President James Monroe

The James Monroe Museum

The life and presidency of James Monroe, presented by the James Monroe Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1851, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Revolutionary Ideals
Engraving of Monroe Hall, unknown, 1845, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to a prosperous family. Both of his parents died by 1774, leaving James and his four siblings dependent upon the guidance of their Uncle Joseph Jones, an influential lawyer and legislator.

This engraving of James Monroe's birthplace was first published in 1845. The house depicted is a small, two-story frame building typical of middle-class farmhouses of Tidewater Virginia in the 18th Century.

Revolutionary War-Era Sword, unknown, 1770/1776, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe enrolled at the College of William and Mary in June, 1774 amidst revolutionary fervor. Leaving his studies in 1776, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Third Virginia Infantry Regiment. Between 1776 and 1778, Monroe saw combat at Harlem Heights, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth.

This type of edged weapon, called a hunting sword, was often carried by hunters and soldiers in the 1700s. According to family tradition, James Monroe carried this sword while serving in the Third Virginia Infantry.

Masonic Apron, unknown, 1786/1789, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

At William and Mary, Monroe was initiated into Freemasonry on November 9, 1775. He later joined Fredericksburg Lodge Number 4 during the 1780s, receiving this apron. Many Revolutionary War officers, including George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, were Masons, as were many influential leaders in politics and business.

Revolutionary War-Era Musket, French Charlevilles with several alterations and additions, 1760/1770, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

According to family tradition, this musket was used by Monroe during the Revolutionary War. It is composed of elements from several different versions of French military and civilian muskets, encompassing years of manufacture from 1717 to 1777. Although produced at French arsenals in several towns, these weapons are generally called “Charlevilles” after the arsenal at Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes. While the features of the musket indicate considerable alteration, it is uncertain whether this occurred during the Revolutionary War or at another time. The initials "JM" and "1776" are carved into the stock.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Leutze, 1851, From the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's 1851 famous painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" contains many inaccuracies, including the depiction of Lieutenant James Monroe holding the Stars and Stripes behind General George Washington. Monroe was part of a small detachment of soldiers that crossed the river ahead of the main army to secure the route of march to Trenton.

Washington's March at the Battle of Trenton
The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton December 26, 1776, John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery, 1828, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

At the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was seriously wounded by a musket ball that remained in his shoulder for the rest of his life. For his gallantry on the battlefield, he was promoted to captain. In his painting "The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776," John Trumbull shows James Monroe lying wounded in the background at left.

Valley Forge Furlough, James Monroe, 1778-02-23, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

During the Revolutionary War, Monroe served as an aide-de-camp to Major General William Alexander, who claimed the British title Lord Sterling. The Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, desperately short of food and other provisions. This furlough granted seven weeks of leave to Lieutenant John Wallace of the Sixth Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, allowing Wallace to return his family's nearby home. It is the earliest known official document bearing James Monroe's signature.

George Weedon Letter to James Monroe, May 20, 1785, George Weedon, 1785-05-20, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In this letter from May 20, 1785, Monroe's former commanding officer in the Third Virginia Infantry Regiment, General George Weedon, discusses property Monroe could purchase in Fredericksburg. Weedon still refers to Monroe as "Colonel" from his Revolutionary War days.

Land Grant, Patrick Henry, 1786-05-18, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In recognition of his Revolutionary War service, James Monroe received a land grant signed by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry. He was given over 5,600 acres of western land. Monroe was able to amass thousands of acres of land in Kentucky and Ohio though this land grant and by purchase. Eventually, Monroe was forced to sell these holdings in order to satisfy debts that plagued him in later years.

Miniature Portrait of Eliza Monroe, unknown, 1794/1796, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Family Life and the Path to Public Service
Miniature Portrait, Castel, 1850/1900, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Monroe first entered politics at the age of 24. In April of 1782, he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. A year later, he was elected to the Continental Congress and in 1790, he became a U.S. Senator.

Although painted at a later date, this miniature portrait of Monroe depicts him at the start of his political career.

