James Monroe

James Monroe


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Not widely known is his significant role in the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase for the Jefferson administration. In 1803, Jefferson sent him to France to assist Robert Livingston with the negotiation for the port of New Orleans, telling Monroe 𠇊ll eyes, all hopes, are now fixed on you.” Finding Napoleon strapped for cash and willing to sell the entirety of the Louisiana Territory, Monroe took advantage of a deal that would double the size of the nation.

The negotiations trip was ultimately unsuccessful. Fifteen years later, Monroe was eventually able to oversee the peaceful acquisition of the Florida territory during his first presidential term when he signed the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819.


James Monroe: Impact and Legacy

James Monroe came to the presidency as one of the most qualified men ever to assume the office. His resume included service in the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress, and the U.S. Senate. Monroe also served as governor of Virginia, filled numerous diplomatic posts, and held two cabinet appointments. His success as a politician was the result of hard work and a steady and thoughtful manner. He was noted for his integrity, frankness, and affable personality, and he impressed those whom he met with his lack of pretension. As President, Monroe saw the country through a transition period in which it turned away from European affairs and toward U.S. domestic issues.

During the negotiations that resulted in the Missouri Compromise, his adroit backstage maneuverings help the country avoid a sectional crisis. His administration had a number of successes in foreign affairs, including the acquisition of Florida, the settlement of boundary issues with Britain, and the fashioning of the Monroe Doctrine. The President's relationship with his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, was vital in each of these cases. The two men had a respect and admiration for each other that led to a successful working rapport. In fact, Monroe had an ability to assemble great minds and then allow them the freedom to work. Scholars have long regarded his cabinet as an exceptionally strong one.

As President, Monroe occasionally suffers from comparison to the other members of the Virginia Dynasty—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Indeed, he was not a renaissance man like Jefferson his overwhelming interest and passion was politics. But he was a deliberate thinker and had the ability to look at issues from all sides, encouraging debate from his advisers. President Monroe was a great advocate of nationalism and reached out to all the regions of the country. In foreign policy, he put the nation on an independent course, no longer tied to the mast of European policy. Although the nation would have to wait until Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) to see a significant increase in presidential power over domestic affairs, Monroe's aggressive and successful conduct of foreign policy undoubtedly strengthened the presidency itself.


James Monroe

James Monroe was born in 1758 in Virginia to a prosperous family. He attended William and Mary College, but was not there very long when he and some of his fellow students left to join the Continental Army in 1775, serving in the 3rd Virginia Regiment as a Second Lieutenant under Colonel Hugh Mercer.

Monroe saw service at Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Trenton, where he was wounded. In the fall of 1777, he was commissioned Major and subsequently named Aide-de-camp to William Alexander, Lord Stirling. He went on to fight at Brandywine and Germantown, wintered at Valley Forge, then fought at Monmouth in June of 1778 before resigning his commission in November of 1778.

By 1780, he was studying law under the Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson. His political service began in 1782 when he was elected to the Virginia Assembly and a year later he was a Member of the Congresses of the Confederation until the year 1786. That same year he married Elizabeth Kortwright from New York. As a member of the Virginia convention, he was involved in the ratification of the Federal Constitution, and became a pronounced anti-Federalist.

In 1790, he was elected a United States Senator, serving until 1794, when he was appointed ambssador to France by President George Washington, serving in this capacity until 1796. He returned to the United States and was elected Governor of Virginia from 1799-1802. In 1803, he was involved in the negotiations that led to the Louisiana Purchase, and was shortly therafter appointed Ambassador to Great Britian, a position he held from 1803 to 1807.


#2 Monroe served as U.S. Minister to France from 1794 to 1796

In 1790, James Monroe was elected by the Virginia legislature as United States Senator. In 1794, he resigned from the senate as he was appointed Minister to France by President George Washington. As ambassador to France, Monroe arranged for the release of all Americans held in French prisons. He also secured the release of Thomas Paine, an influential political activist and philosopher who is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States. Due to his support of revolutionary France, Monroe was discharged from his post of Minister to France by President Washington in 1796.


