James Monroe - the forgotten President.
Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
253Trip End Dec 31, 2014
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James Monroe was elected our fifth President in 1816, receiving over 80% of the electoral vote. He would serve two terms and is considered the last of the Revolutionary War Presidents, having served as an officer of the Continental Army. He is best known for the Monroe Doctrine, policy which is in place to this day dealing with European intervention into American policies.
Unlike Jefferson & Madison, James Monroe's background is much more middle class. He was born in April of 1758. His father was a moderately prosperous planter who also worked as a carpenter. He was sent off to school at the age of 11 and entered the College of William and Mary at 16. In 1775 he would drop out of school and join the Continental Army. He would never return to school, nor earn a degree.
Between 1780 and 1783, he studied law under Thomas Jefferson. Monroe was not particularly interested in legal theory or practice, but chose to take it up because he felt that it offered "the most immediate rewards" and that it would place him on a path to wealth, social standing, and political influence. And the rest, as they say, is history!
James Monroe built a small farm house within close proximity of Jefferson's Monticello. In fact, Highland, as it was called at the time is only a 20 minute horse ride to Monticello. The two old friends would stay in constant contact throughout their life's.
Another similarity between these three founding fathers is that they all ended life in debt. We have learned that this problem came on mostly because of the obligations required in post-presidential life. The entertaining was constant with people showing up, unannounced, and staying for days and weeks at a time. (Hence, the reason Jefferson built Poplar Forest! ) There were also problems with the management of plantations due to frequent and extended absences.
Monroe would have to sell of Highland in order to pay off some of his debts. It is now owned by his Alma Mater - the College of William and Mary. He would move in with a daughter after the death of his wife. It was at the daughters house in New York that he would pass on July 4, 1831, becoming the third President in a row to die on Independence day. ( John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had both died on the same day 5 years earlier.)