Biography of James Monroe (1758-1831)

James Monroe.

Lawyer and American politician, born April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland County (Virginia) and died on July 4, 1831 in New York, who was Secretary of State (1811-1817) under the second Presidency of James Madison (1809-1817) and fifth President of the United States of America (1817-1825).

His presidency was known with the nickname Era of Good Feeling ('was of Buenos sentiments'); also during his presidential tenure, purchased Florida from the Spanish Crown, recognized the independence of the new Latin American republics, and began the irreversible process of division between the States of the North and the South over the slavery issue. His greatest contribution was the proclamation of American principles in foreign policy, the Monroe doctrine, the United States never departed.


Descendant of Scottish and Welsh arrived in America in the mid-17TH century, James Monroe was a member of a modest family of Virginia planters. At age 16 he/she joined the William And Mary College in Williamsburg to study law, but only remained two years in this institution, when the war against Great Britain (see Anglo-American Guerra), Monroe was enlisted as a volunteer in George Washington'sContinental Army, as a cadet. He/She fought in several decisive battles, both in New York and in Pennsylvania, under the command of general William Alexander, and did so with such brilliance and bravery which, at the end of the race, reached the rank of Colonel.

Political beginnings

After the war, James Monroe resumed his law studies under the tutelage of Professor Thomas Jefferson (by the then Governor of Virginia), who also was responsible for introducing and guide to Monroe in the political life of the State. In 1872, the young Monroe was elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Virginia for the following year, a seat in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, position in which he/she remained until 1786, when it became part of the Committee appointed to consider the draft Constitution. Monroe opposed the ratification of the Constitution on the grounds that it gave too much power to the Senate and the Federal Government at the expense of the autonomy of the Government of the newly created States. It is also meant to defend the rights of navigation on the Mississippi River, traffic which was exclusively the Crown of Spain.

Political and diplomatic career

After joining the constitutional document, Monroe got a seat for the Senate in 1790. In the aforementioned letter he/she showed favour republicano-democrata ideology defended by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, along with those who founded the Republicano-democrata party, as force of opposition to the political party in power, the federalist party, and especially against the tax policy of the Secretary of the Treasury (Finance Minister), Alexander Hamilton.

Due to the great prestige it had acquired as a Senator, nothing hidden sympathies by the French Revolution and to the wishes of President George Washington by satisfy Republicans, Monroe was named Minister Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) in France, where he/she served between the years 1794 to 1796. His appointment was well seen and embraced by the French revolutionary Convention, at the same time that deeply antagonized settlement to the federalist party managed by Alexander Hamilton, who speed up the signing of the Jay Treaty (1794), whereby the United States and Britain came to a fairly advantageous trade agreement for the British during all the time that last war between France and Great Britain. The signing of the Treaty violated drawing a similar treaty signed much earlier, in the year 1778, between France and United States. To persist in its support to the French protests, Monroe was finally removed from the post and returned to the United States, giving start to a very active political period, along with Jefferson and Madison, that did not criticize and obstruct everything he/she could of Washington and the second President of the country's foreign policy, the also federalist John Adams (1797-1801).

Collaboration with Jefferson and Madison

In 1799 Monroe was elected Governor of Virginia, acting decisively in an attempt at rebellion by the numerous slaves of the State. In the year 1803, Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), by then already President, sent Monroe to Paris, as Advisor of Ambassador Robert r. Livingston, with the Mission of completing the negotiations for purchase of the territory of Louisiana and the mouth of the Mississippi River, operation that successfully concluded on 30 April of the same year, upon payment of 15 million dollars, with which a single stroke doubled the territory of the United States.

Between the years 1803-1807, Monroe was appointed at the London Embassy, in a rather delicate time because the continental blockade which severely prejudicial to the American maritime trade with Europe. Thanks to their good diplomatic skills, Monroe got the British authorities to sign the 31 December 1806 a trade treaty by which Britain pledged to adopt a more flexible attitude regarding the restrictions on American products was submitting.

After a new mandate as Governor of Virginia, between the months of January to November 1811, Monroe was appointed Secretary of State by the new President James Madison, position in which he/she was until the year 1817, except short (September 1814 to March 1815), where he/she became Secretary of war in the most critical moment of the Anglo-American GuerraWhen the British had taken the city of Washington. Monroe was able to lift the mood of the troops and counter the pressure of the British armies, with the invaluable help of general Andrew Jackson (future President), which won the decisive battle of New Orleans, June 8, 1815.