Portrait of Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, Frances Maury Burke, 1900/1920, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Stanz Waltz
Elizabeth Monroe Dress, Hannah Aspinwall Kortright, 1750, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe wed Elizabeth Kortright on February 16, 1786 in New York. The daughter of a prosperous merchant, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth was known for her beauty and charm.

This dress descended through the Monroe family with the attribution of being Elizabeth Monroe's wedding gown. The fabric actually dates to the 1750s, and may have been purchased for Elizabeth's mother, Hannah Kortright. The oldest seams and stitching in the gown, however, date from the 1786 time period, the same year Elizabeth was married.

Joseph Jones Letter to James Monroe, January, 1786, Joseph Jones, 1786-01, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Shortly after James married Elizabeth, his term in Congress ended. Monroe moved from New York to Fredericksburg, Virginia to establish a law practice. In this letter from January 1786, Judge Joseph Jones writes "your determination to practice the law and make that the object of your labor for acquiring prosperity and independency of future I very much applaud." His practice took him to surrounding courts in Richmond, Charlottesville, and Staunton. Monroe remained active in state politics, and in 1790 was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Miniature Portrait of Eliza Monroe, unknown, 1794/1796, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The Monroes had three children. Their eldest, Eliza Kortright Monroe (1787-1840) is depicted in this portrait. Their second-born was James Spence Monroe, who died in infancy following his birth in 1799, and their youngest was Maria Hester Monroe (1804-1850).

Snuff Box, unknown, 1800, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In order to be closer to his friend, Thomas Jefferson, Monroe moved his family to a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia in 1793. He named this house Highland. Although he was very interested in farming, Monroe was constantly called away for various appointments. He hired overseers to run his plantations, but the situation was never satisfactory and they were never as profitable as they could have been. Highland had a workforce of 15 enslaved people to grow tobacco, wheat, and corn.

Monroe's burled-wood snuff box, one of several he owned, is decorated with a diamond-shaped inlay of wood and ivory. Like many men of his era, Monroe consumed tobacco in a variety of forms, including finely powdered snuff that was inhaled through the nose for an immediate nicotine ingestion.

Louisiana Purchase Bas Relief, Karl Bitter, 1903/1904, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Diplomatic Calling
Miniature Portrait of James Monroe, Louis Sene, 1795, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

French artist Louis Sene produced this ca. 1795 miniature portrait, the earliest known image of James Monroe, to complement the miniature of Elizabeth Monroe made at the same time.

President George Washington appointed Monroe American minister to France in May, 1794. As an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and the Franco-American alliance, Monroe opposed the American trade negotiations with Great Britain conducted by his political opponent John Jay. The Jay Treaty of 1795, which included improved economic ties between Britain and the United States, was resented by the French. The resulting loss of credibility abroad and political alienation at home led to Monroe's recall in December, 1796.

Despite this turmoil, the Monroe family enjoyed their time in France. Daughter Eliza entered the prestigious school operated by Jeanne Louise Henriette Campan, former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. An elegant suite of mahogany furniture bought in Paris would grace all of the Monroes' subsequent homes, including the White House. Political author Thomas Paine was saved from the guillotine by James Monroe's quiet diplomacy, while Elizabeth's well-publicized visit to the Marquis de Lafayette's wife Adrienne, who was under house arrest, had the same result.

"A View of the Conduct of the Executive . . .", James Monroe, 1797, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Upon his return to the United States, Monroe published this lengthy pamphlet telling his side of the story. He criticized the Washington administration harshly and predicted dire consequences for repudiating the American alliance with France. The rift between Washington and Monroe over this matter proved permanent.

James Monroe Letter to Joseph Jones, August 1, 1796, James Monroe, 1796-08-01, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In this letter written from Paris to his uncle Joseph Jones, Monroe mentions the death of Thenia Hemings, an enslaved African American woman in his household. Thenia's sister Sally Hemings was held in slavery by Thomas Jefferson, who sold Thenia to Monroe in 1794. Thenia was 28 when she died, leaving behind a husband named Peter and five children, also enslaved. Monroe calls Thenia's death "an irreparable loss" for both the Monroes and her children, whom he hopes will "be well taken care of."

Chess Set, unknown, 1790/1810, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Monroe served four terms as Governor of Virginia beginning in 1799. Among his notable achievements were completion of the state armory and the first state penitentiary. He responded decisively to Gabriel's Rebellion, a thwarted slave uprising in 1800. This incident influenced Monroe's later support of the emigration of free blacks to Africa, in part to counter their perceived influence over the enslaved population.

This chess set is thought to have been given to Monroe by Thomas Jefferson during his fourth term as governor.

Louisiana Purchase Bas Relief, Karl Bitter, 1903/1904, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

President Thomas Jefferson appointed Monroe to join Robert Livingston as special envoy to help negotiate the purchase of New Orleans from France. Napoleon Bonaparte offered the Americans not only New Orleans but all of Louisiana, which Monroe and Livingston immediately accepted in April 1803. This transaction doubled the size of the United States and spurred westward expansion.

This plaster bas relief sculpture is the artist's model for a larger version exhibited at the 1904 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. The fair was dubbed the "Louisiana Purchase Exposition" to commemorate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Austrian-American sculptor Karl Bitter depicted James Monroe (left), Robert Livingston (seated), and French treasurer Francois Barbe-Marbois (right) signing the treaty in 1803. The full-size sculpture was demolished after the World's Fair, but a bronze version was erected at the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City in 1927.

Bicorne Hat, unknown, 1804/1806, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe’s bicorne hat was made of black felt covered with beaver fur, decorated with a silk cockade and ostrich feathers. This French creation from ca. 1805 reflected the military dress of Napoleon Bonaparte and his army’s officers, adapted for civilian wear.

Court Suit, unknown, 1803/1807, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This suit dates to the time of James Monroe's second diplomatic mission to France (1803-1805). He wore it during visits to the court of Napoleon Bonaparte, including the latter's coronation as Emperor of France on December 2, 1804. Made of velvet cut with a geometric pattern, the suit was originally dyed green, but later dark brown. With its silk lining, high collar, and polished-metal faceted buttons, it is the finest suit Monroe ever owned, though far less ostentatious than the costumes worn by other diplomats in the glittering French court.

Silver Platter, Peter and Anne Bateman, 1794/1795, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This platter was presented to James Monroe while he served as Minister to France and England during Thomas Jefferson's presidency. The inscribed center reads "To the Honorable James Monroe, Esquire, From His Friends and Admirers Associated. London, 1803."

Republican Caucus Meeting Minutes, Republican Caucus, 1816-03-16, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
The Road to the Presidency
Telescope, unknown, 1790/1814, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In April, 1811, three months after beginning his fourth term as governor of Virginia, Monroe accepted appointment as secretary of state in the administration of President James Madison. A year later, the United States declared war against Great Britain, decrying the trade restrictions and impressment of American sailors brought on by the war between Britain and France. Monroe supported the war but became dissatisfied with its management. He used this telescope to scout British troops landing at Benedict, Maryland in August, 1814. The invaders defeated American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg and went on to sack Washington, DC. After the attack, Monroe was appointed secretary of war while remaining secretary of state.

Republican Caucus Meeting Minutes, Republican Caucus, 1816-03-16, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The [Democratic] Republican caucus of March 16, 1816 nominated James Monroe as the party's presidential candidate, and Daniel Tompkins of New York for vice president. These papers hold three pages of meeting minutes, one page front and back of attendees, and a roll for recording votes.

The War of 1812 dealt an all but fatal blow to the Federalist Party. Opposition to the war made the members seem unpatriotic and potentially treasonous. In the 1816 presidential election, Monroe won a decisive victory over Federalist candidate Rufus King, receiving 183 Electoral College votes to King's 34.

