|April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia
|July 4, 1831, in New York, New York
|States in Union
|Daniel D. Tompkins
|Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (Wife)
Monroe’s parents were Spence and Elizabeth Jones Monroe. Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright in 1786. They had two daughters: Eliza and Maria Hester.
Monroe is well known for his efforts at compromise, and his first term as president is accordingly remembered as the “Era of Good Feelings” for his cooperative nature and the end of bitterness over the War of 1812. He did, however, face two significant problems as president. The first problem was that Florida was owned by Spain, and members of the Seminole Nation living there continuously raided the U.S. The U.S. troops retaliated in 1818, and war seemed imminent. In 1819, however, Spain relinquished Florida, which gave the U.S. control of all the land east of the Mississippi River. The second problem involved the issue of slavery. Monroe opposed slavery, as did much of the nation. To strike a reasonable balance, Monroe agreed to the Missouri Compromise that had been negotiated in Congress. The Compromise mandated that the number of pro-slavery and anti-slavery states must be equal.
Monroe also established a new foreign policy for the U.S. that defined its relationship to the world. This policy became later known as the Monroe Doctrine and stated that the U.S. would not allow any European country to colonize the “new world” of the Americas or to interfere with its governments.
Monroe’s second term was marred by controversy. He was accused of corruption, and his Secretary of the Treasury, William Cranford, called him a “scoundrel.” Monroe ordered Cranford to leave the White House. He later wrote, “I have . . . treat[ed] every attack . . . with contempt. I shall . . . be happy when I can retire beyond their reach in peace to my farm.”
Monroe commented about the closure of the Americas to colonization, “The American continents . . . are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” (1823)
“Regarding the sanctity of the Western Hemisphere, Monroe stated, “In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part. . . . With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers.”
“One day while walking in Paris with his daughter Eliza, Monroe commented that even though the U.S. was a young nation, it was much finer than France. Eliza retorted, “Yes, papa, but we haven’t any roads like this.” Her father replied, “That’s true. Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things, but we possess the most precious of all – liberty!”
At This Time
1819: The U.S. purchases Florida from Spain • 1822: The streets of Boston are lit by gas lights • 1823: The Monroe Doctrine closes the American continent to colonial settlements by Europe
Did You Know?
Monroe was the last of the original Revolutionary Fathers to be president. He had served in the Continental Army under Washington, and throughout his life he was highly regarded by his advisors and peers. Jefferson served as Monroe’s life-long mentor, tutoring him in law and democracy. Jefferson later noted that Monroe was “a man whose soul might be turned wrong side outward, without discovering a blemish to the world.” His Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, also remarked that future generations might view Monroe’s presidency as the “golden age” of the Republic.
Information about the James Monroe Memorial Foundation, the Monroe birthplace archeological site in Virginia, historic preservation of Monroe artifacts, and educational articles.
In-depth essays created by the University of Virginia on Monroe’s life and administration.
Field Trips for James Monroe
James Monroe Birthplace Visitors Center
Colonial Beach, Virginia
The James Monroe Birthplace Park and Museum reside at the heart of the mission of the James Monroe Foundation to educate visitors about the life and legacy of James Monroe. The park provides passive recreation, a boat ramp, and picnic area.
James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library
The museum is dedicated to the study and presentation of the social, political, and intellectual influences of Monroe and is situated on land that was the sight of Monroe’s law office. The library holds the collection of thousands of historical papers and other items available for research.
James Monroe’s Highland
Home of President Monroe from 1799 to 1823, the property showcases a variety of furnishings and decorative items from the 18th and 19th centuries.