That Time When Alexander Hamilton Almost Dueled James Monroe

As Hamilton, the hit Broadway musical, tells it, Alexander Hamilton, “the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father” was a feisty, brilliant immigrant who was central to the founding of the nation. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s best selling biography, the musical has revived interest in its subject, including his tragic end in an 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. But apart from one short scene, unmentioned in the musical are the many other (nearly a dozen) challenges to duels that Hamilton meted out or received. Most of these challenges never came to firing shots, but one came especially close: a messy affair of honor with future president James Monroe.

In the heat of July 1797, Monroe was not in the best mood, having just been recalled from his post as ambassador to France amidst attacks by Federalist opponents. Getting an angry letter from Hamilton regarding events that took place more than four years earlier did not improve his state of mind. Hamilton, yet another Federalist who opposed Monroe’s fledgling Republican party, was on the offensive about an incident Monroe thought had been resolved: the so-called Reynolds Affair.

It all went back to an investigation Monroe, as a U.S. senator from Virginia, with his Republican colleagues Frederick Muhlenberg and Abraham Venable, had undertaken in December 1792. A former clerk of Muhlenberg’s, Jacob Clingman, and an associate, James Reynolds, had been jailed for their involvement in a financial scheme that involved government funds. Clingman fingered Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, as a co-conspirator who had taken advantage of his position. If the charges against Hamilton were true, it would be the end of his career.

Monroe, Muhlenberg, and Venable interviewed Clingman, Reynolds and his wife Maria and discovered that Hamilton had occasionally provided James with money. The team drafted a letter to President George Washington enclosing transcripts of their interviews on December 13, but waited until meeting with Hamilton to send it. What Hamilton told the men on December 15 shocked them: the payments to James Reynolds were all part of a blackmail scheme to cover up Hamilton’s illicit love affair with Maria, and he had letters to prove it. The congressmen dropped the investigation and Monroe pledged to Hamilton that he would not return copies of any of the letters from the investigation to Clingman or Reynolds. Even in the 18th century, sexual intrigue could rock the Capitol.

Here’s where it gets even more exciting. When Clingman told Maria Reynolds that he had heard no charges would be pursued against Hamilton, she was “much shocked” and “wept immoderately.” Maria claimed that Hamilton and her husband had forged the correspondence offering proof of the affair. On the evening of January 2, 1793, Clingman called on Monroe with the news about the revelations from Maria. Monroe recorded a paragraph of notes of his conversation with Clingman, bundled together all of the papers relating to the investigation, and sent them for safekeeping to a friend in Virginia (likely Thomas Jefferson).

What Monroe did not expect, however, was that the clerk who had worked with the investigators would make extra copies and pass them off to James Callender, a gossipy journalist who made his name spreading political scandal, including the revelations of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. In June and July 1797, Callender published a series of pamphlets that included accusations against Hamilton for financial speculation and adultery. It's unclear why Callender chose this moment to publish the attack, but Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth were convinced it was at Monroe's instigation to avenge his humiliating recall from France. Included in the pamphlets were the secret documents Monroe’s committee had collected. One Federalist congressman said the pamphlets would “gratify the diabolical malice of a detestable faction.”

Hamilton was, understandably, furious. On July 5, he wrote to Monroe, Muhlenberg, and Venable asking them to dispute the charges in Callender’s pamphlets. He didn’t blame them directly, but suspected “a dishonourable infidelity somewhere.” By July 10, Hamilton still hadn’t heard back from Monroe, but learned that he was in New York visiting family. He wrote a terse letter requesting an “interview” that insinuated a challenge to a duel: Hamilton would bring a friend (a second, in the ritual of dueling) and Monroe should, too.