Monroe Portrait, Possibly Bass Otis, 1816, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Although dubbed “The Era of Good Feelings,” Monroe’s Presidency was full of turmoil.
During his first term, he helped negotiate treaties securing American borders, dealt with the Panic of 1819, and signed the Missouri Compromise into law. In 1820, Monroe ran for re-election unopposed and won with only one dissenting Electoral College vote. In his second term he declared the United States' opposition to European intervention in the Western hemisphere, later called the Monroe Doctrine.

This partially finished portrait of James Monroe is thought to be the work of American artist Bass Otis (1784-1861). In 1816, Otis was hired by Philadelphia publisher Joseph Delaplaine to execute a number of small portraits of former presidents and other notable persons in 1816-17 for a catalogue titled "Delaplaine's Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans." The catalogue ceased publication before Monroe's biography was included, but his portrait was exhibited by Delaplaine in Philadelphia, and later by P.T. Barnum in his American Museum in New York City, before disappearing from the public record. The James Monroe Museum purchased this portrait in 2015, and after extensive research has concluded that it is almost certainly the "lost" Bass Otis likeness that shows Monroe at the start of his presidency.

Official White House China, Russell and La Farge, 1817/1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
The Era of Good Feelings
First Inaugration of James Monroe, Unknown, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe was inaugurated as the fifth president of the United States on March 4, 1817. U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, Monroe's childhood friend and fellow Revolutionary War veteran, administered the oath.

Monroe was the first person to take the oath of office out-of-doors, in front of the Old Brick Capitol that was used from 1815 to 1819 while damage to the permanent building from the War of 1812 was repaired. The building was subsequently a private school, a boarding house (where former Monroe administration secretary of war and U.S. senator John C. Calhoun died in 1850), and a federal prison during the Civil War. The building was demolished in 1929 during construction of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Plaque from Former U.S. Capitol, Unknown, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Shaving Mirror, unknown, 1825/1830, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This shaving mirror is one of two fashioned from the broken shards of a large wall mirror that was destroyed when British troops burned the White House in 1814. According to tradition, Elizabeth Monroe and Dolley Madison observed workmen who were repairing the mansion discard the broken pieces. Mrs. Monroe salvaged the fragments and had two identical shaving mirrors created--one for her husband, and one for James Madison--to symbolize the "old and new" eras the two presidents represented.

Presidential Tour Book, Samuel Putnam Waldo, 1818, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Following the War of 1812, Monroe sought to improve the nation’s defenses. Just a few months after taking office, he embarked on a tour of the northern states to inspect military installations. The public, however, transformed the tour into a national celebration with ceremonies, parades, and receptions. Two more presidential tours followed: the Chesapeake Bay region in 1818, and the southern states in 1819.

Painting, "Monroe's Return to Washington, 1817", Pietro Bonanni, 1817/1821, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This oil-on-canvas painting shows James Monroe surrounded by well-wishers at the north end of the recently rebuilt post-War of 1812 White House, returning from his tour of the northern states in 1817. He spent 15 weeks traveling some 2,000 miles, going up the coast to Portland, Maine, then over to Detroit, Michigan and back to Washington DC. Monrow met more people in those 15 weeks than any previous president. A Boston newspaper described Monroe's visit to that city as creating an "Era of Good Feelings," inspiring the slogan for his presidency.

Ceramic Pitcher, Leeds, England, 1820, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This circa 1817-1824 black and white transfer-printed creamware pitcher commemorates two presidents. The front features a portrait of James Monroe with the words "James Monroe, President of the United States of America" beneath the image. The reverse side is decorated with an oval medallion featuring the tomb of President George Washington. A figure in mourning and a "mourning eagle" stand beside the tomb, with a banner flying above them bearing the words "Washington in Glory." The spout is hand-painted with a black leaf motif above a medallion bearing the image of an American eagle holding a shield and banner with the words "E Pluribus Unum" emblazoned upon the banner. Monroe's initials are on the handle of the jug, indicating that the piece may have been made expressly for him, either as a gift from the factory or from a British dignitary. Although the maker is unknown, Herculaneum pottery of Liverpool, England produced similar pieces with American designs and emblems, and it is possible the pitcher was produced by the firm.

