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September 18, 2013 by Lorene

James Monroe assumed more public posts than any American in history. He was a state legislator, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, ambassador to France, Britain and minister to Spain, four term governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of War and two term President of the U.S.

Monroe offered to serve without pay like George Washington. Over the course of his service, after his term was over, he would have to head home to make money. He was usually broke.

In the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was hit by a bullet that severed an artery. A quick thinking physician stopped his flow of blood and saved his life.

Through Alexander Hamilton, Monroe befriended the Marquis de Lafayette, who “expanded his literary, philosophical and political vision.” Lafayette came from France to support the Revolution because he thought it, “represented a world wide conflict to liberate mankind from tyranny of all kinds, religious as well as political.”

In a battle along the Chesapeake Bay, Lafayette was shot and Monroe helped him off the battlefield and stayed with him tending to his needs. They became lifelong friends.

When Thomas Jefferson was Governor of Virginia, he taught law to a small, select group of students. Monroe was in that group and Jefferson took a liking to him.

Monroe was running out of money, so he sold the family farm he had inherited on Monroe Creek and moved to the 300 acre farm he had inherited from his mother.

In 1872, when Monroe’s uncle was re-elected to the Continental Congress, he suggested his nephew as his replacement in the General Assembly. Monroe easily won his election and served with his classmate John Marshall.

In between his years in the Virginia Assembly and his time in the Confederation Congress in Philadelphia, he spent his summers with Thomas Jefferson. He loved Monticello and promised himself he would one day own a similar plantation. Jefferson encouraged him to buy land nearby and build a home as it would connect him with the western part of the state and help his business as a practicing lawyer.

The State of Virginia had no money to pay for his government service so he was broke. Jefferson shared living quarters with him and took him to social events where he met leaders from the states as well as from European nations.

Monroe, like Washington, favored stronger central government, but Congress and the rest of the American people were divided. Monroe and James Madison served on the committee of states which was in charge of selecting a permanent home for the nation’s capitol. The committee members and the states were all in favor of their own areas, so there was committee gridlock. New York City was finally determined to be the temporary home and later a permanent site would be established on the banks of the Delaware River.


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