5th President of the United States



Served: March 4, 1817 - March 3, 1825

Born: April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died: July 4, 1831 in New York City, New York
Buried: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia

James Monroe.jpg        My wife, Debbie, and I took a trip to Washington D.C. back in 1996 before we were married. We drove down to Richmond for the day. We visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. It is called the Arlington of the Confederacy because of the many famous Confederate people buried here. After entering the cemetery we came upon Confederate President Jefferson Davis first. We then drove to what is called on the map as President's Circle. In the middle is Monroe. It is easy to find it since it looks like a giant Victorian birdcage. The other president buried here is John Tyler who is a few yards away. Aside from the two presidents, there are 26 Confederate generals buried here. Among the more famous are JEB Stuart, George Pickett, Henry Heth and Fitzhugh Lee. After leaving Hollywood, we took a tour of the Virginia Statehouse (highly recommended). We had dinner in the Shockoe Slip District in Richmond at the Richbrau Brewing Company and Restaurant (I recommend the Griffin Golden Ale). After which we drove back to our hotel in Arlington.

Monroe's Grave.jpg        Monroe was not born into a rich family, but they were not poor either. Like Jefferson, Monroe went to The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. He was a Lieutenant in the 3rd Virginia Regiment during the American Revolution. In 1776, he crossed the Delaware and was wounded at the battle of Trenton. In 1786, Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright of New York City. He lived near his mentor, Thomas Jefferson, on his estate called Highland. Monroe had a long political career that spanned 50 years, including U.S. Senator from Virginia, Ambassador to France and then Great Britain and Spain, Secretary of State (where he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with France), Secretary of War (during the War of 1812) and then he was selected by President Madison to succeed him. Known for his honesty, Jefferson once said of him, "Monroe was so honest that if you turned his soul inside out there would not be a spot on it."

        Monroe was the last of the Virginian Dynasty to be president. He was also the last of the Revolutionary Era presidents (also the last to dress in that style). It was a time of post-war peace that gave his administration the moniker "The Era of Good Feelings". The Missouri Compromise temporarily solved the slavery issue. Monroe is most famous for the Doctrine that carries his name. The Monroe Doctrine told European Nations not to colonize in the Americas. He easily won the election over Federalist Rufus King. Five new states joined the Union while Monroe was president (Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Maine). He also got the territory of Florida from Spain.

        He easily won re-election over John Quincy Adams in 1820 by an Electoral Vote of 231 to 1 (one of New Hampshire's Electors voted for Adams). His second term was not a happy one. He was accused of corruption and influence peddling. His Secretary of the Treasury, William Crawford once threatened him with a cane in the White House accusing him of being a 'scoundrel'. Monroe grabbed a pair of tongs by the fireplace and ordered him out of the White House. The Era of Good Feelings was over.

        Monroe had money problems even before he became president. A lifetime of public service had financially ruined him. He was forced to sell his plantation, Highland, before leaving the presidency. After retiring from the White House in 1825, Monroe began to petition for reimbursement of his debts by Congress. He got about $30,000. He lived in a small estate near Highland he called Oak Hill.

        Monroe's wife died the year before him. After her death, he moved to his daughter's home in New York City. James Monroe died at the home of his daughter Maria Hester on July 4, 1831, exactly five years after the deaths of presidents Jefferson and Adams. It's been said that Monroe did not have Jefferson's eloquence, Madison's genius nor Washington's stature but he did expand America's power as a country. He was originally buried in New York City's Marble Cemetery. 37 years later, on July 5, 1858 (the 100th anniversary of his birth), Virginia voted to move Monroe's body to Virginia where it is re-interred in Hollywood Cemetery. His wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, is buried alongside (outside the birdcage) in the lower right of the photo. There is a tablet in the ground.

Here are some webpages of interest:

The Ash Lawn-Highland Plantation
The White House Biography of James Monroe
The Internet Public Library
The American President Biography
James Monroe's Museum and Memorial Library
The Monroe Doctrine



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