James Monroe

1758 - 1831

James Monroe, fifth president of the United States (1817-1825) and the last of the so-called Virginia dynasty of U.S. presidents. He succeeded his lifelong friends Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the nation's highest office. Monroe was a man of good intelligence, sound judgment, and highest integrity. In more than 40 years of public service, he never stinted of his energies in doing what he considered his public duty.

Monroe was president during the “Era of Good Feelings.” It was called that because there were few political battles and his Democratic-Republican Party ruled almost unopposed. It was a transitional period in which the nation's democratic institutions and capitalist economy were taking form. National identity, as opposed to narrow state interest, was growing as evidenced by the westward movement and the construction of roads and canals. People who were leaving their old colonial homes and moving west on the expanding frontier began to think of themselves not as Virginians or New Yorkers, but principally as Americans. The roads and canals, or internal improvements as they were called, were built to tie together the nation's commerce. They were considered a national priority and were often funded by Congress, whose members understood that an improved flow of commerce in any section of the country would also benefit their own constituencies.

Even though one party dominated, political debate did not disappear. Factions developed in the party over questions about tariffs (taxes on imports); the future of slavery; and how to deal with Great Britain and other European colonial powers. As President, Monroe consistently and successfully pursued a policy that served both to protect the United States from European interference and to foster unhampered growth of the nation and its economy. He was responsible for the Monroe Doctrine, the principle that the United States would not tolerate new colonies in the western hemisphere or interference by outside powers in the internal affairs of nations in the western hemisphere.

Early Life

 

James Monroe was one of five children born to Spence Monroe, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Jones Monroe. The family lived on a small farm at the edge of a forest in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Young Monroe walked several miles through the forest to attend the school of Parson Campbell, where John Marshall (later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States), was a fellow student and close friend. It was from Parson Campbell that Monroe learned the stern moral code that he retained throughout his life.

When Monroe entered the College of William and Mary, he was a solemn, studious 16-year-old. But the year was 1774, and Monroe found it difficult to concentrate on his studies as Virginia and other American colonies moved closer to war with Great Britain. However, he remained at college for more than a year, during which his father died. His uncle, Judge Joseph Jones, assumed the cost of Monroe's education and became his guardian and trusted adviser.

In 1775 Monroe left college to go to war. He became a lieutenant in the Third Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army, formed that year to fight British troops. In August 1776 the regiment was ordered north to the army's main base at Harlem Heights, outside New York City. They arrived during the American retreat from Manhattan Island and fought at Harlem Heights and White Plains. Monroe accompanied the retreating army through New Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. On December 26, 1776, at the Battle of Trenton, Monroe's captain was wounded and “the command fell on me,” as Monroe later explained, “and soon after, I was shot through by a ball which grazed my breast.”

When he had recovered from his wound, Monroe was named aide-de-camp to Major General Lord Stirling. He fought in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in the autumn of 1777. That winter he was with General George Washington at Valley Forge, and in June 1778 he fought in the Battle of Monmouth.

Early in 1779, Monroe, now a major, left the northern army, which was encamped outside New York City with no immediate prospect of action. He arrived in Virginia in May, armed with letters of recommendation from several prominent men, including General Washington, who said of him: “He has in every instance maintained the reputation of a brave, active, and sensible officer.” The Virginia legislature made him a lieutenant colonel and commissioned him to lead a militia regiment then being recruited. However, the unit was never formed, and for all practical purposes, Monroe's military career was over.

Instead of commanding the regiment, Monroe became an aide to Thomas Jefferson, who was then governor of Virginia. He also became Jefferson's pupil in the study of law. During this period, Monroe began to see what course his life would take. At a time when, as he expressed it, his “plan of life” was “perplexed,” he later wrote Jefferson, “you became acquainted with me and undertook the direction of my studies … my plan of life is now fixed.”

Early Political Career

 

Member of the Virginia Legislature

Monroe had barely settled in Prince Edward County, Virginia, when he was elected to the state legislature in 1782. He was then 24 years old. The legislature elected him to the executive council, of which he was the youngest member. In 1783 he was elected to the Congress of the Confederation, which was then the governing body of the United States under the Articles of Confederation. There he was the youngest delegate to vote for ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution.

Western Travel

Monroe served in Congress for three years. It was during this time that he first became interested in American expansion, specifically in the settlement of the Western lands between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. He was chairman of two congressional committees, one that was concerned with free navigation on the Mississippi River and the other with formation of a government for the Western lands.

In 1784, during a congressional recess, Monroe journeyed through the Western territories. He went up the Hudson River, passed through the Great Lakes, visited the forts that the British still held in the Northwest Territory in violation of the Treaty of Paris, and returned by way of the Ohio River. With the information he gathered, he helped to lay the groundwork for territorial government embodied in the Northwest Ordinance enacted by Congress in 1787.

Marriage

While in Congress, which was meeting in New York City, Monroe met Elizabeth Kortright, whom he married in the spring of 1786. They had two daughters, and a son who died in childhood.

Return to Virginia

In October 1786, Monroe resigned from Congress and settled with his bride in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he began a law practice. His retirement from politics was brief. He was soon elected to the town council, and then once again to the Virginia legislature.

However, Monroe never lost touch with national politics. He corresponded regularly with both Jefferson and Madison. In 1786 Monroe attended the Annapolis Convention, which had been called to consider interstate commerce and other matters not covered by the Articles of Confederation. The delegates decided to seek a new constitution for the nation. However, Monroe was not named a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He blamed Madison and Edmund Randolph, governor of Virginia, for the oversight. “The governor … hath shewn … a disposition to thwart me,” he wrote Jefferson, and “Madison, upon whose friendship I have calculated, whose views I have favor'd, and with whom I have held the most confidential correspondence” he believed to be “in strict league” with the governor.

Virginia Convention Delegate

After the Constitutional Convention drafted the new Constitution of the United States in 1787, Monroe was elected a delegate to the Virginia convention called to ratify it. Among the Virginians, Madison and Randolph were the chief spokesmen for ratification, while Monroe, in the beginning at least, adopted a neutral stand. Finally, however, he opposed ratification because the Constitution created too strong a central government. Monroe made a strong appeal to the delegates from the western part of the state, arguing that the Constitution was a threat to free navigation on the Mississippi River. Madison effectively rebutted this argument, but it won over a number of western delegates. Monroe also deplored the absence of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Although he voted against ratification, Monroe accepted the new government without any misgivings. Soon afterward he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Congress of the United States formed under the newly ratified Constitution. He was defeated by Madison.

United States Senator

In 1789 Monroe moved to Albemarle County, Virginia, near Jefferson's estate, Monticello. Monroe's estate, Ash Lawn, was for almost 20 years the home to which he returned whenever he was free from public duties. In 1790 he was elected to a recently vacated seat in the U.S. Senate (the upper house of Congress). He was named to a full six-year term the following year.

Although there were no political parties in the United States at this time, there were factions. The Federalist faction, identified with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, favored an active federal government, a treasury that played a prominent role in the nation's economic life, and a pro-British foreign policy. By 1800 this faction became the Federalist Party. The Anti-Federalists, of whom Thomas Jefferson was most prominent, favored a limited federal government and a pro-French foreign policy. This faction later became the Democratic-Republican Party. In the Senate, Monroe aligned himself with the Anti-Federalists. Like them, he opposed any tendency toward centralization of power in the national government at the expense of state sovereignty. In international affairs, Monroe was sympathetic to the French Revolution (1789-1799) and supported France in the wars that followed. Nevertheless, he agreed with President Washington's policy of neutrality during the European wars that followed the French Revolution.

United States Diplomat

 

Minister to France

In the spring of 1794, Monroe resigned from the Senate to accept the diplomatic post of minister plenipotentiary to France. His assignment was to help maintain friendly relations with France in spite of U.S. efforts to remain on peaceful terms with France's enemy Great Britain. He was chosen at least in part because of his known sympathy for France, and it was hoped that he could calm any fears France might have of American favoritism toward Britain.

The situation in France was complicated. Apparently, from the outset, Monroe went too far in identifying with the new Republic of France. His ardently pro-French speech to the French assembly brought a reprimand from President Washington: “Considering the place in which … delivered and the neutral policy the country had to pursue, it was a measure that does not appear to have been well devised by our minister.” Nor was the administration satisfied with Monroe's attempts to justify Jay's Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain in 1794 and which the French government found offensive because it made concessions to the British.

In September 1796, Monroe was recalled. He believed he had been betrayed by the Federalists in the administration, who had, he felt, used him to appease France while they made broad concessions to Britain in Jay's Treaty. This opinion was also held by many other Americans, who were beginning to be molded into an opposition party by Jefferson. Although Monroe blamed the policies and motives of his superiors for the failure of his mission, he remained bitter about it for the rest of his life.

Return Home

When Monroe returned to the United States in June 1797, he found that political differences had deepened between his friends and the Federalists in power, now headed by President John Adams. His own relations with the Federalists had suffered because of his European mission. From this time on, Monroe identified himself more and more with the Anti-Federalists, soon to be called the Democratic-Republican Party. After two years of retirement from public office, Monroe was elected governor of Virginia. He served from 1799 to 1803, a relatively uneventful period in the history of the state.

On the national scene, however, a great political change occurred at this time. Jefferson was elected President in 1800, and the Democratic-Republican Party was gaining in popularity. In 1803 Monroe was named to be part of an “extraordinary mission” to France. He was to help negotiate what has been called the largest real estate transaction in history—the Louisiana Purchase.

Louisiana Purchase

When Monroe arrived in France, U.S. diplomat Robert R. Livingston was already deep in negotiations with the French for the acquisition of New Orleans and West Florida. French Emperor Napoleon I offered instead to sell not only New Orleans, but the entire Louisiana colony as well. However, no agreement was reached until Monroe arrived. Although the Americans were not authorized to make such a large purchase, they began negotiations. In April 1803, Monroe and Livingston concluded the treaty that would more than double the size of their nation. Although West Florida was Spanish territory and was not included in the bargain, Monroe pressed Napoleon to include his ally's property as well. Napoleon promised “to engage his support for our claim to the Floridas with Spain,” but this was as far as he would go.

Minister to Britain

As soon as the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase were completed, Monroe crossed the English Channel to take up duties as minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain. His primary mission was to obtain relief from British harassment of U.S. shipping, such as the seizure of cargoes bound for French ports, which Jay's Treaty had not stopped. U.S. relations with Britain were particularly strained at this time, and Monroe made little headway. Therefore, he was sent to Madrid to explore Spain's readiness to consider a U.S. purchase of Florida. This errand also proved useless.

In July 1805 Monroe returned to Britain to negotiate a treaty, assisted by diplomat William Pinkney. However, the treaty was one of general agreement only and did not touch on two vital issues: a British blockade of French ports and the impressment, or forced induction, of American sailors into the British navy. It contained no concessions to the United States, and Jefferson wisely refused to submit it to the Senate for ratification. In late 1807 Monroe left for the United States.

Return to Politics

Monroe arrived in Washington, D.C., a few days before Jefferson signed the Embargo Act, which halted nearly all U.S. land and sea commerce with foreign nations. This measure was designed to hurt the British economy and thereby induce Britain to stop harassing U.S. vessels. It turned out, however, to be as much of a failure in this as was Monroe's treaty: British shippers actually profited from the removal of U.S. competition.

Monroe's old allies, Jefferson and Madison, were cool toward him after his return. This was because one faction of Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party wanted Monroe as a rival presidential candidate to Madison, Jefferson's secretary of state and chosen successor, and Monroe did little to disavow the action. He was bitter over the rejection of his treaty, and he did not support Madison in the election of 1808. Moreover, Monroe's supporters, led by Jefferson's enemy, Congressman John Randolph, made it seem that Monroe was encouraging them.

In September, Monroe sent Jefferson all correspondence he had had with Randolph to assure him there was “nothing … to sanction what has been most ungenerously insinuated.” But the old friendship among Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe remained disturbed for some time, and Madison did not offer Monroe a Cabinet post when he became president in 1809.

Returning to Virginia politics, Monroe once more served in the legislature and was for a second time elected governor. During these years, thanks to a long and honest correspondence between them, the rift with Jefferson was gradually healed. When, in 1811, Madison invited Monroe to become secretary of state, the friendship of the three Virginians was reestablished.

Secretary of State and of War

When Monroe became secretary of state, relations with Britain had worsened. With both Monroe's treaty and the Embargo Act having failed to halt British interference with shipping, war now seemed certain. Monroe nevertheless worked to prevent it. Unlike Madison, he favored a less aggressive attitude toward Britain. The French had also been confiscating cargoes—in this case, those bound for British ports—and in Monroe's opinion France's provocations were just as bad as those of Britain. But the administration and Congress seemed determined to have war with Britain, influenced partly by the prospect of annexing British-held territory in North America and also, since Spain was now Britain's ally, Florida as well.

War of 1812

Although Monroe had been opposed to war, when the War of 1812 was declared he loyally supported Madison and his cause. Monroe served as secretary of state throughout the war, and simultaneously as secretary of war for the latter part of it.

Monroe was back in uniform briefly at the time of the British attack on Washington. He led the Maryland militia in an unsuccessful attempt to stave off the British at Bladensburg. After Washington was invaded and burned in 1814, the secretary of war was dismissed and Monroe took on the full responsibilities of that post. There were many problems facing Madison's administration: a bankrupt treasury, an army badly led and badly equipped, a rebellious New England, and a hostile Congress. Monroe helped to resolve some of them. He obtained loans from District of Columbia banks, although he could offer no warranty but his word for their repayment. He doubled the land bounty offered to enlistees in the army, lowered the enlistment age to include minors, and authorized the incorporation of state troops into the regular army at federal expense.

In August 1814 a U.S. peace commission, headed by expert diplomat John Quincy Adams, met at Ghent, Belgium, to negotiate peace with Great Britain. On December 24, 1814, a peace treaty acceptable to Madison and Monroe was signed at Ghent. It ended the war but failed to resolve most of the issues that had started it, including the blockading of ports, searching of ships, and impressment of sailors. In 1815 Monroe returned to the normal peacetime duties of the secretary of state.

Election of 1816

At the end of Madison's second term, Monroe was the logical presidential nominee for the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalist Party had been ruined by its opposition to the War of 1812 and could offer no effective opposition. Monroe received the electoral votes of all but three states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware. These went to Rufus King of New York, the Federalist candidate. On March 4, 1817, two old schoolmates met again as Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to President James Monroe. Daniel D. Tompkins of New York served as Monroe's vice president.

President of the United States

 

Inaugural Address

Monroe's inaugural address provided a preview of much of the policy for which the fifth president became renowned. The failures of Jefferson's and Madison's foreign policy, as well as the futility of the War of 1812, had impressed Monroe. They had made him think about other ways to safeguard American rights. He proposed the establishment of an adequate army and navy. “Our land and naval forces,” he said, “should be moderate, but adequate to do the necessary purposes” of protection against invasion and “maintaining the neutrality of the United States with dignity in the wars of other powers.”

Cabinet

Monroe's Cabinet was a remarkable group, undoubtedly one of the strongest Cabinets in U.S. history. The outstanding appointment was that of John Quincy Adams as secretary of state. Adams, son of a Federalist president and a convert to the Democratic-Republican Party, was unquestionably one of the greatest secretaries of state in U.S. history. The eight-year association between Adams and Monroe was marked by a growing mutual trust and respect that culminated in the Monroe Doctrine. Other distinguished Cabinet members included John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, secretary of war; William A. Crawford of Georgia, secretary of the treasury; and William Wirt of Maryland, attorney general. Monroe also had access throughout his presidency to the experienced counsel of his predecessors and friends, Madison and Jefferson, although on several occasions he offended Jefferson by not acting on his suggestions.

Purchase of Florida

Monroe's first administration faced two major crises, one foreign and one domestic. In late 1817 members of the Seminole tribe in Spanish-held Florida began a series of raids along the Georgia border in retaliation for incursions by U.S. troops looking for escaped slaves. Monroe sent General Andrew Jackson to drive them out. Jackson did so, but he also swept on into Florida, captured Pensacola and Saint Marks, and executed two British subjects for inciting the raids. The incident brought a threat of war with both Britain and Spain. Monroe entrusted Adams with the delicate task of smoothing the ruffled feelings of Britain and of negotiating with Spain not only for peace, but also for the long-hoped-for purchase of Florida.

Adams's negotiations were a combination of toughness and daring. He backed Jackson's invasion, persuaded Britain that its subjects had been in Florida illegally and had not been entitled to British protection, and told Spain that if it could not police Florida, it should cede it to the United States. On February 22, 1819, after long negotiations, Spain gave in and the Transcontinental Treaty was signed. Spain relinquished Florida in return for the assumption by the United States of $5 million in debts owed by Spaniards to American citizens, and a guarantee that the United States would renounce its claim to Texas. Of even greater importance, Adams succeeded in extending the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase, which had been undetermined, all the way to the Pacific coast. The boundary began at the mouth of the Sabine River, extended along the Red and Arkansas rivers, ran north to the 42nd parallel (the present northern boundary of California), then straight west to the Pacific.

