James Monroe's Early Life & Childhood

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over the early life of one of America's presidents, James Monroe. You'll learn a bit about his family, where he was born and what he did as a young man.

The Monroe Doctrine

When you hear of former President James Monroe, the first thing you probably think of is the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe is famous for taking charge and letting European powers at the time know they needed to stop meddling in the affairs of the nations of the Western Hemisphere. While Monroe was daring and bold as president, he was also brave and ambitious as a child and young adult.

James Monroe

Who was this daring president, telling the rest of the world what they can and cannot do? Let's explore James Monroe's early life and childhood.

Birthplace & Family

On April 28, 1758, James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His dad, Spence Monroe, was a carpenter and farmer of Scottish descent. His mother, Elizabeth Jones Monroe, had Welsh roots. Wales, in case you didn't know, is a part of the United Kingdom today.

His family owned a 600 acre plot of land and wasn't particularly prominent in local affairs at the time around his birth. He was home-schooled by his mom at first but later attended Campbelltown Academy (1769-1774), where he was an excellent student.

Early Life

When James was about 16, his father passed away. He and his siblings, were placed under the care of his uncle, Joseph Jones. This was a critical turning point in Monroe's life. Unlike Monroe's family, his uncle was a prominent leader of the revolutionary times. Not only that, his uncle saw great promise in Monroe and encouraged him to go and further his education. As a result, Monroe enrolled in Virginia's, William and Mary College in 1774. He was the first in his family to ever go to college. Monroe intended to study law but dropped out of school not long after enrolling.

It wasn't because he found law difficult, boring or that he was a bad student. See something big happened in 1775. Can you think of what that was? The American Revolutionary War began. And what do you think? Do you think Monroe fought for or against the British? Monroe enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment during the spring of 1775 to fight against the British. He and a few friends even raided the arsenal of the British royal governor. They stole a large amount of weapons and supplies and handed them over to Virginia's militia.

Not long after that, Lieutenant Monroe was fighting in New York with none other than George Washington. He was even part of the famous crossing of the Delaware with Washington.

Monroe serving under Washington.

And like he excelled in school, Monroe excelled in combat as well. He was noted for his heroism. For example, he and a few other men disabled British cannons that were a huge thorn in Washington's side at the Battle of Trenton. Monroe was also seriously wounded. For his bravery and role in the battle, Monroe was promoted to the rank of major.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account