Who is James Monroe?

Malcolm Tatum

As the fifth president of the United States and the founder of what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine, James Monroe contributed greatly to the rich history of the first century of the nation. Here is some information on James Monroe, and what he accomplished during his lifetime.

James Monroe served in a number of roles in Virginia government.
James Monroe served in a number of roles in Virginia government.

Born on 28 April 1758, Monroe entered politics early in life, serving in various roles in the government of Virginia. He became a fast friend of Thomas Jefferson and helped serve the federal government in a number of capacities. During the War of 1812, James Monroe served as the Secretary of War, and later was Secretary of State under President James Madison. His own presidency is earmarked by an era where Monroe sought to emphasize partisanship among the political parties in the nation, which led to his administration often being referred to as the Era of Good Feeling.

James Madison was James Monroe's forerunner.
James Madison was James Monroe's forerunner.

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There were a number of accomplishments that took place during James Monroe’s tenure as the American president. A total of five states – Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Maine, and Missouri, entered the Union during his years in office. Monroe also added much territory to the United States during his time as US president, most notably the acquisition of Florida. His most famous achievement is commonly referred to as the Monroe Doctrine, which essentially made it known that further colonization of European countries in America was not welcome and would be considered an act of aggression. While the impact of the statement was mainly felt within the United States, the action was supported by England and further colonization efforts ceased.

The U.S. acquired the territory of Florida under President Monroe.
The U.S. acquired the territory of Florida under President Monroe.

Among the presidents up to that time, James Monroe was chief among those who sought to fortify the borders of the country as well as improve the infrastructure of the young nation. While the original plan was modified as a result of the financial panic of 1819, the country was somewhat more prepared to deal with invasions than in previous years. Also, internal struggles marked the later years of the administration, causing some of the good feelings of his first days as president to fade away.

After his time in office, James Monroe settled in at the University of Virginia, where he served on the Board of Visitors until 1830. During that year, Monroe’s wife Elizabeth died and James Monroe made a decision to move to New York City and live under the care of his daughter. It was in that city that Monroe succumbed to heart failure and passed away on 4 July 1831. Originally interred in New York City, his body was taken to Richmond, Virginia in 1858 and laid to rest in the President’s Circle at Hollywood Cemetery.

While not the best known of American presidents, James Monroe served his country well, both in terms of expansion and also in efforts to improve the conditions for travel and protection from invasion within the country. His legacy includes the addition of territory to the young country, as well as the creation of five new states to enter the Union. While not always successful in the goals he set for his two terms as president, James Monroe exhibited grace in all situations, and never gave up trying to better the nation that he loved.

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States.
James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States.

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