Adams also negotiated settlement of long-standing disputes with Great Britain. In the Convention of 1818, the United States obtained limited fishing rights in Canadian waters, the northern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase was fixed to run along the 49th parallel from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, and the Oregon country, which Britain and the United States both claimed, was placed under joint occupancy for ten years.

Missouri Compromise

In the first years of Monroe's administration, slavery was becoming a national issue. Many Northern states had outlawed it, but in the South it was the mainstay of the established social and economic order. When Monroe took office, the states were equally divided between slave and free states. Although the North had a majority in the House of Representatives, seats in the Senate were evenly divided. Thus, the South at least had a veto power over any bill it considered injurious to its interests.

In 1819 the territories of Maine and Missouri both sought admission to the Union. Maine petitioned for entrance as a free state, and Missouri as a slave state. Northerners objected to the admission of Missouri on the grounds that it would set a precedent for the formation of other slave states out of the Louisiana Territory. Southerners would not agree to any restriction on slavery in Missouri. This disagreement prompted one of the bitterest debates in congressional history.

Monroe, himself a Southerner and a slaveholder, feared most the divisive effect of this issue. In a letter to Jefferson, Monroe wrote, “I have never known a question so menacing to the tranquility and even the continuance of our Union as the present one. All other subjects have given way to it. … ”

Despite his sympathies with the South, Monroe took no sides while Congress debated. His great concern was to protect the Union, and he knew that the majority of states would be on the side of the non-slaveholding states. Aware of the deeply felt differences among the states, he nevertheless believed that “a compromise would be found and agreed to, which would be satisfactory to all parties.”

Finally, on March 3, 1820, the Missouri Compromise was sent to the president. It admitted Maine as a free state and authorized Missouri to draft a constitution, preparatory to being admitted as a slave state. It also stipulated that all other new states carved from the Louisiana Territory north of 36°30¢ north latitude (the southern boundary of Missouri) were to be free states. On March 6, Monroe signed the bill into law.

Colonization of Slaves

Like many people of his time, Monroe believed the solution to the slavery problem was the colonization of freed slaves outside the boundaries of the United States. He supported and enforced a law of 1819 that provided for the return to Africa of blacks illegally seized and brought to the United States. Privately he supported the work of the American Colonization Society, which had acquired land in Africa, named it Liberia, and resettled freed slaves there. In recognition of Monroe's work, the Liberian capital was named Monrovia, after him, in 1824.

Native American Issues

Monroe also tried to formulate a humane solution to the conflicts between whites and Native Americans. He was greatly concerned with the fate of Native Americans in this period of expansion, as the frontier moved westward. He urged “new efforts for the preservation, improvement, and civilization of the native inhabitants.” Despite strong opposition from the frontier territories, in 1825 he adopted the policy of giving the native peoples land in the Great Plains, which they would hold “as long as grass shall grow and rivers run.” The policy, while not a perfect one by any means, at least relieved the pressure for many years.

Election of 1820

After the Missouri Compromise, no important legislation was passed in the remaining year of Monroe's first term. His administration had been one of high idealism and integrity, and his personal popularity was at a high point. With the vexing slavery question settled, at least temporarily, Monroe was virtually unopposed for reelection. Even an economic downturn, the Panic of 1819, did not hurt him politically. He carried every state in the Union and received every electoral vote cast except one, which was cast by a New Hampshire elector for John Quincy Adams.

Second Term as President

 

Monroe's second term as president was relatively uneventful. The only major accomplishment, although a great one, was the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine. The doctrine was established as a result of threats of Russian encroachment on the Pacific Coast and of European intervention in the newly independent Latin American nations.

Treaty With Russia

In 1821 Czar Alexander I of Russia decreed that all lands along the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Strait to 51° north latitude belonged to Russia and that henceforth foreign shipping would be prohibited within 160 km (100 mi) of the claimed lands. The claim bit deep into the Oregon Territory, and, on Monroe's instructions, Adams sent the Russian minister a note refusing to recognize the czar's decree.

“We should contest the right of Russia to any territorial establishment on this continent,” wrote Adams, adding that “we should assume distinctly the principle that the American continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial establishments.” The czar's claim was untenable, and he backed down. In April 1824, Russia signed a treaty agreeing to form no settlements on the northwest coast south of 54°40¢ north latitude, with the United States agreeing to make no settlements north of that line. The line represented the approximate boundary between Alaska, which was the only part of North America that Russia had colonized extensively, and the Oregon country, to which the United States had a claim by virtue of exploration.

