President James Monroe's Cabinet

Instructor: Mark Koscinski

Mark has a doctorate from Drew University and teaches accounting classes. He is a writer, editor and has experience in public and private accounting.

In this lesson, you will learn about the distinguished men who served in the Cabinet of President James Monroe. You will learn about their achievements while serving in the Monroe administration and throughout their lifetimes.

President Monroe's Cabinet

A leader achieves success in part by building a team of capable collaborators. A striking example of this was the Cabinet of President James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. Monroe served two terms as president, from 1817 to 1825. His Cabinet was filled with luminaries who worked to achieve Monroe's domestic and foreign policy agendas. Several of his secretaries became presidential candidates, one was elected president, another was elected vice president, a third was appointed a Supreme Court justice, and a fourth was elected governor of New Jersey.

James Monroe, fifth president of the United States
James Monroe portrait by William James Hubbard, ca. 1832

Cabinet Members

Secretary of State

The foremost member of Monroe's Cabinet was his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams. Adams had extensive experience in international diplomacy. Before being named secretary of State, he served as minister (ambassador) to four different European countries. He had also served a term in the U.S. Senate. He succeeded Monroe, becoming the nation's sixth president. During his tenure as secretary of State, Adams collaborated with Monroe in writing the Monroe Doctrine, which states that European powers must not attempt to increase their influence in the American continents. That document still serves as a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Adams also was instrumental in negotiating the nation's acquisition of the Florida territory from Spain after General Andrew Jackson's troops annexed it. Adams served the entire eight years of Monroe's presidency.

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams copy of 1843 Philip Haas Daguerreotype

Secretary of Treasury

William Crawford became a Cabinet member when Monroe's predecessor, James Madison, appointed him secretary of War in 1815. Crawford was appointed secretary of the Treasury in 1816 and remained in this position under President Monroe, serving in the role for a total of nine years. Like Adams, Crawford was previously a diplomat and member of the Senate. He had served as president pro tempore, the presiding officer of the Senate in the absence of the vice president of the United States. Crawford faced tough challenges in the Treasury Department. The nation's public finances were in disarray due to the poor fiscal management of the War of 1812. Crawford restructured the Treasury into a more efficient department. Under a reform measure Crawford pushed in 1817, Congress placed civil and military accounts under the Treasury Department, where they remain today; this shift considerably improved the fiscal management of the federal government. During his tenure in the Cabinet, Crawford oversaw the construction of the Cumberland Road from Virginia to the Midwest, a major infrastructure project. He ran for president in 1824; John Quincy Adams won that four-way race, which was decided by the House of Representatives.

Secretary of War

Secretary of War John C. Calhoun also served the entire two terms of President Monroe. He would later serve as vice president under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He left the Jackson administration to serve in the U.S. Senate. During a break from his Senate career, he served for a time as secretary of State under President John Tyler. Calhoun headed the War Department at a time when Americans deeply distrusted a standing army. Congress reduced the army by one-half during his tenure. Calhoun championed setting up Indian reservations where tribes could manage their affairs without hindrance from state governments. He concluded more than 40 treaties with various Indian tribes and established the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During his time in government, Calhoun was an ardent defender of states' rights and slavery.

Secretary of War John C. Calhoun
John C Calhoun by Mathew Brady,1849

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