The New Student's Reference Work/Monroe, James

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JAMES MONROE

Monroe′, James, the fifth president of the United States, was born in Westmoreland County, Va., April 28, 1758. He entered William and Mary College, but soon left to join the army under Washington. He was in several battles, was wounded at Trenton, and became lieutenant-colonel and military commissioner. In 1782, after studying law with Jefferson, he became a member of the Virginia assembly and was sent the next year to Congress. Here his services were influential in bringing about the conventions at Annapolis and Philadelphia, where the Constitution of the United States was framed, which, however, he opposed in the Virginia convention, siding with Patrick Henry and other states' rights men. He was in the United States senate from 1790 to 1794, and became minister to France from 1794 to 1796, when he was recalled because of his too open expressions of sympathy with the Revolution. His former opposition to Washington and this treatment induced him to publish an attack on the government, which made him the favorite of the Democratic party. He was governor of Virginia for three years, and then was sent by Jefferson to France, where, with Robert Morris, he effected the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. His efforts for a cession of Florida by Spain were unsuccessful, and the treaty with England obtained by him failed to provide against the seizing of American sailors. In 1811 he again was governor of Virginia, and secretary of state under Madison until 1817. In 1816 he was elected president and re-elected in 1820. The most popular measures of his administration were the obtaining of Florida from Spain (1819), the settling of the slavery question by the Missouri Compromise, the recognition of the independence of the Spanish American republics and the announcement of what is known as the Monroe Doctrine. In a message to Congress approving the bill which recognized the South American republics Monroe declared that “the American continents are not to be considered as subjects for colonization by any European power.” This declaration, known as the Monroe Doctrine, has ever since held a place as well in the diplomacy as in the political creed of the nation. After his retirement to his home in Virginia he became involved in debt, but found a home with his son-in-law in New York, where he died, July 4, 1831. See Life, by Gilman, in the American Statesmen Series.