The next day, Hamilton and his brother-in-law John Church visited Monroe, who was accompanied by his friend David Gelston. Both Founding Fathers were angry from the start. Fortunately for us, Gelston kept a minute account of the meeting. Hamilton again demanded an explanation for Callender’s pamphlets. When Monroe said he had sealed and sent all of the papers relating to the investigation to a friend, Hamilton countered that that was “totally false.” Monroe fumed and both men jumped to their feet.

“Do you say I represented falsely, you are a Scoundrel,” Monroe charged.

“I will meet you like a Gentleman,” Hamilton replied—a veiled request for a duel.

“I am ready get your pistols,” Monroe retorted.

The two men must have come close to blows, because Church and Gelston had to rise and separate the angry men. After everyone cooled down, Monroe promised that he and his co-investigators would write Hamilton with a full explanation of what they knew of the affair.

A week later, Hamilton got the explanation he was promised but was still dissatisfied. He focused in on the notes from Monroe’s meeting with Clingman on January 1, 1793. Did Monroe’s record of that interview mean that Monroe agreed with Clingman’s charges that Hamilton and Reynolds had created the ruse of an affair with Maria? That would suggest that Monroe believed Hamilton had, in fact, misused government funds—a far more serious charge than adultery. Monroe demurred that he couldn’t remember the meeting clearly. There followed a flurry of letters in which Hamilton demanded Monroe refute Clingman’s charges and Monroe politely avoided doing so. This wasn’t just stubbornness: Monroe still harbored some doubts about Hamilton’s behavior.

Matters escalated and, on July 31, Monroe finally told Hamilton that if his explanations weren’t enough, they could settle things in a way “which I am ever ready to meet.” This, again, could be seen as a way of suggesting a duel.

Dueling was highly ritualized, a way of settling disputes and proving one self to be a man of honor and courage, but most arguments ended before any shots were fired. The language of dueling was full of insinuations, a symbolic code providing space to claim misunderstanding and disclaim offering a true challenge. But Hamilton took Monroe’s note as a challenge and accepted it, saying his friend Major Jackson would visit to set a time and place. Was this message, Monroe asked Jackson, a challenge to a duel?

Monroe decided he needed to call on a friend as his second to help negotiate, whether for an amicable settlement or a duel. His friend of choice? None other than Aaron Burr.

Burr had known both Hamilton and Monroe for many years, but he was a political ally and friend of Monroe. He delivered a letter to Hamilton from Monroe, who claimed that he misunderstood Hamilton’s letter and denied having issued a challenge himself. Nonetheless, if Hamilton wanted to fight, he should arrange it through Burr. Monroe would just need about three months, he wrote Burr, to settle his financial affairs and make sure his wife would be provided for. It was all very matter-of-fact. “In truth,” Monroe concluded, “I have no desire to persecute this man, tho’ he highly merits it.”

It was Burr, not Hamilton or Monroe, who was convinced the pair should avoid a duel. The men were being “childish,” he felt. “The Thing will taken an amicable Course,” he told Monroe. He worked as an intermediary between the pair as they continued to write asking whether the other was actually issuing a challenge to a duel. As political historian Joanne Freeman explains it, “the two basically exchanged letters saying: “ready to fight when you are” for an extended period, until each managed to convince himself that the other was the coward.” Why persist in what Monroe’s biographer Harry Ammon called a “comic” exchange of letters? In a political culture that highly valued honor, Freeman argues, “both men were unsure about whether or not they might still be subject to charges of cowardice for backing down.”

Burr was finally able to settle the men down by mid-August 1797. But after Hamilton published a pamphlet detailing his affair with Maria Reynolds, accompanied by his correspondence with Monroe on the matter, Monroe wondered if all was truly laid to rest. That fall he asked Burr to challenge Hamilton for him and sent James Madison, another political ally, a copy of Hamilton’s pamphlet, seeking advice on a proper response. All of Monroe’s friends told him to move on, but he refused to. He continued to press his friends about whether Hamilton had challenged him and hinted at challenging Hamilton himself.