Official White House China, Russell and La Farge, 1817/1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In acquiring furnishings for the newly rebuilt White House, James Monroe sought "articles of the best kind" to reflect the prestige and power of both the executive mansion and the nation it symbolized. While he ordered some items from American craftsmen, Monroe turned to France for the bulk of his purchases. This plate is part of a large dessert service ordered from the Paris firm of Pierre Louis Dagoty and Edouard D. Honoré in 1817. It is the first china acquired specifically for official use in the White House. In the center, an eagle clutching an olive branch and arrows recalls the Great Seal of the United States. Within the gold-rimmed amaranth border are five medallions representing Agriculture, Strength, Commerce, Science and the Arts.

Dessert Plates, China, 1810, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

These four dessert plates from Lowestoft, England were Chinese export products decorated either in China or England. The dessert service that included these plates was used by the Monroe family for informal dining in the White House and at their other residences.

Armchair from Collection of Joseph Fesch, Lorenzo and Dionisio Santi, 1805, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This ornate gilded armchair is part of a large collection of furniture commissioned ca. 1805 by Joseph Fesch, a Catholic cardinal and uncle of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The probable craftsmen were Lorenzo and Dionisio Santi of Rome. James Monroe may have acquired this chair and other pieces of the collection for use in the White House from a sale of Fesch furniture held in Paris in 1816. Several chairs of similar design are displayed in the Cross Hall of the White House, on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This chair descended within the extended Monroe family.

Bas Relief of Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur, Pietro Cardelli, 1820, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This bas relief sculpture of Maria Hester Monroe was crafted around the time of her marriage to her cousin Samuel L. Governeur. The artist was Italian immigrant Pietro Cardelli, who was employed as a carver at the reconstructed U.S. Capitol. Done in the Neoclassical style, the sculpture idealizes Maria as a virtuous woman of ancient Greece. Monroe described his youngest daughter as "a most excellent child without fault that we can discover . . . with the best qualities."

The wedding of Maria and Samuel on March 9, 1820 was the first such ceremony for a presidential child held in the White House. Maria's sister Eliza coordinated the wedding, and caused a societal uproar when she refused to invite the wives of the diplomatic corps. President Monroe mandated a series of balls and receptions for the newlyweds at other locations. The first of these took place on March 20, 1820 at the home of Commodore and Mrs. Stephen Decatur, close friends of the Monroes. Decatur’s death two days later in a duel with Commodore James Barron put an end to further celebrations of the Monroe-Gouverneur nuptials.

Pianoforte, George Astor, 1800/1806, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This mahogany pianoforte was purchased from the London firm of Astor and Company by James Monroe while he was American minister to Great Britain from 1803 to 1807. The instrument was shipped from London to New York City when the Monroes returned to the United States. It may have been been used in the White House, but was more likely a fixture of the Monroe home Oak Hill in Virginia.

Sonatina in F Major, played on the Monroe Pianoforte
Betty Lamp, unknown, 1790/1800, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Betty lamps were commonly used for domestic lighting beginning in the late 17th century. The generic term "Betty" is believed to derive from the German words "besser" or "bete," meaning "to make better." Betty lamps burned oil or fat trimmings on a wick contained in a covered bowl, allowing the dripping oil to be reburned. In contrast to more elaborate light sources used in formal spaces, Betty lamps would have been employed by domestic servants in the Monroe White House, some of whom were enslaved African Americans.

James Monroe's Spectacles, unknown, 1810/1820, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This pair of silver, rectangular-rimmed spectacles is one of two used by James Monroe, especially later in life. The silver temple bars, or ear pieces, are adjustable, and are equipped with holes for attaching a ribbon or chain.

Razor Strop and Case, unknown, 1823, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

A strop is used to sharpen straight razor blades. This strop's case is inscribed with "This tablet expressly made for James Monroe, President of the United States of America at the special instance of an American gentleman now in London, July 4, 1823."

