James Monroe

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Monroe, James,

1758–1831, 5th President of the United States (1817–25), b. Westmoreland co., Va.

Early Life

Leaving the College of William and Mary in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he served in several campaigns and was wounded (Dec., 1776) at the battle of Trenton. He later studied law (1780–83) under Thomas Jefferson, and the friendship that sprang up between them was the foundation for Monroe's political career.

Political and Diplomatic Career

Monroe was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1782 and served (1783–86) in the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. He was not a delegate to the Constitutional ConventionConstitutional Convention,
in U.S. history, the 1787 meeting in which the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. The Road to the Convention

The government adopted by the Thirteen Colonies in America (see Confederation, Articles of, and Continental
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, and in his own state he supported Patrick Henry in opposing the Constitution, which seemed to him to create a government so centralized that it encroached on states' rights.

Under the new government, he served (1790–94) in the U.S. Senate, where he proved himself an outstanding lieutenant of Jefferson and a vigorous opponent of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Federalists. Appointed (1794) minister to France in the hope that his Francophile sympathies would smooth the ruffled relations between the two nations, he did nothing to lessen French resentment over Jay's TreatyJay's Treaty,
concluded in 1794 between the United States and Great Britain to settle difficulties arising mainly out of violations of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and to regulate commerce and navigation.
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, and he was recalled in 1796.

Governor of Virginia from 1799 to 1802, he was sent (1802) by President Jefferson to France as a special envoy. There he assisted Robert R. Livingston (1746–1813; see LivingstonLivingston,
family of American statesmen, diplomats, and jurists. Robert R. Livingston (1654–1728)

Robert R. Livingston, 1654–1728, b. Roxburghshire, Scotland, was raised in Holland and immigrated to America in 1673 after his father died.
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, family) during negotiations (1803) for the Louisiana PurchaseLouisiana Purchase,
1803, American acquisition from France of the formerly Spanish region of Louisiana. Reasons for the Purchase

The revelation in 1801 of the secret agreement of 1800, whereby Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, aroused uneasiness in the United
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. The next year, in Spain, he aided Charles Pinckney in the unsuccessful negotiations with the Spanish government. A later mission, to England, was even more disastrous. Monroe and William PinkneyPinkney, William,
1764–1822, American political leader and diplomat, b. Annapolis, Md. Admitted to the bar in 1786, he soon became prominent in state politics. In 1796 he was sent to England as a commissioner to adjust maritime claims, remaining until 1804.
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 struggled to arrive at a commercial treaty to end the disputes between Great Britain and the United States over shipping, but they could get no concessions, and Jefferson did not even submit the treaty they drafted (1806) to the Senate for approval.

In 1808, Monroe made a bid for the presidential nomination. He thus alienated James Madison, but the estrangement did not last long, and Monroe, after serving again as governor of Virginia, was Madison's Secretary of State (1811–17). For a time he was also Secretary of War (1814–15), after the dismissal of John Armstrong.

Presidency and the Monroe Doctrine

In 1816 Monroe obtained the presidential nomination and was easily elected. During his first administration, serious differences over the question of slavery in the territories were accommodated by the Missouri CompromiseMissouri Compromise,
1820–21, measures passed by the U.S. Congress to end the first of a series of crises concerning the extension of slavery.

By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state.
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, which Monroe signed despite his sympathy for the South in this matter. In foreign affairs a number of settlements were reached. The Rush-Bagot agreement with Great Britain (1817) provided for mutual limitation of armaments on the Great Lakes, and the U.S.-Canadian boundary question was also settled. U.S. possession of the Floridas was confirmed by Andrew Jackson's campaigns and a treaty with Spain (1819).

In the 1820 election, despite economic depression, Monroe lost only one vote in the electoral college that reelected him. Late in 1823, he issued what came to be known as the Monroe DoctrineMonroe Doctrine,
principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S.
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, one of the most important principles of U.S. foreign policy. Although this declaration was as much the work of Monroe's Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, as of the President himself, the initiative for presenting it in the annual message to Congress was Monroe's. The experiment of the American Colonization Society in settling Liberia was undertaken with Monroe's blessing, and Monrovia was named for him.

At the end of his term Monroe retired to his estate, Oak Hill, near Leesburg, Va. In 1829 he presided over the Virginia constitutional convention and supported the conservatives on suffrage and slavery. He died during a visit to New York City.


Monroe's writings were edited by S. M. Hamilton (7 vol., 1898–1903, repr. 1969). See his autobiography (ed. with introd. by S. G. Brown, 1959); biographies by G. Morgan (1921, repr. 1969), A. Styron (1945), W. P. Cresson (1946, repr. 1971), and H. G. Unger (2009); studies by L. Wilmerding (1960) and H. Ammon (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Monroe, James


Born Apr. 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Va.; died July 4, 1831, in New York. American statesman.

From 1790 to 1794, Monroe served as a senator, and from 1794 to 1796, as minister to France. He was governor of Virginia from 1799 to 1802. From 1811 to 1817 he was secretary of state, and simultaneously, from 1814 to 1815, secretary of war. He was president of the USA from 1817 to 1825.

During his political career Monroe tried to reconcile the interests of the southern planters and the northern bourgeoisie. Under his administration eastern Florida was annexed (1819), the Missouri Compromise was concluded (1820), the independent states of Latin America were recognized (1822), and the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed (1823).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monroe, James

(1758–1831) fifth U.S. president; born in Westmoreland Country, Va. A combat veteran of the American Revolution, he studied law with Thomas Jefferson, who became a lifelong mentor. After serving in the Virginia legislature, Monroe began in 1783 a three-year term in the Confederation Congress; he chaired the committee (1785) that prepared the way for framing the Constitution, though in the end he did not participate in its making and objected to the power it gave the central government. As a U.S. senator (1790–94), he opposed George Washington and the Federalists, but was still appointed ambassador to France (1794–96) until an angry President Washington recalled him for opposing the Jay Treaty. He returned to Virginia as governor (1799–1802); then, as a delegate for President Jefferson in 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. The next four years were spent in less successful diplomacy in Madrid and London. More offices followed: again governor of Virginia (1811), secretary of state under Madison (1811–17), and also secretary of war (1814–15). Monroe ascended to the presidency in 1817 and was almost unanimously voted a second term in 1820. A popular president in a peaceful time, his administration came to be called "the era of good feeling." Among the notable events of his presidency were gaining Florida from Spain in 1818; the settlement of fishing-rights disputes in Newfoundland and Labrador; and (in 1823) the "Monroe Doctrine," which proclaimed American hostility to any further European colonization or interference in the Americas. The activities of his later years included serving as regent of the University of Virginia (1826–30). His years of public service left him so poor that he had to spend the last months of his life with his daughter in New York City, where he died.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.