On April 28, 1758, Spence and Elizabeth Monroe, of Westmoreland County, Virginia welcomed their first child, a son whom they named James. Spence was a prosperous planter and carpenter.
In 1774, Spence Monroe died. James enrolled at the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, to study law. However, several months after enrolling, James and several of his friends left the college and enlisted in the Continental Army. Monroe and his friends carried out a raid of the British Governor’s house in Virginia where they stole a number of weapons and supplies. They turned everything over to the Virginia militia.
In 1776, Young James Monroe was made a lieutenant in the Continental Army and served under General George Washington. He saw action at Harlem Heights and White Plains, New York. At the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was severely wounded but recovered.
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In 1777, Monroe was promoted to Major. He spent the winter at Valley Forge with Washington and his army. He later fought with Washington at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. Some hailed Monroe’s actions in battle as heroic.
In 1778, Monroe resigned his commission and began studying law under the tutelage of then Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson. While studying under Jefferson, the two men formed a lasting friendship.
On November 3, 1783, James Monroe becames a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation (Continental Congress) and served until November 1786.
From 1790 to 1794, Monroe served as a US Senator from Virginia.
In 1794, Monroe was appointed Minister to France by President George Washington
In 1799, Monroe was elected Governor of Virginia.
In 1803, Monroe was appointed Minister to Great Britain by President Thomas Jefferson.
In 1811, Monroe was elected Governor of Virginia but only served 3 months.
In April 1811, Monroe was appointed US Secretary of State by President James Madison.
In September 1814, Monroe was appointed US Secretary of War by President James Madison.
In 1816, Monroe ran for President of the United States and won the election, making him the fifth president and the last of the Founding Fathers to be President and the last of the Virginia dynasty (Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe).
In 1820, Monroe ran for re-election and won.
During this time, Spain still owned Florida but did little to govern or control it. There were numerous incidents of border raids by the Spanish and Seminole Indians from Florida into Georgia. Additionally, there was the concern of continued European colonization into North America, mainly west of the newly formed United States.
In an effort to stop further European colonization, Monroe sought advice from his mentor Thomas Jefferson and former President James Madison.
On October 17, 1823, Monroe wrote to Jefferson, asking for advice on foreign policy in dealing with Spain, Great Britain and Russia. Russia was claiming that everything north of the 51st parallel and extending 100 miles into the Pacific Ocean was off-limits to all non-Russians. Spain was flexing their muscle and influence in Central and South America. Great Britain was trying to undermine Spanish colonization. Then there was the concern that both France and Spain would try to assert their rule throughout all of Central and South America.
On this date, December 2, 1823, President James Monroe addressed Congress about foreign policy. Years later, this address would become known as the Monroe Doctrine. The heart of the address states that the United States of America would not tolerate any further European colonization of the Western Hemisphere nor would the United States tolerate the establishment of any European puppet monarchy in the Western Hemisphere.
After the War of 1812, the United States’ military forces were rather weakened and not taken seriously by some of the European nations. When those nations received word of Monroe’s address to Congress, few took it seriously at first. However, over the years, the Monroe Doctrine became the foundation for a great deal of US foreign policy. Numerous US Presidents used the Monroe Doctrine to help advance American economic and political interests in the Western Hemisphere.
What many people may not realize is that the heart of Monroe’s address to Congress, which became known as the Monroe Doctrine, was actually drafted by Monroe’s Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. Adams went on to succeed Monroe in THE most controversial presidential election in US history – the election of 1824. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote and electoral vote but not enough of a majority to secure the presidency. Based upon the US Constitution and the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives cast their votes for president and John Quincy Adams received the majority of their votes. However, he only served one term and was defeated four years later by Andrew Jackson.
Sources for the above includes: Monroe Doctrine; Monroe Doctrine (1823); The Monroe Doctrine; Monroe Introduces Bold New Foreign Policy; Monroe Doctrine; Monroe Doctrine, 1823; Monroe Doctrine; Monroe Doctrine; Letter, James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson seeking foreign policy advice, 17 October 1823; James Monroe Biography; 13 Facts About Founding Father James Monroe; James Monroe