James Monroe: American Statesman

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• Part 2: A Popular President

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• 5 Things Everyone Should Know about James Monroe
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Part 1: A Good Learner

James Monroe was a president who had extensive political and military experience.

As a young boy, he was ever the student, studying with a private tutor until age 12. Four short years later, he enrolled at the College of William and Mary. He studied there for two years before enlisting in the Continental Army. A good organizer and an even better shot, Monroe was commissioned a lieutenant and fought in some of the toughest battles of the war, including Trenton, Brandywine, and Germantown.

His service brought him good notice and distinction, and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1778 and assigned to Virginia to raise more troops for the army. Monroe brought few new recruits into the army, but he did meet Thomas Jefferson, who was then the governor of Virginia. After his service, Monroe studied law under Jefferson, and the two formed a lifelong friendship.

Monroe won election to the Virginia Assembly in 1782 and to the Constitutional Convention in 1788. His opposition to a strong nationalist government brought him into favor with Patrick Henry, James Madison, and his friend Thomas Jefferson. Still, Monroe accepted the Constitution and its strong central government. Along the way, Monroe helped found the Democratic-Republican Party.

President George Washington appointed Monroe minister to France in 1794. This began a revolving door of appointments and elections for Monroe, alternating between federal and state positions. He was elected governor of Virginia in 1799 and in 1811. One of his more famous federal acts was as an adviser to Jefferson at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Monroe went to France in 1803 to confer with French leader Napoleon Bonaparte and urged the United States to accept Napoleon's offer of the entire Louisiana Territory.

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David White