What truly ended a sequence of quasi-challenges and quasi-denials remains a mystery. In early January 1798, Hamilton wrote, but didn’t send, a letter accepting Monroe’s challenge to a duel: “I therefore acquiesce in the necessity you impose on me.” Perhaps tempers cooled, or perhaps Hamilton’s wife Eliza stopped him. Relations with France were reaching a breaking point in early 1798, a result of a dispute over unpaid debts from the Revolutionary War and French attacks on American shipping, and Hamilton could have seen an opening to reenter politics. A duel might sacrifice that opportunity. Whatever the reason, Hamilton was not destined to duel with Monroe, but rather to die at the hands of Aaron Burr—the very man who prevented that earlier clash.

While most cases of dueling followed carefully planned choreography, the story of Hamilton’s clash with Monroe is a messier affair. Dueling’s coded language could be manipulated, misunderstood, or both at once. In this affair of honor, both men were at times petty, tempestuous, and unsure of themselves: in other words, human. The closing song of the musical Hamilton has the cast asking, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Perhaps the real drama of the founding era for us today is that, depending on who gets to tell the story first, the heroes and villains are not always whom we’d expect.

Founding Friendships: Friendships between Men and Women in the Early American Republic

Northern and Southern, famous and lesser known, the men and women examined in Founding Friendships offer a fresh look at how the founding generation defined and experienced friendship, love, gender, and power.


Contents

The main mansion of the property was constructed in 1822 for Monroe, who subsequently split time between this estate and another home at Monroe Hill on the grounds of the University of Virginia after his term as President. Oak Hill was Monroe's only residence for three years, from 1827 to 1830, and it was one of his residences during 22 years. The mansion was built in 1820, during Monroe's presidency. Before that, Monroe's residence at the estate was the clapboard building known in recent years as the Monroe Cottage. [5]

The architecture is distinctive for "its unusual pentastyle portico". [6] It is suggested that Thomas Jefferson, his close friend, may well have drawn plans for Oak Hill the construction was supervised by James Hoban, designer and builder of the White House. [5] Aside from the main house, other structures remaining from Monroe's time include the cottage, a smokehouse, springhouse, blacksmith's shop, a square barn, the stone Stallion Barn, and possibly the Brick House. [4] The estate is a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Monroe and his uncle Joseph Jones jointly purchased 4,400 acres (18 km²) of land in Loudoun County in 1794. When Jones died without direct heirs in 1805, Monroe gained sole possession of the property. However, Monroe continued to live primarily at Highland, his residence in Albemarle County—until 1826, when he was forced to sell that property to pay debts he had incurred while serving as President.

Monroe had put Oak Hill on the market in 1809, and placed an advertisement in The Washingtonian on December 23 of that year:

LOUDOUN LAND FOR SALE For sale on Thursday, the 21st of December next on the premises, the tract of LAND on which the late Judge Jones resided in Loudoun County with about 25 slaves, and the stock of Horses, Cattle, and Hogs, on the estate. The tract contains nearly 2000 acres [8 km²], and possesses many advantages which entitle it to the attention of those who may wish to reside, in that highly improved part of our country. Two merchant mills are in the neighbourhood, one on the adjoining estate, and the other within two miles [3 km]. It is 10 miles [16 km] from Leesburg, 35 [56 km] from Alexandria and 40 [64 km] from Georgetown. The new, Turn-pike from Alexandria crosses a corner of the land, and terminates at the nearest merchant mill. The whole tract is remarkably well watered, Little river passing through the middle of it, and many small streams on each side emptying into that river. About 50 or 60 acres [200,000 or 240,000 m²] are already well set with timothy, and at least 300 acres (1.2 km²) are capable of being made excellent meadow. It will be divided into tracts of different dimensions to suit the convenience of purchasers. A credit of one, two and three years will be allowed. Bonds with approved security, and a trust on the land will be required. The negroes are supposed to be very valuable, some of them being good house servants, and the others, principally, young men and women. For them the same terms of credit will be allowed, and that of a year for every other article. N.B. The above lands, being yet unsold, notice is given that they will be disposed of, by private sale, upon terms which will be made known on application to Israel Lacy Esq. of Goshen, Col. Armstead T. Mason, near Leesburg, Maj. Charles Fenton Mercer of Leesburg, or to the subscriber, near Milton in Albemarle county. JAMES MONROE. December, 23d 1809.