Measuring Cup, unknown, 1820, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This copper measuring cup was used both during and after the Monroes lived in the White House. It was given to Laurence Hoes, great-great grandson of Monroe and founding director of the James Monroe Museum, by First Lady Lou Hoover in 1932 as a token of appreciation for his help in getting the Monroes' Louis XVI-style furniture copied for her.

Monroe Doctrine Desk, Possibly Godefroy Dester, 1780/1800, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Matters of State
Peace Medals, Moritz Furst, 1817, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Peace medals were tokens given to Native American leaders who signed treaties or met with the president of the United States. The practice began in the administration of Thomas Jefferson in 1801, and continued until the term of President Benjamin Harrison ended in 1893. On the left, a bronze peace medal bears a portrait of James Monroe on the obverse inside the words "JAMES MONROE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. A.D. 1817." At right, the reverse of a silver version shows the clasped hands of a U.S. soldier and a Native American, with the words "PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP" embossed throughout. Above the hands are a tomahawk and a peace pipe crossed. In addition to bronze and silver, some medals were cast in gold. The size and composition of the medal varied with the importance of the occasion and the status of the person receiving the token. Many tribal leaders wore the medals around their necks on leather thongs, as depicted in paintings by the American artist Charles Bird King of chiefs visiting James Monroe in 1821.

Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees, Charles Bird King, 1821, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This 1821 painting by Charles Bird King is titled "Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees." These Plains Indian chiefs were among many who traveled to Washington to meet with the president to negotiate their territorial rights with the government. War Eagle wears James Monroe's presidential peace medal, valued by Native Americans as a sign of status and worn on all formal occasions. The artist painted the chiefs with a war axe, blood-red face paint, and eagle feathers atop their heads, reinforcing the romantic image of Indians as noble savages.

Native American Beaded Purse, Pawnee Native, 1821/1822, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This beaded Native American purse was presented to Elizabeth Monroe by a delegation of Pawnee leaders during their visit to the White House in 1821.

"Address of the Managers of the American Colonization Society to the People of the United States", James Monroe, 1832, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The American Colonization Society was formed in December, 1816 to relocate formerly enslaved African Americans to a settlement in Africa. James Monroe, who had just been elected president of the United States, was present at the founding meeting. Among other leading politicians in attendance, all white males, were U.S. Supreme Court justice Bushrod Washington (nephew of George Washington); U.S. senator and future president Andrew Jackson; Francis Scott Key, composer of "The Star-Spangled Banner;" U.S. senator Daniel Webster; and U.S. congressman Henry Clay, future speaker of the House of Representatives.

The American Colonization Society's efforts led to the founding of the African nation of Liberia in 1838, the capital of which was named Monrovia in the president's honor. In this pamphlet, the Society laid out its ideas about slavery and the goal of a Christian colony, including the “Plan of the Town of Monrovia.”

The Society's report pictured here was published in 1832, one year after James Monroe's death.

Map of the Colony of Liberia, with the Plan of the Town of Monrovia, American Colonization Society, 1832, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Dispatch Box, unknown, 1800/1810, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Dispatch boxes such as this were used by Monroe to store official and personal correspondence. The president retained one of the two keys for himself; the other would have been used by one or both of his personal secretaries--his brother Joseph, and his nephew and son-in-law, Samuel L. Gouverneur.

Draft Letter on "Missouri Question", James Monroe, 1820-07-15, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe appears to have written this letter as a draft before he sent out the final version, as indicated by numerous revisions. Monroe writes to an unknown person about the "Missouri question." In 1819 the Missouri Territory requested admission to the Union as a slaveholding state, threatening to upset the balance of slave and free states in Congress. In his letter, Monroe gives his "correct view in regards to this Missouri question," asserting that all states of the United States must have equal rights. Monroe admits that slavery is recognized by the Constitution but he "has doubts" whether slave owners could retain the slaves they take into territories. The Missouri Compromise, negotiated in Congress and signed into law by Monroe in 1820, admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The Compromise was a major milestone in the debate over slavery that led to the American Civil War.

