President: James Monroe

5th President of the United States, 1817-1825

Biography read: “The Last Founding Father” by Harlow Giles Unger

Key Facts: Born April 28th, 1758 in Virginia. Attended William and Mary College. Died on July 4th, 1831 making him the 3rd Founding Father/Former President to die on Independence Day.

Notable Observations:

  • He held more public posts than any other American in history including: state legislator, US Congressman, US Senator, French Ambassador, British Ambassador, Spanish Minister, Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, Secretary of War (held at the same time as Secretary of State), and the fifth US President.
  • Monroe established the first state-sponsored schools.
  • Monroe engineered the Louisiana Purchase.
  • He saved Lafayette’s son’s life by smuggling him out of France.
  • Monroe turned the deficits of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison into surpluses, abolished personal income tax, and issued in an era of good feelings.
  • As a child, James Monroe carried a musket to school every day.
  • Monroe went to school with John Marshall the future Chief Supreme Court Justice. Despite a 3 year age difference (11 and 14) they became friends.
  • Monroe fought in the revolution alongside Washington despite being a teenager. He agreed to serve for no pay.
  • Monroe had certificates for 100,000 acres of Western lands. He earned them through services or won them from gambling.
  • In 1784 Monroe joined Jefferson as a Virginia delegate to the Confederate Congress. At the time he was broke.
  • Monroe (28 years old at the time) married Elizabeth Kortright (17 years old).
  • “I shall always believe that the exercise of direct taxation by one body, over the very extensive territory contained within the bounds of the United States, will terminate either in anarchy and a dissolution of government, or a subversion of liberty.”
  • Monroe voted against ratifying the Constitution.
  • While serving as the French Ambassador, Monroe allowed his wife Elizabeth to travel to the Plessis Prison in Paris and rescue Adrienne de Lafayette, the wife of heroic Marquis (who helped Americans gain independence). Then he made a fake passport for Marquis’ 14 year old son George Washington Lafayette and smuggled him to safety in America where he stayed with his godfather (George Washington). This was during the French Revolution. Monroe later argued for Congress to provide a financial reward to Lafayette when he was broke.
  • On August 30th, 1800 Monroe (then Virginia’s Governor) learned of a planned slave revolt called Gabriel’s Rebellion. He caught the organizers of the revolt and hung 28 of them in Richmond. Monroe then issued an edict requiring all blacks in town to carry passes and leave by dark.
  • Monroe’s Louisiana Purchase brought one million square miles for $15 million (4 cents per acre). The tract was larger than Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal combined.
  • New Englander’s were against the purchase predicting it would leave them a commercial backwater.
  • “The Last Found Father” contradicts “Madison’s Gift” in regards to the New England convention in 1814 to succeed. Did Vermont attend or not?
  • Monroe got Congress to fund $100,00 in 1819 to transport slaves to Monrovia (named after him) in Africa.
  • Monroe formed the “Monroe Doctrine” which called for an end to colonization in the Western Hemisphere and threatened war with any violators.
  • Andrew Jackson and Monroe were responsible for acquiring Florida from the Spanish.

The author of this book seemed to be very fond of Monroe and I think it may have colored his reporting and historical representations at time. Although I am no expert and cannot be sure. However, I found contradictions specifically around Madison between this and the previously read “Madison’s Gift.”

Casey Richards
April 9th, 2018

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