He also attempted to sell the land in 1825, but failed to receive an acceptable bid both times.

In 1822, Monroe began construction on the main house, a two-story brick mansion in the Federal style. He hired James Hoban, the designer of the White House, to serve as architect. Monroe's longtime friend and political mentor Thomas Jefferson offered many design suggestions.

Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, retired to Oak Hill after he finished his second term as President in 1825. In August 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette and President John Quincy Adams were guests of the Monroes there. [7] Elizabeth Monroe died at Oak Hill on September 23, 1830. After her death, Monroe moved to New York City to live with his youngest daughter and remained there until his own death on July 4, 1831.

After Monroe's death, the property passed out of the Monroe family. John W. Fairfax, later a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate States Army, bought Oak Hill in 1852. His wife remained there while Fairfax was away fighting in the American Civil War it was visited by General George G. Meade of the Union Army on the invitation of Mrs. Fairfax about a week prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. The property passed out of the hands of John Fairfax after the war, but was later repurchased by his eldest son, Henry, a civil engineer and state senator. [8] The estate remained in the Fairfax family until after Henry Fairfax's death in 1916. The mansion was enlarged by the addition of two wings in 1922 while owned by Frank C. Littleton and his wife, but the central facade looks much as it did during Monroe's lifetime. The property remains in private hands today and is not open to the public. [9] It became the residence of Tom and Gayle DeLashmutt and their family following the death of the previous owner, Eugene Reed Prendergast, Mr. DeLashmutt's mother, in 1993. [10]


Early Life

Born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in a family of modest means, James Monroe grew up on the small farm of his parents. His father, Spence Monroe, was a relatively thriving planter and carpenter while his mother, Elizabeth Jones, devoted her time to taking care of the children.

Because he had to work on the family’s farm with his parents and siblings, James Monroe attended the only school in the county rather sporadically, and his formal education began late. In 1772, his mother died and two years later, he lost his father as well. Although he inherited the family’s property, Monroe could no longer attend school and had to support his younger siblings. His maternal uncle, Joseph Jones, was a respectable and prosperous judge living in Fredericksburg, and he took over the responsibility of taking care of his late sister’s children.

Jones arranged for Monroe to attend the College of William and Mary with the hope that his nephew would pursue a career in politics. Monroe proved indeed to be an outstanding student and his knowledge of Latin and math put him in advanced courses. Most importantly, through his uncle, Monroe met many influential figures of Virginia, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Monroe’s studies were interrupted when the political climate in the Thirteen Colonies suffered a breach in opposition to the British government. In 1775, the conflict escalated to armed fighting, and the colonial and British troops measured their powers in Massachusetts. A year later, the colonies declared their independence from Britain. Anxious to take part in the making of history, Monroe decided to drop out of college after only a year and a half of studies in order to join the Continental Army. At the beginning of 1776, he enrolled in the Third Virginia Infantry and was commissioned as a lieutenant.

In December 1776, Monroe’s regiment run a successful surprise attack on a Hessian encampment during which he was badly injured. A severed artery almost caused his death. When the battle ended, George Washington praised Monroe for his bravery and he was promoted to captain. With an intervention from his uncle, Monroe returned to the front after his wounds healed, and during the winter of 1777-1778, he served in the Philadelphia campaign. Soon Monroe found himself destitute and chose to resign his commission.

