James Monroe

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James Monroe

James Monroe was born in the quiet town of Westmoreland County, Virginia on April 28, 1758. His father, Spencer Monroe, was married to Elizabeth Jones in 1752. Spencer Monroe was a circuit judge and a farmer for the town (Kane 40). Monroe was the oldest of five. There were four other children; Andrew, Joseph, and Elizabeth. His third brother had died in his early childhood. He attended grammar school at a small academy for boys. This school had a reputation for serving the best of men, like George Washington and John Marshall (Kane 40), which is unique because he later followed George Washington as president. George Washington was a family friend of the Monroe’s. He admired Washington and was influenced by him at a young age. At age 16 his father Spencer Monroe died. Monroe was left to be the man of the house. A family member suggested that James should continue his education at the William and Mary College. Monroe enrolled in the most difficult program that the College offered (Stefoff 11). Within a year of his attendance at William and Mary College, the shot heard around the world at Lexington occurred. War broke out with England, and Monroe wanted to do something about it. At age 18 he later joined the army enlisting in the Third Virginia Infantry (Stefoff 12). Monroe was appointed lieutenant after a party of soldiers raided a British house taking guns and supplies. He later was acquainted with George Washington when the Third Virginia Infantry was joined with Washington’s troops in New York (Stefoff 13). During the war he was wounded in the Battle of Trenton but not severely. Monroe assigned to deskwork was asked if he would send a letter to the governor of Virginia asking for more soldiers. Monroe was waiting for a response from Washington but never heard from him, so in the mean time he studied law (Stefoff 15). Monroe became an aid under Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia also influenced his life. Monroe and his good school friend worked on the governor’s speeches and organized meetings. This prepared Monroe for what was to become of his life as President (Stefoff 21). Since the war was still going on, he had a mission from the military. Monroe was asked to go south and spy on British troops, because American troops feared that they were planning a surprise attack on them (Stefoff 21-22). After Monroe’s successful mission against British troops and the war’s completion, Monroe’s political career soared.
Before 1781 Monroe finished studying law and passed the Virginia Bar exam. He wanted to buy land in Kentucky and open a law office in Richmond with the money he was saving. His first aspiration was not practicing law, but going to Europe and traveling the different countries. Monroe was unsure of himself and needed advice. He turned to Jefferson, but Jefferson had other plans for Monroe. He wanted Monroe to run for Virginia State Legislature. Monroe accepted and was elected into the House of Delegates in April 1782 (Stefoff 23). After much preparation, Monroe became a member of the Congress of Confederation. This event influenced him greatly. During 1786 Monroe found time to marry the love of his life. Her name was Elizabeth Kortright Monroe. Elizabeth was 17 and James was 27 years old when they were married. They had two daughters and one son (Kane 40). After the marriage and the children, Monroe quickly got back to his political views and doings. He was bored of his law practice and wanted a challenge. James served on the 170 member Virginia Ratifying Convention that decided the fate of the Constitution (Stefoff 35). In the fall of 1788, Monroe ran for Congress, but his friend and foe, James Madison, defeated him. Monroe did not give up, although he was disappointed about the loss, he later ran for U.S. Senate against an old friend John Marshall in 1790 and came home with a victory (Stefoff 37). Monroe was divided by politics. Now there were two political parties, the Federalist led by George Washington, and the Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson (Stefoff 38). Monroe believed in both parties and was friends of both leaders, but