Monroe Presidency

The Presidency of James Monroe


James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, served from 1817 to 1825, a period that witnessed significant changes in the nation. Monroe’s presidency unfolded in the aftermath of the War of 1812, amidst burgeoning nationalism and a consensus-oriented political climate. This paper aims to dissect the array of changes that transpired during Monroe’s administration, providing a window into the policies, expansionist endeavors, economic shifts, and cultural transformations that laid the bedrock for America’s future development.

Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine stands as one of the most pivotal foreign policy declarations in American history. Articulated in Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, this doctrine cemented the United States’ position regarding European colonization and interference in the Americas. It was born out of the need to shield the fledgling republics in Latin America from European imperial powers while asserting American influence in the Western Hemisphere.

The doctrine unfolded in three principal components. Firstly, it asserted that the Western Hemisphere was no longer open to European colonization. The United States viewed any attempt to colonize or invade countries in the Americas as hostile acts that would invite American intervention. Secondly, it posited that the United States would abstain from participating in European wars and would not interfere with existing European colonies in the Americas. Lastly, it demanded that European powers should not attempt to impose their system on independent American states.

The implications of the Monroe Doctrine for American foreign policy were profound and long-lasting. At its core, the doctrine conveyed a sense of American sovereignty and hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, signifying a departure from European dominance. While the doctrine did not immediately alter the balance of power, it laid the ideological groundwork for America’s approach to international relations in the centuries to come.

Moreover, the Monroe Doctrine fostered a protective umbrella over Latin American republics, bolstering their autonomy and shielding them from imperial control. In the long run, this facilitated the establishment of diplomatic ties and partnerships between the United States and its southern neighbors, fostering regional stability and cooperation. As the 19th century progressed, the Monroe Doctrine would be invoked multiple times to justify American intervention and influence in the hemisphere, cementing its place as a cornerstone of US foreign policy.



Era of Good Feelings

The term “Era of Good Feelings” denotes the period during James Monroe’s presidency characterized by a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812. During this era, partisan bitterness dwindled, and there was strong support for the Federalist policies initiated by Monroe’s predecessors.

The era was marked by significant economic growth and territorial expansion. The American economy experienced substantial development due to the onset of industrialization and the expansion of the market economy. The construction of roads, canals, and railways facilitated improved communication and transportation, which in turn bolstered economic activities. The establishment of the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 was another key economic development during this period, serving as a crucial financial instrument that provided economic stability by regulating public credit and controlling the nation’s money supply.

Politically, the Era of Good Feelings was characterized by a lack of contentious party politics. With the Federalist Party dissolving, the Democratic-Republicans were virtually unopposed. This single-party rule allowed for a semblance of political stability, with fewer political disputes and conflicts marring the national landscape. The overwhelming victory of Monroe in the 1820 presidential election, where he won all but one electoral vote, epitomized the dominance of the Democratic-Republican Party and the political consensus of the time.

Despite its optimistic moniker, the Era of Good Feelings was not without its challenges and criticisms. Economic disparities and social inequalities were pervasive. The era witnessed the emergence of the first signs of sectional conflict within the United States, particularly over the issues of slavery and the rights of states. The Missouri Compromise of 1820, for instance, was a manifestation of the growing tension between the Northern and Southern states over the issue of the expansion of slavery into the new territories.

In sum, while the Era of Good Feelings was marked by economic prosperity and political consensus, it also laid bare the simmering tensions and conflicts that would come to define American politics in the following decades. The era represented a crucial stage in the nation’s history, setting the stage for the profound transformations and challenges that awaited in the years to come.

Westward Expansion

The presidency of James Monroe was a significant period of Westward Expansion in the United States, characterized by the acquisition and settlement of new territories. Monroe, understanding the strategic and economic importance of Western territories, played an active role in facilitating this expansion.

