President James Monroe
James Monroe, (1758-1831), fifth President of the United States, born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and educated a William and Mary College. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and in 1776 he left college to join the Third Virginia Regiment near New York City, with the rank of lieutenant. He took part in the battles of Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Trenton, in the last of which he was wounded. During the campaigns of 1777-1778 he served as major on the staff of General William Alexander, and took part in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. In 1778, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was commissioned to raise a new regiment in Virginia, and at this time formed an acquaintance with Thomas Jefferson, who was then governor of Virginia. This event marks the beginning of a friendship that lasted during the remainder of their lives and had a decisive influence upon the career of James Monroe.
In 1782, at the age of twenty four, James Monroe was elected to a seat in the Virginia legislature and became a member of the Virginia Executive Council. His next legislature service was in the Congress of the Confederation, in which he served from 1783 to 1786, contending vigorously for the right of Congress to regulate commerce, for the right of free navigation of the Mississippi by the United States, and for other measures designed to promote the development of the West. Upon his retirement from Congress in 1786 he was again chosen to a seat in the Virginia legislature and in 1788 became a member of the State convention called to ratify the Federal Constitution. James Monroe supported Patrick Henry in his futile opposition to the Constitution, making several lengthy arguments against ratification.
In 1790 James Monroe was elected to the Unites States Senate, in which he served until 1794, acting with the AntiFederalists and opposing vigorously the administration of President George Washington. James Monroe was nevertheless appointed minister to France largely because of his friendly attitude toward France and the desire of the President to offset the appointment of John Jay, a stanch Federalist, as minister to England. James Monroe's conduct of diplomatic relations, however, particularly his public disapproval concerning the treaty which John Jay was at the time negotiating with England, did not meet with approval of the administration, and he was accordingly recalled in 1796.
After a three year retirement from public service, James Monroe became governor of Virginia, serving until 1802. The accession of Jefferson to the Presidency in 1801 insured James Monroe's return to national politics, and in the following year he was again sent to France as an additional plenipotentiary to aid Robert R. Livingston in the negotiations already begun for the purchase of New Orleans, and at the same time to assist Charles C. Pinckey in negotiations with Spain for the purchase of the Floridas. After the conclusion of the treaty by which France sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, James Monroe was sent as minister to England and subsequently to Spain. A treaty was finally concluded with England, but, not being satisfactory to the President on the question of impressment and indemnity, it was never laid before the Senate. The negotiations with Spain for the cession of the Floridas were likewise unsuccessful.
In 1807 James Monroe returned to the United States, and again served in the Virginia Assembly. In 1811 he was for a second time chosen as Governor of Virginia, but held the office only for a short time, before being called to the cabinet of President James Madison as secretary of state in the same year. He held this office until 1817, and for a time in 1814 and 1815 also acted as secretary of war. In 1816, while in his fifty ninth year, James Monroe was elected President of the United States, having received 183 electoral votes, against 34 cast for the Federalist candidate, Rufus King. Four years later he was re-elected, receiving every vote in the Electoral College except one. The principal events of President James Monroe's administration were the Seminole War, the acquisition of Florida, the Missouri Compromise, and the clarification of United States relations with Europe in regard to South American affairs, which resulted in the annunciation of the permanent policy of the government known as the Monroe Doctrine. The period was known as the "Era of Good Feeling", because of the general prosperity of the country and the absence of party strife. Vast internal improvements were undertaken, and the westward movement of the population was marked. Five new States Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, and Maine were admitted to the Union.
At the close of President James Monroe's second term in 1825 President James Monroe retired to private life, residing in Virginia and in New York, where he died. During the year preceding his death he served as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention.