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James Monroe – America’s 5th President


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James Monroe


More on James Monroe

Monroe Doctrine – Learn all about the crown jewel of the Monroe presidency, the Monroe Doctrine. Largely written by John Quincy Adams, the Monroe Doctrine outlined America’s stance on foreign policy and solidifed it as a world power.
Missouri Compromise – Did you know one of the first causes of America’s Civil War can be traced all the way back to Monroe’s presidency? Learn all about the Missouri Compromise and it how it created a balance in Congress that temporarily appeased both the North and South.
NEW – James and William – Did you know 23% of American presidents were named James or William? This activity requires students to think of two common first names and to list as many people they can think of as possible with those first names.

James Monroe


James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia . He attended the College of William and Mary before joining the Continental Army, where he was wounded at the Battle of Trenton in 1776. It is Monroe who is depicted holding the flag in the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware . The image is also depicted on the back of the New Jersey state quarter. After the war, he practiced law in Fredericksburg and married Elizabeth Kortright in 1786. To learn more about Elizabeth Monroe, click here

Monroe’s political career moved quickly in the new nation. He participated in the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1786 and was elected as a Virginia Senator in 1790. From 1794-1796, he served as Minister to France during the French Revolution. From 1799-1802, he served as Virginia ’s Governor and he served as Minister of the Court of St. James (Ambassador to England) from 1803 to 1807 in Thomas Jefferson’s administration. During the Madison administration, Monroe served at various times as Secretary of State and Secretary of War.


In 1816, James Monroe was elected America ’s fifth president. His presidency lasted two terms from 1817-1825 and was referred to as The Era of Good Feeling because of the relative lack of political bitterness between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Party. The “good feeling,” however, was short-lived as a painful economic depression swept through the country as a result of the Panic of 1819. That same year, Congress became locked in a bitter debate over the admission of Missouri as a slave state that finally ended with the Missouri Compromise in 1820. As part of the Compromise, Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine as a free state.

Monroe is probably best-known for the Monroe Doctrine, a document largely written by John Quincy Adams.The document outlined America’s foreign policy stance and proclaimed neutrality in European affairs. It also condemned European colonization and declared that such colonization in North and SouthAmerica was a direct threat to the United States .

After his second term in office ended in 1825, Monroe lived at Monroe Hill on the campus of the University of Virginia. The current campus served as Monroe’s farm from 1788 to 1817, when he sold it to the University. Racked by debt, he lived a humble existence before moving to New York City after the death of his wife in 1830. He died on July 4, 1831, of Tuberculosis and heart failure, becoming the third president to die on July 4th. He was originally buried in New York City but now lies in Richmond, Virginia . In 1824, the capital city of the African nation of Liberia was re-named Monrovia in his honor. It is the only foreign capital named after a U.S. President.


Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

Elizabeth Kortright was born in New York City on June 30, 1768. Her father was a wealthy merchant and one of the founders of the New York Chamber of Commerce. Elizabeth was one of five children, but her mother died when she was only nine.

Elizabeth met James Monroe in 1785 in New York while he was serving in the Continental Congress. The 27 year-old Monroe married the 17 year-old Kortright the following year. In 1786, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, Eliza. She would give birth to two more children, one of which died in early childhood. Sometime around 1801, Elizabeth began suffering from seizures, which would plague her for remainder of her life.

In 1817, Elizabeth and James moved to the White House after James was elected as the fifth president of the United States. Elizabeth’s physical afflictions made it difficult for her to attend to the many social duties expected of a first lady, which offended many of the dignitaries of Washington. Kortright died on September 23, 1830, at the couple’s estate in Oak Hill, Virginia.

Click HERE for her full biography