Holding letters of recommendation from influential military names such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Lord Stirling, Monroe returned to his home state. He decided to follow the advice of his uncle and resume his studies. He settled back in Williamsburg to study law and soon became the protégé of Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson. Despite not having a particular interest in law, Monroe was encouraged by Jefferson to finish his studies and read law under Jefferson. He agreed that law provided him with the most immediate professional rewards, easing his path to social status and wealth. Later, when the state capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond, Monroe moved to the new capital to continue his studies with Jefferson as his mentor. By working closely together, they became lasting friends.

Painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware," an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting by the German American artist Emanuel Leutze. According to the 1853 exhibition catalog, the man standing next to Washington and holding the flag is Lieutenant James Monroe.


James Monroe And Native American Policies

James Monroe became the fifth president of the United States in 1817, and served till 1825. His Native American policies are worth a mention. Under his orders, Andrew Jackson led a campaign in Georgia against the Seminole (Native American People of Florida) and Creek Indians in 1817. Jackson also was commissioned with preventing Spanish Florida from sheltering runaway slaves. This was called the First Seminole War. The result of the war was the effective control over East Florida.

In October 1820, James Monroe sent Andrew Jackson and Thomas Hinds as representatives of the United States to carry out a treaty where the Choctaw were asked to surrender to the United States a part of their land which is now located in present day Mississippi. The Choctaws did not want to give up their land as the land they believed that the government was giving them in exchange was of an inferior quality. Jackson finally succeeded by getting the reluctant Choctaw chiefs to finally sign the Doak's Stand treaty after resorting to threats and blackmail.

In 1824, some of the chief leader of the Choctaws namely Apuckshunubbee, Pushmataha, and Mosholatubbee, went to Washington City (present day Washington, D.C.) to talk about European-Americans' squatting on Choctaw lands. They asked for eviction of the settlers or at least, for the government to compensate them financially for the land they were losing to the settlers. Finally in 1825, the Treaty of Washington City was signed and the Choctaws had to give up more of their land to the United States.

The fifth president of the United States, James Monroe was fortunate to live through the era of Good Feelings. His most famous event could be his message to Congress on December 2, 1823 where he delivered the Monroe Doctrine. More..


Second Term

March 5, 1821: James Monroe delivers his inauguration on a Monday which was the first in history.

September 4, 1821: Czar Alexander I create friction between the United States and Russia when he redefined the 49 th parallel in the Oregon Territory.

March 8, 1821: Latin-American governments are recognized by America

March 22, 1822: General Andrew Jackson is nominated to run for President in 1824.

June 19, 1822: The United States recognizes Colombia as an independent country.

October 20, 1822: Congress of Verona meets, but only causes more friction in Europe.

November 18. 1822: Henry Clay is nominated to run for President in 1824.

December 12, 1822: The United States recognize Mexico at an independent country

January 27, 1823: The States recognize Argentina as an independent country

July 17, 1823: John Quincy Adams protests Russian claims on Oregon territory. His arguments would lay the foundation of the Monroe Doctrine.

August 20, 1823: Britain proposes a joint Anglo-U.S. Alliance against European intervention. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams advises that America take the lead. Britain follows and agrees to recognize new Latin American republics.

October 9, 1823: France agrees to disavow any claims on former Spanish colonies in the Americas.

December 2, 1823: President James Monroe follows Adams advice and adopts the Monroe Doctrine which forbids any European nation from colonizing the Americas and it would be considered a direct threat.

February 15, 1824: John Quincy Adams nominated for President

March 30, 1824: Henry clay promote the Tariff of 1924 which would lower dependence on foreign goods.

April 14, 1824: Russia agrees to withdraw claims to a potion of Oregon Territory. The United States agrees to these terms.

April 30, 1824: Congress passes a bill authorizing the president to order surveys for internal improvements, such as the building of roads and canals.

December 1, 1824: John Quincy Adams is elected president despite a controversial election that should have gone to Andrew Jackson. Adams won due to his influence in Congress.


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