While often regarded as quiet and dignified, the fifth President of the United States of America, James Monroe, was a wartime hero and a fierce competitor in the political ring. He was close to several of the Founding Fathers, taking a particular liking to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Like all politicians, he had both allies and adversaries, but few who knew him personally ever had an unkind word to say about the man that served in more roles of government than most Founding Fathers. Interesting indeed, here are ten things you might not know about James Monroe.
- Monroe studied law under Thomas Jefferson Monroe studied law at William and Mary under the mentorship and urging of Thomas Jefferson
When young Monroe met Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson was the governor of Virginia. Monroe had been brought up attending institutions of high academic standards, but found himself being pulled away from school shortly after enrolling at the College of William and Mary in order to join the cause of the American Revolution. Fifteen years Monroe’s senior, Jefferson took a quick liking to the young officer and encouraged him to continue in his journey to law. In 1780 Monroe reenrolled at William and Mary under the guidance of Jefferson. In one of his letters to Jefferson he wrote, “I feel that whatever I am at present in the opinion of others or whatever I may be in future has greatly arose from your friendship.”
- He was buddies with Jefferson and Madison Although at times they were political rivals, Monroe regarded James Madison as a close friend and advisor
Jefferson, who introduced Monroe and James Madison, wrote to Madison about Monroe stating, “The scrupulousness of his honor will make you safe in the most confidential communications. A better man cannot be.” Although their political paths at times found them as rivals, Madison and Monroe remained friends, advising each other throughout their careers. Upon retirement, all three had homes in Charlottesville, Virginia, no doubt at the urging of Jefferson. There, the third, fourth, and fifth Presidents enjoyed living within proximity of each other at (respectively) Monticello, Montpelier, and Ash Lawn-Highland. Jefferson appointed both of his lifelong friends to the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia, as well.
- He wasn’t so friendly with Washington, thoughAlthough Washington spoke highly of Monroe’s war efforts, their opposing political views led to a feud that lasted until Washington’s death in 1799
Oddly enough, the feuding pair were born within miles of each other in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Additionally, Monroe served under Washington during the Revolutionary War, and Washington praised his bravery in battle writing Monroe “has, in every instance, maintained the reputation of a brave, active, and sensible officer.” That’s where the love ends, though. Despite their respect for one another on the battlefield, their politics quickly divided the two (along with many others) upon the ratification of the Constitution. Monroe opposed the strong central government of Federalist George Washington, one he felt leaned toward a monarchy. Despite this, Washington appointed Monroe as Minister to France in 1794. Monroe loved France (much like his mentor Jefferson) and disagreed with Washington’s policy of neutrality. While in France, Monroe was able to have Thomas Paine released from prison, upon which Paine denounced Washington. He had Monroe return to the United States, and their relationship never recovered. Some believe that learning of Monroe’s election to Governor of Virginia contributed to Washington’s death in December 1799.
- He is the only person in history to hold two cabinet positions at once Monroe is the only politician to hold two cabinet positions (Secretary of State and Secretary of War) simultaneously
During his political career, Monroe held a number of positions before becoming President in 1817. He served in the Virginia assembly, was a delegate to the Virginia Convention, and was a strong supporter of adding a Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. He was Minister to France and Great Britain and governor of Virginia. But under his friend, President James Madison, Monroe was appointed as both Secretary of State (1811-1817) and Secretary of War (1814–1815) simultaneously. A first that hasn’t been repeated by any other politician since.
- Monroe was the last of the Founding Fathers to serve as PresidentThe last of the Founding Fathers to serve as President, James Monroe was also a war hero, delegate, governor, and friend
While not all of the Founding Fathers served as President, Monroe was the last to hold the honored position. George Washington served from 1789–1797; John Adams from 1797–1801; Thomas Jefferson from 1801–1809; and James Madison from 1809–1817. Monroe served as President of the United States of America from 1817–1825.
- He was the only President, aside from Washington, to run unopposed William H. Crawford abandoned his campaign for presidency, sensing Monroe was sure to get the people’s vote
Mostly. After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began dying. By the time James Madison’s presidency was coming to a close, they did not formally nominate a candidate for President. Madison’s party, the Democratic-Republicans, had two main competitors for candidacy—James Monroe and William H. Crawford. Crawford had a lot of support in Congress, but wasn’t as popular with the people as was Monroe. Sensing Monroe would succeed, Crawford never launched a full-out campaign, as he was hoping to still be able to secure a cabinet appointment if Monroe was the next President. Monroe secured the nomination 65–54, with Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins as his vice presidential running mate. Some former Federalists threw their support to Rufus King, but Monroe succeeded with 183 electoral votes.
- Monroe has a foreign capital named in his honor Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, was named for President Monroe in 1824
In 1822 the American Colonization Society established a colony known as Christopolis in West Africa. It was established to serve as a place to send freed black and ex-Caribbean slaves to Africa. Emancipation was still a fearful concept at the time, since many believed that if slaves were to be freed, they would rise up in vengeance against their white oppressors. It was an irrational fear, but one that most slave holders held. Many—President James Monroe included—felt that shipping them to Africa would prevent such an uprising and rid them of the guilt of slavery. In 1824, the colony was renamed “Monrovia” in the President’s honor. It now serves as the capital of Liberia.
- He was most famous for the Monroe DoctrineStatue at the former Charlottesville home of Monroe, Ash Lawn-Highland. Monroe and James Madison had homes near Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville.[/caption]
The Monroe Doctrine was President Monroe’s way of saying to the European world, “Leave us the heck alone.” Given in an address to Congress in December 1823, and written with the help of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the U.S. policy warned Europe to stay out of the Western hemisphere. Any unauthorized intervention into the Americas would be immediately taken as hostile intention toward the United States.
- Monroe was the last of the Founding Fathers to pass awayAfter his death in New York on July 4, 1831, his remains were moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia
On July 4, 1831, the final Founding Father and the last of the Virginia Dynasty passed away. The year before, after the death of his wife, Monroe had moved to New York to live with his daughter and son-in-law as his health had taken a turn for the worse. There, he died from heart failure and tuberculosis. Five years earlier, his close friend Thomas Jefferson, as well as John Adams, had passed away on July 4. His remains are at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
- Monroe was the first President to serve in the White House when it was actually white-paintedA painting of the White House after the British fire in 1814. The white of the White House didn’t come from an actual white paint until 1818.
An odd fact, and more to do with his home rather than the man, but the White House was first painted in white lead paint in 1818, during the presidency of Monroe. The previous white of the White House came from a lime whitewash originally meant to protect the stone from freezing and cracking. As it wore off, it filled any cracks left in the stone. It was frequently whitewashed to maintain the building until the decision was made to paint it white. The home of the President had been nicknamed the “white house” for some time, but it did not become official until 1901, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt.