75%

The New International Encyclopædia/Monroe, James

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MONROE, James (1758-1831). The fifth President of the United States. He was born in Westmoreland County, Va., April 28, 1758; and was sent to William and Mary College to be educated, but his studies were soon interrupted by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, when he left college and enlisted in the American army. He joined a Virginia regiment near New York in 1776 with the rank of lieutenant, and took part in the battles of Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Trenton, in the last of which he was wounded. During the campaigns of 1777-78 he served on the staff of the Earl of Stirling (William Alexander), taking part in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Although his services were highly commended by the Commander-in-Chief, Monroe was disappointed in the way in which they were rewarded, and his career in the army after 1778 was unimportant. It was at this time that he formed an acquaintance with Jefferson, who was then Governor of Virginia, and the event marks the beginning of an intimacy that lasted during the remainder of their lives and was destined to have a decisive influence upon the career of Monroe. In 1782, at the age of twenty-four, he was elected to a seat in the Legislature of Virginia, and became a member of the Virginia Executive Council. His next legislative service was in the Congress of the Confederation, of which he was an influential member for three successive terms from 1783 to 1786. He took a prominent part in the deliberations upon the vital questions of the period: the trade relations of the States, the navigation of the Mississippi, and the government of the western territory. To inform himself of conditions in the West, he twice crossed the Alleghanies, and the information which he acquired had a marked influence upon his course in Congress. Upon his retirement from Congress in 1786 he was again chosen to a seat in the Legislature, and in 1788 became a member of the State convention called to ratify the Federal Constitution. In this body he supported Patrick Henry in his futile opposition to the Constitution, making several lengthy arguments against ratification. In 1790 he was elected to a seat in the United States Senate, where he served until 1794. In the Senate he acted with the Anti-Federalists, opposing vigorously the Administration of Washington. He was nevertheless, in 1794, appointed Minister to France as the successor of Gouverneur Morris, the probable explanation of the appointment being his friendly attitude toward France and the desire of the President to offset the appointment of Jay, a stanch Federalist, as Minister to England. He arrived in France just after the fall of Robespierre, and was received by the Convention, August 15, 1794. In an address to the Convention he used expressions which, in view of the strained relations between the United States and France, did not meet with the approval of the Administration, and in other respects his course did not entirely commend itself to the Government. He was accordingly recalled in 1796, and Charles C. Pinckney was appointed as his successor. Upon his return the reasons and propriety of his recall became the subject of a spirited controversy and caused party feeling to run high. For a time Monroe retired to private life, from which he was called to assume the Governorship of Virginia in 1799, a position which he held until 1802. The accession of Jefferson to the Presidency in 1801 insured 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 a district at the mouth of the Mississippi, and at the same time was instructed to negotiate with Spain for the purchase of the Floridas. After the conclusion of the treaty by which France sold Louisiana to the United States (1803) 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 Monroe returned to the United States, and his course was again the subject of controversy. Again he served in the Virginia Assembly, and in 1811 was chosen a second time Governor of Virginia, but held the office only a short time being called to the Cabinet of President Madison as Secretary of State in the same year. He held this office until his elevation to the Presidency in 1817, and for a time in 1814 and 1815 also acted as Secretary of War. As head of the War Department he took precautions for the defense of Washington against an attack from the British forces, and won popularity by the vigorous measures which he adopted in the prosecution of military operations. In the year 1816, while in his fifty-ninth year, he 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 reëlected, receiving every vote in the electoral college except one. This was due to the passing of the Federalist Party, or, more correctly, to the breaking down of party lines, so that there were no longer Federalists or Republicans. The principal subjects which occupied the attention of the Government during the eight years of Monroe's Administration were the defense of the Atlantic seaboard, the encouragement of internal improvements, the Seminole War, the acquisition of Florida, the Missouri Compromise, and the 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’ (q.v.). Noteworthy events of a spectacular character during his term were the tour of the President through the East and the West, and the visit of Lafayette. The period of his administration was known as the ‘era of good feeling,’ on account 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 his second term Monroe retired to private life, residing in Virginia and in New York, where he died July 4, 1831. During the year preceding his death he served as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention, this being his last public service.

Monroe's Writings (New York, 1898—) have been edited by S. M. Hamilton, librarian of the Department of State in Washington. A calendar of his Correspondence was published in Bulletin No. 2, 1893, of the Bureau of Rolls and Library, State Department. A biography of James Monroe was written for the “American Statesman Series,” by D. C. Gilman (Boston, 1883; 2d ed. 1898), in the appendix to which is a bibliography of Monroe and of the Monroe Doctrine.