One of the hallmark accomplishments of Monroe’s presidency in this regard was the acquisition of Florida from Spain through the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819. This treaty not only added Florida to the Union but also defined the boundary between the United States and the Spanish territories in the West, paving the way for further American expansion. The acquisition of Florida improved national security, provided new lands for settlement, and resolved conflicts with the Seminole Indians residing in the territory.

Furthermore, the era witnessed the widespread movement of American settlers into the Western territories, encouraged by the prospect of economic opportunity and the availability of fertile land. This migration was particularly noticeable in the regions that would later become the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri. The population growth in these territories led to their eventual admission to the Union during Monroe’s presidency, contributing to the expansion and consolidation of the United States.

However, Westward Expansion also had profound implications for the indigenous peoples residing in these territories. The relentless push westward led to the displacement and marginalization of Native American communities. The policies and actions undertaken during Monroe’s presidency, including treaties and military engagements, reflected a broader American agenda focused on acquiring native lands, often disregarding the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples. This aspect of Westward Expansion remains a complex and contentious part of Monroe’s legacy and American history at large.

Ultimately, the Westward Expansion under Monroe set the stage for the future growth and development of the United States. Through strategic acquisitions and the promotion of settlement in the Western territories, Monroe’s presidency significantly contributed to shaping the geographical and demographic landscape of the nation, laying the groundwork for the United States as it is recognized today.

Missouri Compromise

During James Monroe’s presidency, the United States grappled with the contentious issue of slavery’s expansion into newly acquired territories, culminating in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This significant legislation aimed at maintaining a balance between slave and free states in the Union, thereby easing the escalating sectional tensions of the time.

The compromise emerged amidst the contentious debate over Missouri’s 1819 application for statehood as a slave state. This proposition alarmed Northern states, as it threatened to disrupt the delicate balance between slave and free states, potentially tipping political power in favor of Southern slaveholding interests. In this fraught context, the Missouri Compromise emerged as a crucial bipartisan solution to prevent the fracture of the Union over slavery.

The Missouri Compromise contained several key provisions. Firstly, it admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, preserving the balance in the Senate. Secondly, it drew a boundary along the 36°30′ parallel, with slavery prohibited in the Louisiana Territory north of this line (except for Missouri). This provision attempted to establish a clear guideline for the status of slavery in future Western territories.

While the compromise temporarily alleviated sectional tensions, it also showcased the deepening divisions within the nation regarding slavery. It highlighted the precarious and contingent nature of the Union, with slavery emerging as an insurmountable moral and political issue that would continue to haunt American politics. The compromise’s provisions, while effective in the short term, proved to be a temporary solution to the festering conflict between anti- and pro-slavery factions within the nation.

The Missouri Compromise significantly impacted the United States’ political landscape, shaping the discourse and policies regarding slavery and statehood in the decades leading up to the American Civil War. It remains a pivotal moment in American history, emblematic of the nation’s struggle with slavery and the lengths taken to preserve the Union amidst deep-seated sectional differences.

Economic Developments

The presidency of James Monroe observed substantial economic developments that shaped the country’s financial framework and influenced the prosperity and growth of the United States. Several initiatives and policies during this period aimed at building a stable and robust national economy, fostering growth and laying the groundwork for future economic endeavors.

One of the pivotal economic measures of this era was the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. Designed as a response to the economic instability following the War of 1812, the Second Bank played a crucial role in stabilizing the country’s economy. It provided a uniform currency, facilitated the handling of government funds, and controlled inflation by regulating the issuance of banknotes by state banks. However, it was not without controversy, facing opposition from those who believed it held excessive power over the nation’s finances.

Additionally, Monroe’s presidency endorsed the American System, an economic plan conceived by the Secretary of State, Henry Clay. The American System sought to empower the national economy through a series of protective tariffs, the creation of a national bank, and improvements in the country’s infrastructure. This ambitious plan aimed at fostering a self-sufficient economy, reducing reliance on European goods, and promoting the development of American industries.

The protective tariffs, such as the Tariff of 1816, were implemented to shield burgeoning American industries from foreign competition, thus encouraging domestic production and manufacturing. Although these tariffs primarily benefited the Northern industrial states, they were a crucial step towards establishing the United States as an economically independent and industrious nation.

