Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#5 - James Monroe, 1817-1825

Today is February 12, the day on which the 16th President of the United States was born. However, you have to wait a few more weeks before we get to Honest Abe. But here we are at number 5, the next distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. James Monroe. Is everyone keeping track? The Commonwealth of Virginia calls itself the Mother of the Presidency, it produced eight presidents. Anyone? Anyone? Name them? And which state is the other mother of the the presidency ("The Presidency has Two Mothers?" coming soon to a children's bookstore near you)?

If you remembered that Madison comes before Monroe, you can remember James Monroe's place in the presidential roll call. Another good way to remember Monroe's place is think about the Monroe Doctrine, but that was really written by John Quincy Adams (Monroe's Secretary of State), of whom we will learn more next week. And Monroe was Madison's Secretary of State. See? Another Secretary of State promotion to the top job. Condi, are you reading this? Colin? Anyone?

Monroe was one of the first presidents to surround himself with a well-balanced cabinet. He selected the fiery Southerner, John C. Calhoun as his Secretary of War and Northerner John Quincy Adams as his Secretary of State. The refusal of Henry Clay to join the cabinet denied Monroe a Westerner. This was fortuitous for Monroe, as during his presidency the issue of slavery in Missouri came to a head and it was Henry Clay who negotiated the Missouri Compromise.

Florida also joined the Union during Monroe's presidency, along with the aforementioned Missouri and Maine. To avoid a really funky looking flag, the American flag was standardized with thirteen stripes to honor to original 13 colonies.

It is noteworthy, given the direction of the current presidential campaign, that James Monroe was the first president to have served as a Senator prior to the presidency (although he is immediately Secretary of State before being elected President - yeah, yeah, I know, I'm like a dog with a bone).

The Facts:
  • born April 28, 1758, Westmoreland County, Virginia
  • died July 4, 1831, New York City, New York (5 years after Jefferson and John Adams), age 73
  • Monroe came to prominence when he helped to negotiate the purchase of the Louisiana Territory.
  • Although adopted during his Presidency, the Monroe Doctrine, which basically told all foreign powers (read: Europe) to say out of the Western Hemisphere, was not known as such until 20 years after Monroe's death.
  • Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is named for Monroe. He is the only other US President to have a capital city named for him (Washington being the first).
  • Monroe is the last American President to have fought in the Revolutionary War (although Andrew Jackson was a courier).
  • Monroe is pictured in the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. He is behind Washington, holding the flag.
  • The US Marine Band made their debut at Monroe's inauguration and have played at inaugurations ever since.
  • When he was reelected in 1820, he received all but one electoral vote. That elector wanted George Washington to be the only president to have been elected unanimously.


ADR said...

I seem to remember doing this not that long ago. First, 8 from VA: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, WH Harrison (born in VA), Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson.

Next "mother" is Ohio. They claim 8 as well: WH Harrison - OH claims as well because he was living there when he was elected and is buried there, perhaps you can resolve this in 4 weeks; Grant; Hayes; Garfield; B. Harrison; McKinley; Taft; and Harding.

Whew. There must be something wrong with me that I can actually remember all of this at 11:30 at night...

Lana Gramlich said...

Name them? Surely you jest... <:\

cindy said...

If I may make one small correction to your post:

The Marine Band made their White House debut New Year's Day 1801, at a reception given by President and Mrs. Adams. On March 4, 1801, the Marine Band made their Inaugural debut at the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, and they have performed for every Presidential inaugural since that time.

Please visit http://www.marineband.usmc.mil for more interesting tidbits about the Marine Band and US Presidents.

Brave Astronaut said...

OK, I'm just saying . . .

Vice President Rice?