Top 10 Things to Know About James Monroe

Interesting and Important Facts About James Monroe

Portrait of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, circa 1800
Portrait of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, circa 1800.

Stock Montage/Getty Images

James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was elected the fifth president of the United States in 1816 and took office on March 4, 1817. The following are ten key facts that are important to understand when studying the life and presidency of James Monroe.

of 10

American Revolution Hero

James Monroe's father was a staunch supporter of the colonists' rights. Monroe attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, but dropped out in 1776 to join the Continental Army and fight in the American Revolution. He rose from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel during the war. As George Washington stated, he was "brave, active, and sensible." He was involved in many key events of the war. He crossed the Delaware with Washington. He was wounded and commended for bravery at the Battle of Trenton. He then became aide-de-camp to Lord Stirling and served under him at Valley Forge. He fought at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. At the Battle of Monmouth, he was a scout for Washington. In 1780, Monroe was made the military commissioner of Virginia by his friend and mentor, Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson.

of 10

Staunch Advocate for States' Rights

After the war, Monroe served in the Continental Congress. He strongly favored ensuring states' rights. Once the US Constitution was proposed to replace the Articles of Confederation, Monroe served as a delegate at the Virginia ratification committee. He voted against ratifying the constitution without the inclusion of the Bill of Rights.

of 10

Diplomat to France Under Washington

In 1794, President Washington appointed James Monroe to be the American minister to France. While there, he was key in getting Thomas Paine released from prison. He felt that the United States should be more supportive of France and was recalled from his post when he did not fully support Jay’s treaty with Great Britain. 

of 10

Helped Negotiate the Louisiana Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson recalled Monroe to diplomatic duty when he made him a special envoy to France to help negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. After this, he was sent to Great Britain to be the minister there from 1803-1807 as a means to try to stop the downward spiral in relations that would eventually end in the War of 1812.

of 10

Only Concurrent Secretary of State and War

When James Madison became president, he appointed Monroe to be his Secretary of State in 1811. In June, 1812, the US declared war on Britain. By 1814, the British had marched on Washington, D.C. Madison decided to name Monroe Secretary of War making him the only person to hold both posts at once. He strengthened the military during his time and helped bring about the end of the war.

of 10

Easily Won the Election of 1816

Monroe was extremely popular after the War of 1812. He easily won the Democratic-Republican nomination and had little opposition from Federalist candidate Rufus King. Extremely popular and easily won both the Dem-rep nomination and the election of 1816. He won the election with almost 84% of the electoral votes.

of 10

Had No Opponent in the Election of 1820

The Election of 1820 was unique in that there was no contender against President Monroe. He received all electoral votes save one. This began the so-called "Era of Good Feelings."

of 10

The Monroe Doctrine

On December 2, 1823, during President Monroe's seventh annual message to Congress, he created the Monroe Doctrine. This is without question one of the most important foreign policy doctrines in US History. The point of the policy was to make it clear to European nations that there would be no further European colonization in the Americas or any interference with independent states.

of 10

First Seminole War

Soon after taking office in 1817, Monroe had to deal with the First Seminole War which lasted from 1817-1818. Seminole Indians were crossing the border of Spanish-held Florida and raiding Georgia. General Andrew Jackson was sent to deal with the situation. He disobeyed orders to push them back out of Georgia and instead invaded Florida, deposing the military governor there. The aftermath included the signing of the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819 which gave Florida to the United States.

of 10

The Missouri Compromise

Sectionalism was a recurring issue in the US and would be until the end of the Civil War. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was passed as an effort to maintain the balance between pro-slavery and free states. The passage of this act during Monroe's time in office would hold off the Civil War for a few more decades.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Top 10 Things to Know About James Monroe." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Top 10 Things to Know About James Monroe. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Top 10 Things to Know About James Monroe." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).