The era also witnessed substantial investment in infrastructure, notably the construction of the Erie Canal. Completed in 1825, the canal revolutionized transportation and trade, creating a direct shipping route from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. This infrastructural marvel significantly reduced transportation costs, facilitated the movement of goods and people, and contributed to the economic development of the regions along its route.

In conclusion, the economic developments during James Monroe’s presidency were instrumental in laying the foundation for a resilient and thriving national economy. Through strategic economic planning, investment in infrastructure, and the establishment of financial institutions, Monroe’s administration played a pivotal role in steering the nation towards economic stability and growth.

Cultural Shifts

James Monroe’s presidency was a time of considerable cultural shifts in the United States. With the nation emerging from the War of 1812 with a strengthened sense of national identity, a unique American culture began to flourish, distinct from European influences.

Firstly, a rising tide of nationalism permeated through various aspects of American society. The victory in the War of 1812 instilled a renewed sense of confidence and pride among Americans. This era observed the creation and popularization of symbols and practices that celebrated American identity and independence. The increased focus on American history and the valorization of Founding Fathers were also indicative of this burgeoning nationalism.

Furthermore, there was significant growth in American cultural and artistic expressions. The realm of literature, for instance, witnessed the advent of prominent writers who explored American themes and experiences in their works. The period also saw the establishment of newspapers and periodicals that disseminated information and provided a platform for the exchange of ideas, thereby fostering a vibrant public sphere and contributing to the democratization of knowledge and information.

Education too experienced transformation during Monroe’s presidency. There was a notable emphasis on the importance of education as a means to enlighten the citizenry and promote civic virtue. Efforts were made to establish and improve educational institutions, making education more accessible to broader segments of the population.

In sum, the cultural shifts during Monroe’s presidency played a crucial role in shaping an emerging American identity. Through the promotion of nationalism, the flourishing of arts and literature, and the emphasis on education, this period laid the foundation for the cultural landscape of the United States in the years to come.


The presidency of James Monroe was a transformative period in American history, marked by significant changes in the political, economic, territorial, and cultural dimensions of the nation. Monroe’s leadership guided the United States through a time of internal consolidation and external assertion, notably encapsulated in the landmark Monroe Doctrine. The era bore witness to the Missouri Compromise, which was a crucial attempt to navigate the contentious issue of slavery, reflecting the complex dynamics of a growing nation grappling with fundamental questions of freedom and identity.

The economic initiatives undertaken during Monroe’s presidency, including the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States and the endorsement of the American System, were pivotal in stabilizing and fostering the national economy. Moreover, the period of Westward Expansion under Monroe was integral to the nation’s territorial growth and geopolitical positioning, albeit at a significant cost to Indigenous populations.

Finally, the cultural shifts that transpired during this era contributed to the crafting of a distinct American identity, fostering a sense of nationalism and promoting cultural and intellectual endeavors. In retrospect, Monroe’s presidency was a watershed era that set the stage for the unfolding of the American story, leaving a legacy that continues to resonate in the annals of the nation’s history.

What changes occurred during the presidency of James Monroe?

The conclusion of the War of 1812 brought about a feeling altogether different than what had previously existed in America. For the first time America had fought a war as a nation, united. The feeling that resulted from this unification of spirit marked a rise of nationalism and a shift in both foreign and domestic policy.

