5. James Monroe


james-monroe-portrait

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States, 7th Secretary of State, 8th Secretary of War, Governor of Virginia, Senator of Virginia, the last founding father to be president and the third president to die on Independent’s day (John Adams & Thomas Jefferson were the other).

Monroe was born in Westmoreland, Virginia 1758. Upon on his father’s death in 1774, Monroe inherited a small plantation with slaves raising it class status. In that same year, he enrolled at College of William and Mary, but less than a year later Monroe dropped out and joined the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Continental Army. Monroe never returned to earn his degree.

During the Revolutionary War, Monroe served as an officer. In the battle of Trenton Monroe was shot in the left shoulder. He never returned to the battle field after his injury. Monroe would be the last U.S. President, who was a Revolutionary War veteran.

After the war, Monroe studied law as a legal apprentice under Thomas Jefferson from 1780-1783. Monroe didn’t particularly care about law, but he thought it was a quick way to gain wealth the political influence. He went on to practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

In 1788 during the fight to ratify the new constitution, Monroe was opposed to ratification because he thought it gave the federal government too much power. The document was barely ratified after Monroe raised his opposition. With what he thought was political momentum, he ran against James Madison for a House seat in the 1st Congress but was defeated. Monroe quickly ran for and was elected by the Virginia legislature as United States Senator.

In 1794, Monroe resigned his Senate seat when he was appointed Ambassador to France, but was fired because President George Washington thought he put the country in danger by supporting the French Revolution. The relationship between the aging Washington and Monroe would never be the same, Monroe believes Alexander Hamilton has too much influence over Washington, who advised Washington to sign the Jay Treaty.

James Monroe returned to Virginia to practice law, and in 1799 was elected as Governor of Virginia. Monroe won re-election four times as Governor. When Thomas Jefferson was president, he sent Monroe to France to help Robert R. Livingston in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase. Monroe also negotiated a treaty with Britain in 1806, known as the Monroe–Pinkney Treaty, but President Jefferson hatred of Great Britain blocked him from renewing the Jay Treaty. Because of Jefferson’s blunder, the British quickly turned towards war against the United States.

During the Madison administration, Monroe held two positions at the same time. When war broke out against Great Britain in the War of 1812 Monroe was both Secretary of State and Secretary of War. He handled both jobs with extreme care and admiration.

Five pros/cons of James Monroe Presidency:

Pros:

1. The Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. To balance the number of “slave states” and “free states.” This was the beginning of the lead-up to the Civil War because it drew the line of when slavery could be legal. When the south tried to expand when new states came into the union was the final straw. The positive thing about the Missouri Compromise was it was also the start of ending slavery. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1857, when it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Dred Scott decision.

2. The Monroe Doctrine was articulated in President James Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. The European powers, according to Monroe, were obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States’ sphere of interest. This idea was also used for when the United States should go to war. Before the Iraq War in 2003, the United States never attacked a country first but waited until it or Western Hemisphere country was attacked. This ended 228 years of foreign policy by the United States.

3. Texas and Florida were added to the country. A treaty was signed with Spain in 1819 that ceded Florida to the United States in return for the assumption of $5,000,000 in claims and the relinquishment of any claims to Texas. Florida was ceded to the U.S. in 1821.

4. Monroe brought together one of the best cabinets in Presidential history. John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, and John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State was both outstanding, plus Adams was a master diplomat. Because of no opposition from the other political party, Monroe’s persuasive cabinet could focus on things that mattered to the country. This era was called the “Era of Good Feelings” because of this.

5. Monroe was the last founding father to be president of the United States. This was a positive on his administration because he made sure to protect the constitution to the fullest. He was also the last President to dress in old-style clothing. Monroe represented the end of an era.

Cons:

1. During Monroe’s time in office, the Republican party dominated federal policy. When selecting his cabinet, Monroe didn’t worry about protecting his party. Monroe was able to select who he wanted in his cabinet without political pressure. The Federalist Party continued to fade away during his administration and was no longer a national party. Without serious opposition, the Republican party’s Congressional caucus stopped meeting meaning the Republican Party stopped operating. This was a very dangerous time for the country, if the people stopped having confidence in the Republican party, then the country could’ve failed without a two party system.

2. The Panic of 1819 caused economic hardship but didn’t affect Monroe’s popularity among the public. The application for statehood in 1819 by the Missouri Territory as a slave state failed. An amended bill for gradually eliminating slavery in Missouri precipitated two years of bitter debate in Congress. The government stopped producing common sense legislation over this period of time slowing down the economy. This was resolved with the Missouri Compromise which created a line between the free states and slave states.

3. Monroe’s veto of the Cumberland road bill was bad for a developing country. Monroe thought this was unconstitutional because building projects should be left to states. He thought the federal government should never tell states what to do or interfere in a state project. The Cumberland Road Bill, which provided for yearly improvements to the road was good for the country to make sure commerce was flowing efficiently from state to state. Monroe struggled with federal vs. state powers his whole political career, so Monroe vetoing this bill was not a major surprise if you knew his way of thinking.

4. The Monroe administration Indigenous American Policies were dismal. Monroe tested the constitutional when, in 1817, he sent General Andrew Jackson to Spanish Florida into hostile Seminole Indians territory to attack. Monroe though this would send a message to the Spanish for supporting Indian attacks on Americans. The Seminole Wars was the start of many future and bloody U.S. confrontations with indigenous Americans which later leader to the Trail of Tears approved by then-President Andrew Jackson himself. Although Monroe denies sending Andrew Jackson to Florida, Monroe believed that the Indians must progress from the hunting stage to become an agricultural people, noting in 1817, “A hunter or savage state requires a greater extent of territory to sustain it than is compatible with progress and just claims of civilized life.”

5. Monroe could’ve fought harder to end slavery but settled for the Missouri Compromise. Monroe claimed this saved the Union, but it only kicked the can down the road. The Dred Scott decision nulled the Compromise soon the country was in a civil war. Monroe supported colonies for free slaves such as Liberia

Something you didn’t know about James Madison:

The Monroe presidency helped to foster a transition from the first party system of the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists to the second party system of the Democrats and the Whigs. This would lead to the rise of Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian Era.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply