James Monroe Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will introduce you to James Monroe, who was president of the United States in the early 1800s. It talks about his life, his career, and how he changed the United States and its relationship with other countries.

Who Was James Monroe?

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States, from 1817 to 1825.

Portrait of President James Monroe
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Monroe was born in Virginia in 1758. He left school in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution. While in the army, Monroe got to know future presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. After the war, Monroe studied law, with Thomas Jefferson as his instructor. Monroe got married and had three children.

During this time, the United States Constitution was pretty new. Monroe, along with others, started a political party called the Democratic-Republican Party to protect the rights of the people and states. Monroe had many jobs in government before he became president, including as a governor of Virginia.

The United States was much smaller than it is today, and other countries still controlled a lot of the land that is now part of the country. This changed a bit when Thomas Jefferson, who was the U.S. president at the time, sent Monroe to France to try to buy New Orleans, but Monroe found out that the United States actually could buy much more land. The problem was that there wasn't time to ask Jefferson whether to make the deal, but Monroe and another diplomat bought it all anyway for $15 million in 1803. This would be as if you go to a store with a list to buy milk and eggs, and instead come home with the whole store!

Lucky for Monroe, this turned out to be the right move. The deal, called the Louisiana Purchase, added the land west of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and doubled the size of the country.

James Monroe Becomes President

Painting of Monroe in the U.S. Capitol
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After losing once before, James Monroe ran for president again in 1816 and won. This was the first time a president was sworn into office outside and gave a speech to the people. Monroe couldn't live in the president's house because it had been damaged in war. But when the White House was ready a couple of years later, he was able to move in.

One of Monroe's accomplishments as president was buying Florida from Spain, which he did for $5 million.

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