I. The Presidency of James Monroe
A. How did America respond to the end of the War of 1812?
1. A strong sense of nationalism swept the country in the years following the War of 1812. 2. This period of increased nationalism and prosperity was called the “Era of Good Feelings.”
B. What measures did the nation take to further our prosperity?
1. Monroe developed the idea of the American System
  • This divided the United States into 3 sections.a) An industrial North would turn out manufactured goods b) Farmers in the South would provided agricultural products. c) Farmers in the West would provided agricultural products.
  • The purpose of this was to develop self sufficiency. Factory workers in the North would form a market for agricultural products. Farmers in the South and West would buy manufacture goods.
2. Congress passed protective tariffs. (A tax on imports designed to protect domestic manufacturers.)
  • Tariff Act of 1816—Congress adopted a mild protective tariff. Then in 1828, it significantly raised the tariffs.
3. Transportation Improvements were made.
  • National Road—Federal government authorized construction of a road from Maryland to Illinois, and also of canals so goods could move to market more easily.
4. Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States to replace the first whose charter had expired.
  • To help the two sections of the country do business with each other; the federal government set up a new national bank.
  • Paper money quickly lost value because when the banks started to be regulated by the state banks, the banks issued a great deal of more paper money. This made it difficult to conduct business.
  • Second Bank of the United States-1816 Congress chartered this bank with 25 branches throughout the country.
  • The national bank issued its own paper money. These notes could be used anywhere, and by increasing the money supple they fueled a 2-year national business boom.
C. What actions did the Supreme Court take at this time? The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, supported the trend toward national power. This should come as no surprise considering he was one of the Federalist judges appointed by Adams. During his term, he dominated the court, writing more than half the opinions. Marshall’s decisions enlarged the power of the Supreme Court.
1. Fletcher vs. Peck (1810) A new state administration had passed a law voiding a land grant made by the previous administration. When the landowners sued, Marshall ruled that the contract had to stand. Article I, Sect 10 of the Constitution forbid state laws “impairing” contracts. Thus the contract law was created making written contracts legal and binding. 2. Dartmouth College vs. Woodward (1819) Expanded the principle of the Fletcher decision to include contracts between corporations and states. Previously it had been believed that states could disregard contracts held with private enterprise. As more business corporations were established around the country, this ruling became very important. 3. McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819) see lesson 17 4. Gibbons vs. Ogden (1824)see lesson 17
 D. How did President Monroe attempt to avoid involvement with Europe?
1. In 1823 President Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine that warned all European powers not to interfere with affairs in the Western Hemisphere. They should not attempt to create new colonies or try to overthrow the newly independent republics. 2. The United States would consider such action “dangerous to our peace and safety.” At the same time, the United States would not involve itself in European affairs or interfere with existing colonies in the Western Hemisphere.
3. The doctrine was largely ignored because the United States lacked the power to enforce the doctrine. In the end it went unchallenged because European nation no longer desired new colonies in the region.
E. How did the nation seek to resolve the debate over the extension of slavery into the territories and new states?
1. In 1787 slavery had been prohibited in the Northwest Territory. However the issue was not considered yet for the Louisiana Purchase. When the Territory of Missouri applied for admission to the Union in 1819, its proposed state constitution recognized the right to hold slaves. 2. Congress was in chaos. For the first time, the merits of slavery were debated openly. 3. Missouri’s admission was stalled. Then Congress received an application from the area now known as Maine. 4. Missouri compromise—Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, which preserved the sectional balance in the Senate. The rest of the Louisiana Territory was split in two “spheres of interest, one…for the slave holders and one for free settlers. Those states above the 36’30” latitude line would become free and those below it would allow slaves. 5. President Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise in 1820. For a generation, the problem of slavery in federal territories seemed settled.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Presidency of James Monroe - 5th President of the United States

The Monroe Doctrine, articulated in James Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress in 1823, is a pivotal foreign policy declaration. This doctrine primarily asserted that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere with the newly independent nations of the Americas. It marked a distinct era of American foreign policy, where the United States sought to distance the Western Hemisphere from European intervention and influence. The doctrine had three main components: non-colonization, non-intervention, and the U.S. abstaining from participating in European wars unless American interests were directly involved. The Monroe Doctrine was significant as it established a sense of U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, defining the U.S. stance towards European powers, and influencing the dynamics of U.S. foreign policy for centuries to come.