Monroe Doctrine Desk, Possibly Godefroy Dester, 1780/1800, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

According to family tradition, James Monroe used this mahogany Louis XVI-style desk to write his annual message to Congress in 1823 that included the foregin policy statement later termed the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe bought the desk and associated furniture pieces while serving as the American minister to France in the 1790s.

Text of President Monroe's Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1823, National Intelligencer, 1823-12-02, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The December 2, 1823 front page of the National Intelligencer newspaper published Monroe's message to Congress, given the day before. It included what is now known as the Monroe Doctrine, a cornerstone of American foreign policy for much of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Bust of the Marquis de Lafayette, unknown, 1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The Marquis de Lafayette and James Monroe enjoyed a lifelong friendship that began during their service in the American Revolutionary War. This bust depicts Lafayette as he appeared around the time of his tour of the United States in 1824-25, when he was the Monroes' guest in the White House.

Umbrella, unknown, 1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Umbrella Handle, unknown, 1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

This umbrella is one of a pair presented to James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette when they visited the city of Boston in 1825. The umbrella weighs eight pounds and is made of whale bone with tan silk and two tones of green borders. The handle is inscribed with "James Monroe President of the United States" on the end and "The Nation's Guest" on the side, referring to Lafayette.

James Monroe Bust, Margaret French Cresson, 1929, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Portrait of James Monroe, Rembrandt Peale, 1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Following the precedent set by George Washington, James Monroe did not seek reelection after his second presidential term. In the 1824 election, four candidates emerged: Secretary of State John Quincy Adams; Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford; Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives; and former general and senator Andrew Jackson. Monroe remained aloof during the election and avoided any involvement with the candidates outside of official duties. A bitter race ensued, in which none of the candidates received a majority of votes in the Electoral College. The election of Adams by the House of Representatives outraged Jackson and his supporters, who accused Adams and Clay of a “corrupt bargain.” This led to the formation of the Democratic Party, led by Jackson, which won the presidency in 1828.

Tabernacle Looking Glass, unknown, 1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Tabernacle looking glasses were a popular mirror style in the early 19th-Century Federal, or Neoclassical, period. This glass features an eglomise painting of the second U.S. Capitol building, which replaced the original structure destroyed in 1814 by the British. The Capitol's reconstruction involved several architects and was finally completed in 1826. The painting is a period copy of the original, which was likely damaged in transit from the White House to Monroe's estate Oak Hill. The image is possibly based on an 1823 engraving of the Capitol by Charles A. Busby called "The Capitol at Washington. Elevation of the Principal Front."

White House Key, unknown, 1817, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

According to family tradition, James Monroe kept this White House key as a memento of his presidency when he retired to his Loudoun County, Virginia estate, Oak Hill, in 1825.

Elizabeth Monroe Silhouette, Unknown, 1815/1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Tragedy struck the Monroe family in 1830. Monroe’s son-in-law, George Hay, died on September 21. Two days later, Elizabeth Monroe passed away after a lingering illness. In a letter dated December 9, Monroe wrote that “to have her snatched from us, is an affliction, which none but those who feel it, can justly estimate.”

This silhouette of Elizabeth Monroe was created around the time of her husband's presidency as a match to his own silhouette. The artist is unknown.

Unfinished Quilt, Maria Monroe Gouverneur, 1820/1830, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

After the loss of their loved ones, James Monroe and Eliza Kortright Monroe Hay decided to visit Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur in New York City. Maria was working on this quilt around that time; it is unknown why she never finished it.

Doorplates, unknown, 1822/1825, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

By the spring of 1831, Monroe’s health had deteriorated, leaving him bedridden. He died at the age of 73 on July 4, 1831 at the home of Samuel L. Gouverneur, Sr. and his wife, Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur. He was buried in the Gouverneur family's vault in the New York City Marble Cemetery after an elaborate funeral attended by 70,000 people. These doorplates are all that remains of the Gouverneurs' home, once located at 63 Prince Street, New York City.

