Sunday, April 29, 2007

April 28, 1758:

James Monroe's Birthday

James Monroe, Fifth President of the United States, is often considered the tail-end president of the generation that took the 13 colonies to independence. Generally he's remembered for the Monroe Doctrine that carries his name and the short pause in partisanship during his presidency -- the "Era of Good Feelings," a term coined by a newspaper editor -- but he also presided over the demilitarization of the US-Canada border that still stands today, the purchase of Florida from Spain, and the Compromise of 1820.

The following is from James Monroe in His Relations to the Public Service During Half a Century, 1776 to 1826, a work by Daniel Coit Gilman in the pattern of they-don't write-them-like-that-anymore biographies, fitting since it was published in 1883: "James Monroe, according to the family tradition recorded by his son-in-law, came from a family of Scotch cavaliers, descendants of Hector Monroe, an officer of Charles I. His parentage on both sides was Virginian... Near the head of Monroe's Creek, which empties into the Potomac, James Monroe was born April 28, 1758.

"Not far away, nearer the Potomac, was the birthplace of George Washington. In the same vicinity dwelt Richard Henry Lee and his noted brothers, and also their famous cousin, Henry Lee, known as "Light Horse Harry," whose still more famous son, Robert E. Lee, led the Confederate army in the recent war. Here also was the early home of Bushrod Washington. The birthplace of James Madison was in the same peninsula, though not in the same county. It is not strange that the enthusiastic antiquaries, half a century ago, -- Martin, Barber, and the rest, -- should speak of this region as the Athens of Virginia, an expression which may not be regarded as exact by classical scholars, but cannot be called unpatriotic!"

James Monroe also had the patriotic sense to die on July 4, just as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had, making that day the only one on which three presidents have died. But Monroe died five years after they did, in 1831.

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