Adams's note had implications that went far beyond an ultimatum to Russia alone. It had stated that the United States would oppose any new European settlement, and this idea became one of the two basic principles of the Monroe Doctrine.

Holy Alliance

A second threat from Europe alarmed Monroe much more than the czar's edict. In 1823 the so-called Holy Alliance of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and France had intervened in Spain, which had become a constitutional monarchy, and forced the restoration of the absolute monarchy under Ferdinand VII. Monroe believed that the alliance's next move might well be an invasion and reconquest of Spain's former Latin American colonies. The British shared this belief. In London, British Foreign Secretary George Canning proposed to the U.S. envoy, Richard Rush, that Great Britain and the United States issue a joint statement warning the alliance to keep hands off the former colonies in Latin America.

Rush transmitted the proposal to Washington, and Monroe was inclined to accept it. However, Adams insisted that the time had come for the United States to act as a sovereign nation, not merely a British satellite. He wanted America to proclaim and carry out its own policy. Monroe was finally won over to this point of view. Accordingly, in a polite note to Canning, Adams rejected the offer with the excuse that, since Britain had not recognized the Latin American republics and the United States had, no joint resolution relative to them was possible. Canning affably agreed although as a matter of practical reality it would be the British navy, not the American, that would enforce the unilateral statement.

Monroe Doctrine

Monroe decided to include his policy statement in his annual message to Congress, delivered on December 2, 1823. The Monroe Doctrine included two paragraphs that stated explicitly the basic tenets of his foreign policy. The first, based on the diplomatic exchange with Russia, declared that the United States would oppose any further colonization by European powers in the western hemisphere. The second warned that the United States would “view any interposition” in the affairs of western hemisphere nations “for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling … in any other manner their destiny … as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”

It is true that the doctrine's two principles, noncolonization and nonintervention, were not really new or original. In general form they had been expressed or hinted at by earlier presidents, especially Jefferson. They were also substantially formulated by John Quincy Adams. However, it was Monroe who explicitly proclaimed them as fundamental policy and who took final responsibility for that policy. Therefore, the doctrine that was a keystone of U.S. foreign policy for many years rightly bears his name.

Final Days in Office

As the election of 1824 neared, Monroe had no thought of seeking a third term. He planned to follow the precedent that Washington had set of serving two terms and then retiring. Monroe wrote to Madison that year: “The approaching election, ‘tho distant, is a circumstance that excites greatest interest in both houses, and whose effect, already sensibly felt, is still much to be dreaded. … There being three avowed candidates in the administration is a circumstance which increases the embarrassment.” The three avowed candidates were Secretary of State Adams, Secretary of the Treasury Crawford, and Secretary of War Calhoun.

During Monroe's last year in office the Cabinet, which had functioned harmoniously throughout the administration, became infected with dissension and animosity. Monroe remained scrupulously neutral as rivalry became more and more embittered. His refusal to assume firm party leadership at this point and to use his influence to name any candidate as his successor is often blamed for the collapse of the Democratic-Republican Party into warring factions during the succeeding administration of John Quincy Adams.

On the eve of the election, Congress passed a protective tariff by a narrow margin. The tariff raised the cost of importing manufactured goods and thereby benefited the Northeast by protecting the market for the manufactures that region was beginning to produce. Western states also supported the tariff because it provided an internal market for their goods. The South bitterly opposed it, however, because that region did not have its own manufacturing industry and now had to pay more for the items it needed. This was a further indication that the Era of Good Feelings was drawing to a close.

Last Years

Monroe was 67 years old when he turned over the presidency to Adams and retired to Oak Hill in Loudoun County, Virginia. But his retirement years were clouded by financial worries. He was forced to sell his estate Ash Lawn to meet his debts. Although Congress awarded him $30,000 in 1826, he never recovered from the financial burden of his long years of public service. After his wife died, Monroe sold Oak Hill and moved to New York City to live with his younger daughter, Maria Hester Gouverneur, and her husband. He died on July 4, 1831, five years after Jefferson and John Adams had died and 55 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was buried in New York City, but in 1858 his body was moved to Richmond, Virginia, and reburied in Hollywood Cemetery