Monroe James

James Monroe (1758-1831), 3rd cousin 7x removed


James Monroe (1758-1831), 5th President of the United States. Monroe is the last president who had never been photographed and whose likeness preserved today only in paintings.

James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States, serving in that office from 1817–1825.  Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation.  Prior to being President, James Monroe also held the following public offices: 8th United States Secretary of War (1814-1815), 7th United States Secretary of State (1811-1817), 12th (1799-1802) and 16th (1811) Governor of Virginia, United States Minister to the Court of St. James (United Kingdom) (1803-1808), President Jefferson’s emissary to France to assist Robert R. Livingston in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase (1802), United States Minister to France (1794-1796), United States Senator from Virginia (1790-1794), Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation from Virginia[1] (1783-1786) and Member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1782-1783).  Monroe also fought during the Revolutionary War and was injured in the Battle of Trenton in 1776 with a musket ball to his shoulder.  He dropped out of the College of William & Mary to join the Continental Army and never completed a degree.

Statue of Monroe at Ash Lawn-Highland, the estate of James Monroe, located near Charottesville, Virginia (adjacent to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello)

With the Federalist Party in disarray due to the unpopularity of their opposition to the War of 1812, Monroe was easily elected President in 1816.  As President, Monroe largely ignored old party lines in making appointments to lower posts, which reduced political tensions and enabled the “Era of Good Feelings”, which lasted through his administration, despite serious regional divisions that were highlighted by the strife surrounding Missouri’s application to the Union as a slave state in 1820[2].  However, during his administration, the Federalist Party continued to fade away and by the election of 1820 it was no longer a national factor.  Lacking serious opposition, the Republican party’s Congressional caucus stopped meeting, and for practical purposes the Republican Party stopped operating.  The collapse of the Federalists left Monroe with no organized opposition at the end of his first term, and he ran for reelection unopposed, the only president other than Washington to do so.  A single elector from New Hampshire cast a vote for John Quincy Adams, preventing a unanimous vote in the electoral college.

Monroe’s most famous contribution to history was his formal announcement to Congress on 2 Dec 1823 of what became known as the “Monroe Doctrine”.  He proclaimed that the Americas should be free from future European colonization and free from European interference in sovereign countries’ affairs.  It further stated the United States’ intention to stay neutral in European wars and wars between European powers and their colonies, but to consider new colonies or interference with independent countries in the Americas as hostile acts toward the United States.

Monroe once owned a farm at the location of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Monroe owned dozens of slaves, and he took several slaves with him to Washington to serve at the White House from 1817-1825.  This was typical of other slaveholders, as Congress did not provide for domestic staff of the presidents at that time.  However, to the dismay of states’ rights proponents, he was willing to accept the federal government’s financial assistance to emancipate and transport freed slaves to other countries.  Monroe was part of the American Colonization Society formed in 1816, which members included Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson.  They found common ground with some abolitionists in supporting colonization. They helped send several thousand freed slaves to the new colony of Liberia in Africa from 1820 to 1840.  Slave owners like Monroe and Jackson wanted to prevent free blacks from encouraging slaves in the South to rebel.  With about $100,000 in Federal grant money, the organization also bought land for the freedmen in what is today Liberia.  The capital of Liberia was named Monrovia after President Monroe.

Monroe died on 4 Jul 1831 in New York City, becoming the third president in a row who died on “Independence Day”.  His death came 55 years after the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed and 5 years after the death of two other Founding Fathers who became Presidents: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  He was buried in New York, but in 1858 his body was re-interred to the President’s Circle at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.  The James Monroe Tomb is a now U.S. National Historic Landmark.


James Monroe (1758 – 1831), 3rd cousin 7x removed – Spence Monroe (1727 – 1774) – Andrew Monroe (1692 – 1735)[3] – Eleanor Spence (1664 – 1708) – Patrick Spence (1633 – 1684) – Patrick Spence (1658 – 1695) – Patrick Spence (1693 – 1740) – Jemima Spence (1730 – 1786) – John Suggett (1751 – 1834) – Elizabeth “Betsey” Suggett (1782 – 1857) – Marion Wallace Thomson (1821 – 1896) – Allen Thomson Gunnell (1848 – 1907) – Seddie Gunnell (1875 – 1946) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom


[1] As an anti-federalist delegate to the Virginia convention that considered ratification of the United States Constitution, Monroe opposed ratification, claiming it gave too much power to the central government. Nonetheless, Monroe took an active part in the new government following ratification, joining the Jeffersonian faction in the Senate in 1790.

[2] The Missouri Compromise bill resolved the struggle, pairing Missouri as a slave state with Maine, a free state, and barring slavery north of latitude 36° 30′ N forever. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1857, when it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Dred Scott decision.

[3]   There seems to be no disagreement that James Monroe is the 2nd great grandson of Andrew Monroe (about 1625-1669), who emigrated to America from Scotland in the mid-17th century and who in 1650 or so patented a large tract of land in Washington Parish, Westmoreland County, Virginia. There is also agreement that his grandfather was also named Andrew Monroe, and that he was born in about 1690. However, there are conflicting claims regarding whether this Andrew Monroe (the paternal grandfather of James) was the grandson of the immigrant through the immigrant’s son Andrew (who married Eleanor Spence) or William (who married Margaret Bowcock). Both men had sons named Andrew who were about the same age. In the Will of Andrew Monroe (husband of Eleanor Spence) dated 26 May 1714, Andrew mentions both his own sons Andrew and Spence and a daughter Susanna, as well as another Andrew Munroe son to my brother William Munroe. In my opinion, the given name of James’ father, “Spence”, (which was also the name of an uncle of James’ father) strongly suggests the lineage indicated above through Andrew Monroe and Eleanor Spence. (not William). James and his wife, Elizabeth Kortwright, had a son (1799-1801) whose name is thought to have been James Spence Monroe – his grave reads “J.S. Monroe”, so the proper names are speculative but typical of naming patterns of the time.


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