The Era of Good Feelings referred to Monroe’s presidency (1817-1825) and was characterized by a sense of national purpose and political unity following the War of 1812. The period witnessed several key events. Firstly, the United States experienced substantial economic growth and territorial expansion. Economic development was propelled by industrialization and market economy expansion, with infrastructure improvements like road and canal construction enhancing transportation and communication. The Second Bank of the United States was established in 1816 to stabilize the national economy. Politically, the Era of Good Feelings saw the dissolution of the Federalist Party, leading to a period of single-party rule by the Democratic-Republicans, reducing partisan conflicts and promoting political stability. However, the era also saw the emergence of sectional tensions, particularly regarding slavery and states’ rights, leading to the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

Monroe’s presidency (1817-1825) was a significant era of Westward Expansion. During this period, the United States acquired Florida from Spain through the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. This acquisition was strategically important, providing new lands for settlement and improving national security. Moreover, the treaty clarified the boundary between U.S. and Spanish territories in the West, facilitating further American expansion. The era also saw extensive migration of American settlers into Western territories, driven by the allure of economic opportunities and available land. This influx led to the establishment and admission of new states, including Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri, contributing to the nation’s expansion and consolidation. However, this expansion had detrimental effects on Native American populations, leading to displacement and marginalization.

The Missouri Compromise, enacted in 1820, was a significant legislation aimed at mitigating the escalating tensions between slave and free states in the Union. The compromise was initiated following Missouri’s application for statehood as a slave state in 1819, which threatened to disrupt the balance between slave and free states. To preserve this balance, the Missouri Compromise admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, while also drawing a boundary along the 36°30′ parallel across the Louisiana Territory. Slavery was prohibited north of this line, except in Missouri. While the compromise temporarily alleviated sectional tensions, it underscored the nation’s deepening divisions over slavery, providing a short-term solution to a conflict that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. The Missouri Compromise had a lasting impact on American politics, shaping the discourse on slavery and statehood in the years preceding the Civil War.

Economic policies during Monroe’s presidency played a pivotal role in fostering and protecting American industry. The American System, proposed by Henry Clay, was a significant economic plan supported by Monroe. It consisted of protective tariffs, a national bank, and internal improvements. Protective tariffs, like the Tariff of 1816, were implemented to shield emerging American industries from foreign competition. These tariffs promoted domestic production and manufacturing by making European goods more expensive, encouraging Americans to buy domestically produced items. The establishment of the Second Bank of the United States also significantly impacted American industry by providing a stable national currency and facilitating the management of government funds, which indirectly supported industrial activities by stabilizing the economy.

Monroe’s stance on slavery was complex and reflective of the prevailing attitudes of his time. While he recognized the moral quandary surrounding slavery, he was a slave owner himself, and his policies did not actively seek to challenge or disrupt the institution of slavery. The Missouri Compromise enacted during his presidency aimed to maintain a balance between slave and free states, rather than addressing the inherent issues with slavery as an institution. Monroe also supported the colonization movement, which sought to repatriate freed slaves to Africa, as reflected in his support for the establishment of Liberia as a colony for former slaves.

Monroe’s presidency witnessed significant cultural shifts, with a burgeoning sense of nationalism and unique American identity. The period after the War of 1812 saw the development and popularization of symbols, practices, and narratives celebrating American independence and identity. The era also experienced a flourishing of American arts and literature, with writers and artists exploring themes distinct to the American experience, further contributing to a sense of national identity. There was also an emphasis on education, with efforts to establish and enhance educational institutions, reflecting a growing recognition of education as a means of fostering civic virtue and enlightened citizenry.

Monroe’s presidency wasn’t without challenges. He dealt with substantial national issues, including economic downturns, territorial disputes, and the deeply divisive issue of slavery. The Panic of 1819, for instance, was the first major peacetime financial crisis in the United States, leading to a depression that lasted until 1821. The Missouri Compromise, while temporarily resolving the dispute over the balance of slave and free states, exposed the growing sectional tensions within the country, foreshadowing conflicts that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. Monroe also had to navigate foreign relations cautiously, particularly with European powers, to establish and maintain the country’s position in international dynamics.