Podcast # 14: Life and Presidency of James Monroe

Era of Good Feeling, Missouri Compromise and Monroe Doctrine

Like many of the Presidents before him, James Monroe was from Virginia. He was Born to a wealthy Planter Family. His parents died when he was young and he inherited the property and slaves. Over his lifetime it is believed he owned around 250 slaves. He called for the gradual abolition of slavery and supported the movement to move freed blacks to colonies in both the Caribbean and Africa like Liberia whose capital is Monrovia named after President Monroe. Yet, Monroe freed only one of his slaves. You can learn more about the enslaved at Monroe’s plantation at Highland.org. There are brief biographies and descriptions of some of the enslaved at Highland.

Monroe was part of what would become known as The Virginia Dynasty. By the time he was elected President, he had quite the resume. He fought in The Revolutionary war, studied law under Thomas Jefferson, elected to the Virginia Assembly and The US senate. Served as Governor of Virginia, served as ambassador to both France and Britain and was both the Secretary of State and War under President Madison. So many secretaries of state had become President that the position became known as a springboard to the Presidency.

Served two terms as President.

Monroe’s Presidency is referred to as The Era of Good Feeling When he was elected in 1816, The Federalist Party had pretty much dissolved and when he ran for reelection in 1820, there was no major opponent and won almost unanimously (1 faithless elector who voted for John Q. Adams) This unity will be short lived, by the election of 1824, we will see division within the Democratic- Republican Party. Like Washington before him, he made a goodwill tour of the country when he was first elected. He hoped to bring about a sense of National Unity. His Cabinet members were a testament to that goal. He appointed former Federalists and members of his own party. He appointed Southerners, Northerners and Westerners. His cabinet was stacked with heavy hitters, strong personalities and political geniuses. People like John Q. Adams and John C. Calhoun (who we will talk more about during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson). The desire and hope for National Unity was no match for the Growing Sectional Feelings that would come to a head in the coming decades. Sectionalism – loyalty to one’s section or region of the country as opposed to the Nation as a whole. In the Northern, Southern and Western regions, interests, politics and goals often differed greatly and were in opposition to each other. Sectionalist feelings often led to regions refusing to support bills that would benefit another region. Sectionalist feeling made it difficult to see how the prosperity of one region would strengthen the nation as a whole. Senator Henry Clay’s American System looked to bring improvements that would help the three different regions. During this time period, we do see sections of the US supporting things like tariffs and The national bank that hadn’t before. In response to that support, The North agreed to support a variety of internal improvements that would give western and southern farmers better transportation for goods and services. There is an understanding of the need to foster growth for both the merchant and yeoman farmer.

Domestic and Foreign Issues that occurred during Monroe’s Presidency:

Rush Bagot Agreement of 1817:

A demilitarization of The Great Lakes Region between the US and England. Both countries agreed to remove warships.

The Border Line of 1818

Border established between British controlled Canada and the US at the 49th parallel and the joint occupation of the Oregon Territory for 10 years. By the 1840s this issue of the Oregon territory would need to be resolved.

Adams Onis Treaty of 1819

Spain ceded Florida to the US – Spain was preoccupied with various revolts within its empire in North America. Mexican War for Independence began in 1810 and lasted until 1821.

Florida had become a haven for runaway slaves. Many Native American tribes offered protection for runaways. Native American tribes living in Florida would attack neighboring border settlements. General Andrew Jackson was sent to Florida to put an end to these raids. He did more than what was asked of him and invaded Spanish Controlled Florida. Sec. of State John Q. Adams got Spain to agree to cede the territory in exchange for 5 Million dollars. In addition, the US gave up claims to Texas (for the time being)

The Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Nations such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Columbia had gained their independence from Spain. The United States recognized the independence of these countries and sought to limit other European Colonial Powers from attempting to establish influence in the region. Written by Sec of State. John Q. Adams, the Monroe Doctrine stated that no new colonization by European Powers would be tolerated in the Western Hemisphere. Wherever European colonies existed they could continue to exist. It was a message to Europe that the Western Hemisphere was our responsibility and we would handle it. Keep your attention on Europe and we will mind our own business over here.


The Missouri Compromise also known as The Compromise of 1820 Slavery was the most significant sectional issue. As The United States expanded its territories slave states sought to expand slavery into the new territories. Due to higher populations in non-slave holding or free states, the senate was the LAST Place southern states had an equal say to Northern States.

In 1820 – there were 22 states in the union 11 free 11 slave

When Missouri wanted to enter the union, it was going to upset that balance.

Enter the Great Compromiser, Senator Henry Clay.

Missouri wanted to join a free state – unbalanced the senate was the LAST place that southern states had an equal say as the northern states. Massachusetts willingly ceded territory that became known as Maine. Maine joined as free state 24 states Missouri joined as a slave state. 36 30 parallel was set up the prevent further disputes. Any state that entered the Union above that line had to enter as a free state and any state that entered the union below that line, had to enter the union as a slave state.

After his presidency, he returned to Virginia. He was extremely close with both Jefferson and Madison and worked at The University of Virginia. After his wife’s death he moved to NYC to live with his daughter where he died shortly after in 1831. He was the 3rd President to die on July 4th.

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