Monroe, James

Born: 1758-04-28 Westmoreland County, Virginia

Died: 1831-07-04 New York, New York

Monroe enrolled in the College of William & Mary in 1774 but left before graduating to participate in the Revolutionary War. Fighting in the Continental Army, Monroe reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1782, he won election to the Virginia House of Delegates and then served in the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1786. Monroe was an anti-federalist but accepted the U.S. Constitution once it was ratified and earned a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1790. He left the Senate in 1793 when George Washington appointed him ambassador to France. However, Washington recalled Monroe in 1796 due to Monroe's sympathy for the French revolutionaries and growing alliance with Thomas Jefferson. Voters selected Monroe as governor of Virginia in 1799, and he remained in that office until 1802, when Jefferson sent him to Paris to complete negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson also appointed Monroe as minister to England and then Spain. Monroe ran for president in 1808 but lost to James Madison. He was reelected governor in 1811 but resigned before serving a single year because Madison appointed him secretary of state. During the War of 1812, Monroe also intermittently served as secretary of war.

Monroe succeeded Madison as president in 1816 and served two terms. The electorate went overwhelmingly in his favor for both terms, largely due to the collapse of the Federalist Party, and his administration has since been characterized as "The Era of Good Feeling." Monroe was a fairly passive president, although he achieved several significant foreign policy goals, thanks partially to his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams. Most notable among these achievements was the establishment of the "Monroe Doctrine" which asserted America's diplomatic primacy in the western hemisphere. Following his presidency, Monroe retired to his plantation on Monroe Hill and sat on the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors. He married Elizabeth Kortright in 1786, with whom he had three children. When Elizabeth died in 1830, Monroe moved to live with his daughter in New York, New York, where he died a year later.

J. C. A. Stagg, "Monroe, James," The Oxford Companion to United States History, ed. by Paul S. Boyer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 513; Harlow G. Unger, The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2009); Noble E. Cunningham, The Presidency of James Monroe (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996).