Painting of James Monroe Lying in State, Unnamed Chinese artist, 1859/1861, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In 1858, James Monroe's coffin was exhumed from the New York City Marble Cemetery in order to be reburied in Richmond, Virginia's Hollywood Cemetery. His grandson, Samuel Gouverneur, Jr. was serving as the first American consul in Fuchow (now Fuzhou), China at the time, and was unable to attend his grandfather's state viewing at New York City Hall. He commissioned this painting, based on an illustration appearing in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and had himself painted into it. Gouverneur is the man in the black suit standing by the foot of the coffin.

Tomb of President James Monroe (Postcard, 1905), Albert Lybrock, 1859, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

A National Historic Landmark that serves as the centerpiece of Hollywood Cemetery's Presidents Circle, the cast iron Gothic style canopy of the James Monroe Tomb dates to 1859, a year after the former president's remains were relocated from New York. The designer of Monroe’s tomb was Albert Lybrock, a German-born architect who later settled in Richmond. Lybrock is buried in the cemetery a short distance from Monroe.

Monroe Doctrine Cartoons, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

James Monroe's legacy lives on through the doctrine that bears his name. The first time the Monroe Doctrine was invoked by the United States government occurred in 1836, to protest the growing alliance between Great Britain and the Republic of Texas. In 1864, the United States cited the doctrine in opposing French Emperor Napoleon III’s attempt to create a puppet monarchy in Mexico. In the 1870s, the doctrine was used to allow the United States the authority to mediate border disputes in South America. In the 20th Century, Theodore Roosevelt introduced a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that sanctioned U.S. military intervention in conflicts between European powers and Latin American nations. Franklin Roosevelt contended with Axis attempts to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere in the Second World War, and followed a “Good Neighbor Policy” based on reciprocal trade with Latin America.

"Monroe Didn't Forsee the Frogman", Justus, 1962-09-14, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

The Monroe Doctrine famously came into play during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In this political cartoon published on September 14, 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is depicted as a frogman swimming covertly to Communist Cuba while a ship bearing a “Monroe Doctrine” flag patrols above. The cartoon's message of Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere was soon proved to be prescient. One month after its publication, President John F. Kennedy invoked the Monroe Doctrine as a justification for opposing the placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

"Yes Jim, They've Made a Lot of Changes", L.D. Warren, 1963-02-16, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

“Yes Jim, they’ve made a lot of changes,” President Abraham Lincoln laments to President James Monroe. Here L.D. Warren is commenting on criticism of President John F. Kennedy for being lax in upholding U.S. foreign policy in Latin America as laid out in the Monroe Doctrine, which stressed no European or outside influence in the Western Hemisphere. Published in 1963, one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the cartoon reflects the views of conservatives who wanted Kennedy to take a more aggressive stance against Communist Cuba.

"Monroe's Wisdom", Gib Crockett, 1965-05-05, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

In this political cartoon from May, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson appeals to a portrait of fellow president James Monroe for advice. Johnson's escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War was proving very unpopular with the public. Although he tried to employ the Monroe Doctrine to justify his actions, as the caption states, “They just don’t seem to go for the idea like they used to.”

The James Monroe Museum, James Monroe Museum, 2016-11, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum

Located on property in Fredericksburg, Virginia owned by Monroe from 1786 to 1789, the James Monroe Museum was founded in 1927 by Rose de Chine Gouverneur Hoes, and her son Laurence Gouverneur Hoes, Monroe's great-granddaughter and great-great grandson, respectively. In 1948 the James Monroe Memorial Foundation was created to operate the museum. This body conveyed the museum to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1964. Today the James Monroe Museum is a National Historic Landmark administered by the University of Mary Washington.

James Monroe Bust, Margaret French Cresson, 1929, From the collection of: The James Monroe Museum
Credits: Story

Scott Harris - Museum Director
Jarod Kearney - Museum Curator
Jackie Downes - Bowley Scholar
Kelly Haynes - Bowley Scholar

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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