisiana
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

First Six Presidents of the United States
 in True Stories of Our Presidents

Short Biography
John Quincy Adams Diplomat who spent much time in Europe before becoming the sixth U.S. President.
Thomas Jefferson Third President. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Founder of Democrat-Republican Party.
James Madison One of the chief authors of the Constitution and writer of the Federalist papers. Fourth President of the U.S.
John Adams Second President of the United States. Worked tirelessly to help establish the republic on steady footing.