Wednesday, March 11, 2009

James Monroe: College Drop-Out with Impressive Resume

The guy with the anachronistic flag, there? Totally James Monroe! So many famous friends.
James Monroe was born in Virginia in 1758. He did well in his private prep school in math and Latin and whatnot. He went to the College of William and Mary for awhile, but totally dropped out to join the REVOLUTION. He helped some other dudes raid the governor's arsenal and used the weapons for the local militia. While serving in the Continental Army, Monroe got shot in the left shoulder. This means he was an AMERICAN HERO as soon as America started existing. He never went back to college, but did study law under Thomas Jefferson and practiced law in Virginia. In 1786, Jimmy Boy married a lady girl named Elizabeth in New York City (she was 17, he was 27... ick). They lived with her father there for awhile. As for his budding political career, Madison served in the Virginia House of Delegates, the Continental Congress, as the Governor of Virginia a couple times, and a U.S. Senator with the Anti-Federalist Party. As if those achievements weren't enough, James Monroe helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, served as ambassador to France and Britain, as Secretary of State under Madison, and concurrently as Secretary of War during the War of 1812. James Monroe was ridiculously well-qualified. Kinda like an eighteenth/nineteenth-century Bill Richardson, but better at winning things.

Poor Elizabeth, though, she was a very sickly lady. Always with the ailing. She did enjoy some adventures in France while her husband diplomed there during the French Revolution. She and James had three kids, two daughters and one son who died as a small child. The eldest, Eliza, was all, "I went to fancy French school and married a future federal judge and I totally run the social events at the White House and I'm not inviting anyone I don't want to." She was not real popular, but she did stand in for the ailing mother in her First Lady duties. Nobody could beat Dolley Madison, though. The other daughter, Maria, married some guy who was her cousin or something at age 17 (again with the child brides!) in the first White House wedding in 1820. Mr. Monroe (I totally keep typing "Madison," but that's not who I mean!) was elected pretty easily in 1816 and 1820, as the Federalist party was pretty well falling apart and Monroe was really good at everything, including making people like him. He was all regionally and ideologically diverse in his appointments, including next prez JQ Adams as Secretary of State and professionally bad-haired Southern douchebag John C. Calhoun as Secretary of War. He went a goodwill-type tour in 1817 and everybody was like, "Hooray, President Monroe!"

Despite the economic Panic of 1819 and that kinda unfortunate Missouri Compromise thingy, Monroe's presidency is still known as the "Era of Good Feelings." Cheeserrific. And of COURSE, he declared what later came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. I will paraphrase: Dear Europe, Stay out of our party over here in the Americas. We'll intervene in Latin American or Caribbean shit if we want to, but you're not invited to play. Love, James Monroe. The congressional speech was actually written by no other than John Quincy Adams. So, you know, that's an interesting fact. 'Cause maybe it should called the Quincy Doctrine instead. After serving two terms, Monroe and the ever-ailing Elizabeth moved back to the family farm, now part of UVA's campus. He served on some board or something or rather with Jefferson and Madison at various times. Good old Virginian ex-president pals.

Elizabeth's medical needs and generally poor money-management skills left Monroe with plenty o' debt. After his wife died in 1830, he moved in with daughter Maria and her family in New York until he died on the Fourth of July, 1831 from both heart failure and TB. Apparently one was not enough. He was originally buried in New York, but his body was reinterred in Virginia later on so he could hang with other famous white dead guys from Virginia. During his life, Monroe had been very private about his own religious views, though he did occasional show up at Episcopal services. The 'Pedia article says he burnt most of the letters between himself and his wife, which is a little bit sketchy. Also, Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in Africa, is named after him. Yea, America!

1 comment:

  1. For some reason, I don't think I realized how awesome James Monroe was, but he kind of was.