On this day in 1758, future fifth president James Monroe is born to the planter class in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the last POTUS of the “Virginia Dynasty.” Monroe fought under George Washington, studied law with Thomas Jefferson and was an original delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, the first US government.
Competently building a prodigious public vitae, Monroe served as a Senator of Virginia, Governor, Minister to France and then Britain, Secretary of State and War, and finally POTUS. Under the banner of the Democratic-Republican party and an anti-federalist, Monroe ushered in “The Era of Good Feelings,” to mixed effect.
In 1820, President Monroe signed into law the Missouri Compromise, also known as the Compromise Bill of 1820. The bill attempted to solve tensions over slavery by promising to add an equal number of slave-holding and non-slave-holding states into the Union in the future. A tepid attempt to hold the nation together, this half-measure only served to way-lay the impending conflagration of the Civil War for 40 years.
On a more positive chord and setting the stage for formalization of the Monroe Doctrine, by 1815 many of Spain’s colonies in Latin America had declared their independence. Americans welcomed this action as validation of their spirit of Republicanism. Behind the scenes, President Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams informed these new countries that the United States would support their efforts and open up trade relations.
Ultimately, Monroe acquired both the Territories of Florida and significant footholds on the West Coast, while simultaneously rebuking European powers from intervention; strong presaging of the continued expansionism of the young nation.
For these achievements and his steady countenance, historians generally rank Monroe 13th among our 44 legitimate presidents.