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Biography of James Monroe


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JAMES MONROE, the fifth president of the United States, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, April 29th 1758. He was descended from a Captain Monroe, of the army of Charles I, who emigrated with other Cavaliers to Virginia. James Monroe entered the revolutionary army at the age of eighteen, as a cadet, and was present at several battles; but having lost his rank in the army by serving as aide-de-camp, he commenced to study law with Jefferson. In 1782 he was elected to the Assembly of Virginia, and at the age of twenty-three, to the Executive Council. Next year he was elected to congress, where he took an active part in framing a new Constitution. He was afterwards sent by Washington as minister to France, and was received with singular enthusiasm by the revolutionary government. He was, however, soon recalled, for having too decided French sympathies. In 1799, he was elected governor of Virginia; and in 1803 was sent by Jefferson to France to purchase Louisiana, which vast territory he secured for 15,000,000 dollars. He was now employed for several years in diplomacy in England and Spain. On the election of Mr. Madison to the presidency, he was made Secretary of State, and also performed the duties of Secretary of War. In 1816, his eminent services were rewarded by being elected President of the United States by the Democratic Republican party, and he made himself very popular. The acquisition of Florida from Spain, and the settlement of the vexed question respecting the extension of slavery by the Missouri Compromise, by which after the reception of Missouri as a slave state, the institution was prohibited above the line of latitude 3630',helped to secure his re-election in 1820. His most popular acts, perhaps, were the recognition of the independence of Mexico and the South American republics, and the promulgation of what has since been called the "Monroe Doctrine," in which he declared the American policy of "neither entangling ourselves in the broils of Europe, nor suffering the powers of the Old World, to interfere with the affairs of the New," and that "any attempt to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere, would be dangerous to our peace and safety." In 1825, he retired to his seat in Loudoun County, Virginia; but he still continued in the public service. After being twice president, he acted as justice of the peace, a visitor of the university of Virginia, and member of the State Convention; but a profuse generosity and hospitality caused him to be overwhelmed with debt, and he found refuge with his relatives in New York, where he died in 1831 - like his predecessors, Adams and Jefferson, on the 4th of July. He was an honorable and able statesman, though not a brilliant orator.