James Monroe: Biography, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is going to give you a quick run-down of the biography of one of America's early presidents, James Monroe. You'll learn a few facts and quotes along the way.

James Monroe

What do you think James Monroe is famous for?

  1. He was the fifth President of the United States
  2. He was a Revolutionary War hero
  3. He established the Monroe Doctrine

If you picked all three, you're right! James Monroe was America's fifth president, a war hero, and formed the Monroe doctrine. You'll find out more about all of this in this lesson, which provides some biographical facts and quotes.

Early Life

James Monroe was born in 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His family was of Scottish descent on his dad's side and of Welsh descent on his mom's. James was an excellent student who was home-schooled by his mom at first. Later, he attended Campbelltown Academy and enrolled in Virginia's College of William and Mary in 1774.

Although he intended to study law at the college, that plan kind of fell to pieces. See, the American Revolutionary war began the next year and Monroe was super-patriotic. He enlisted in Virginia's Third Regiment, crossed the Delaware and fought in the Battle of Trenton under George Washington. He was wounded and was noted for his heroism during his service. He later said, ''Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things, but we possess the most precious of all - liberty!''

Political Career

About 5 years after joining and excelling in his service to his country, Monroe left the military to study law under Thomas Jefferson in 1780. A couple of years later, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and was part of the Continental Congress.

Lucky for him too, because while he was in New York as part of the Continental Congress, he met Elizabeth Kortright. They fell in love and married on February 16th, 1786. They had three children: a son who died in infancy and two daughters, Eliza and Maria.

In 1790, Monroe tried his luck by running for the House of Representatives. He lost to James Madison, who would later become the fourth President of the United States. Monroe was elected to the U.S. Senate shortly thereafter. Not too bad, right? Within about a year of being elected to the U.S. Senate, Monroe became party leader.

Monroe as Minister to France
james monroe

George Washington made him minister to France in 1794, which had influence in Monroe assisting in the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States.

Despite heavily criticizing the Washington administration, he became governor of Virginia in 1799. After his governorship, he served as Minister to the United Kingdom under Thomas Jefferson and as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under James Madison.

Monroe's impressive rise in politics was followed by an eventual ascendancy to the U.S. Presidency in 1817. He served for two terms (8 years).

Monroe as President
james monroe

Monroe Doctrine

Monroe is perhaps most famous thing for the Monroe Doctrine, as it became known many years later.

At the time, European powers, namely Spain, controlled numerous colonies in the Western Hemisphere. But those colonies started to declare their independence and the U.S., under Monroe, said the U.S. was on the side of the colonies. And why not? You must remember that this is coming from a man and a time that had fought hard for its own independence from an oppressive colonial power!

But some of the European powers, not surprisingly, threatened to try and take back the colonies. Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, which, in short, stated that European powers need to keep out of the affairs of the nations of the Western Hemisphere. If they didn't, the U.S. would consider their actions as directly threatening the United States.

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