(president from 1817-1825)
By Richard E. Noble
James Monroe was the last of a trilogy. They were three like-minded presidents; Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and all from the same party. Twenty four years of "liberal" Democratic rule.
The Federalists (conservatives) were so beaten and demoralized that their political party actually dissolved. By Monroe's second term the Federalists didn't even put up a candidate. Monroe ran unopposed. To avoid a unanimous approval which would have put Monroe on a par with George Washington, one elector voted otherwise.
Monroe was also the last of the patriots from the Revolutionary days. He fought in the Revolution, was wounded and promoted to the rank of general. He was very active in government before being elected as president. He studied law under a private tutor, Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson respected George Washington if not always agreeing with him, but Monroe and Washington seemed to have a genuine competition. One author actually credits Washington falling sick and eventually dying as due to the announcement that Monroe had been elected Governor of Virginia in 1799. George may have gotten himself sick over Monroe's success but it wasn't Monroe who killed him. It was the doctors and their eighteenth century medical practices.
Monroe was sent to France by Washington in 1794. He was not considered loyal to his duty by the president and was recalled in 1796. He kept mouthing off on the side of the French and against the British; just the opposite of what George and the Federalist wanted him to do. Not to mention that he got Tom Paine out of the Bastille where old Tom was about to have his head chopped off. Tom Paine who very shortly thereafter published an open letter back in the Colonies saying what an ungrateful scumbag was their president, George Washington. Tom was the main revolutionary propagandist before and during the war and felt that, at the least, George should have acknowledged his American citizenship when the French asked who the hell Tom Paine belonged to. George kept his mouth shut and instead of being released or deported, Tom went to jail to await his execution. Monroe was considered to have a "checkered" diplomatic career but under Madison he straightened out the State Department, and then as Secretary of War went on to even greater public success. It was his role during the War of 1812 that is said to have guaranteed his eventual presidency.
The Monroe Doctrine was his real claim to fame, historically. It was a brave enactment even if he didn't have the fire power to back it up. These were obviously the words of a fighting man, a general ...We're the new world; you're the old world. We won’t bother you. Don't you bother us. Any attempts on your part to colonize on this continent will be considered an attack on our security...
Boy! Tough guy. One has to wonder how a big brave man, a general and wounded war hero; a man who wouldn't even let the most popular man in America, George Washington, or the powers of Europe push him around, could let his wife and family poop all over him.
James was probably the poorest president yet, but his wife, Elizabeth Kortright, seems to have been the biggest snob yet to queen the Mansion. Her and her two spoiled rotten daughters had to be the poor man's biggest trial in life. It is no wonder he was considered a hard drinker.