The extraordinary political and Administrative Acumen that showed under the Presidency of James Madison and their attitude decided during the war against the British made his party to appoint him unanimously presidential candidate to confront, in the election of 1816, his federalist opponent, Rufus King, who defeated by a large majority of votes.

Presidency of James Monroe

Through a conciliatory policy, Monroe launched the so-called was of Buenos sentiments, which secured the country's internal political unity and made disappear the harmful centrifugal forces fueled by Republicans and federalists. Monroe, the young nation overcame the critical phase of independence to become aware of itself and remain on the sidelines of European politics. Monroe knew as nobody harnessing for the benefit of the country different political opinions, which gave a positive and nationalist character, with a resounding success, to the point that in the elections of the year 1820 Electoral College was forced to introduce an opponent, the future President John Quincy Adams, to avoid that Monroe igualase the record of George Washingtonelected and re-elected unanimously.

In order to implement its policy of union, Monroe picked up the three most outstanding men of the moment: John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State; William Crawford, head of the Secretariat of the Treasury; and John Calhoun as Secretary of war.

Domestic policy

Monroe strengthened the federal Union since a perfect understanding between the President and the Congress on the one hand, and the federal Government and other States. Economically, after a brief monetary recession in 1819, Monroe favored the expansion westward with the inclusion of five new territories in the Union (Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine and Missouri), migration which was favoured by the construction of numerous roads and canals that opened up new and promising markets in those territories of the West. To protect these markets, Monroe adopted a protectionist policy that also benefited the emerging industry of the Northern States.

However, the was of Buenos sentiments came to an end on the issue of slavery, institution essential for the cotton crop of the southern States, while the Northern States condemning outright their practice. The problem originated when, in 1819, Missouri, one of the five new annexed territories with a high percentage of slaves, formally requested his Union of the new state condition, and again aroused the fragile balance that had in the two chambers and the profound differences that separated northerners of the southerners. The House of representatives voted in favor of its admission provided adopted an anti-slavery politics, but the Senate, most southerner, vetoed the amendment. After a long period of discussions that affected all sectors of the country, from the political to social, Monroe managed to reach a tentative agreement with the signing of the commitment to Missouri the year 1820, which was admitted to the new State as a slaver, while Maine would be declared State abolitionist. In addition, slavery was prohibited in all the territories situated north of the line marked by the parallel 36 ° 30', except for the own State of Missouri. The truth is that, the Missouri compromise all that did was to delay a burning question that would end up exploding forty years later with the civil war (1861-1865).

Foreign policy

Although Monroe jealously protecting State rights in internal affairs, on foreign issues was as a fiery nationalist, but less aggressive than his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who was directly responsible for the isolationist trend of United States, pretty interwoven with the resurgence of nationalism of the time increased. The objective consisted out of the country and the continent any threat or external danger.

Thus, in order to safeguard the borders, with Great Britain signed the Rush-Bagot Treaty in 1817, which set the boundaries with Canada in the forty-ninth parallel, occupation together for ten years of the territories of Oregon (then extended until the year 1846) and regulated commercial navigation of both countries in the Great Lakes. This was followed by another Treaty with Russia, in 1824, whereby the latter renounced the Pacific exceed 54 ° 40' latitude South and allowing United States to control the present coast of the Pacific. Monroe took advantage of military incursions by general Andrew Jackson in Florida against the Indians Seminole, in 1818, to put pressure on the Crown of Spain, which ended up giving with the sale of their possessions by the ridiculous amount of 5 million dollars, under the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819.

But where Monroe said more nationalistic spirit and new course printed to American foreign policy was in the South of the American continent. When the old Spanish colonies have concluded their respective processes of independence, Monroe was quick to recognize the new republics, while a coalition of European States (the Holy Alliance), which threatened to intervene to restore the Spanish authority had been. In 1822, the Secretary of external affairs, George Caming, proposed to the President an Anglo-American joint statement that was opposed to possible European intervention in the continent. But, finally, advised by John Quincy Adams, Monroe decided to publicize a separate policy statement, the Monroe doctrine, more forceful, issued December 2, 1823. This was expressed American isolationism to Europe, not so in regard to the American continent, and deemed any interference or attempt to establish a Government by the European powers as an act contrary to the interests of the United States, thought that summed up perfectly with the lapidary phrase: "America for the Americans".


Accomplished his second Presidency stage, Monroe settled in Oak Hill (Virginia), where he/she spent five years at the head of the University of Virginia founded by his friend and mentor Thomas Jefferson. Plagued by serious economic problems, the death surprised him in New York while he/she was visiting his daughter, on July 4, 1831.