April 28 – Happy Birthday, James Monroe

Posted on April 28, 2017

He was the fifth U.S. President.

He was the second "James" president.

He was the last of the "Virginia dynasty" presidents. Four out of the first five U.S. Presidents were from Virginia. That means that Virginians held the highest office in the land for 32 of the first 36 years of the country's existence (under the U.S. Constitution)!

He was also the last of the Founding Fathers to serve as president. Monroe served in the American Revolutionary War and was a part of the Continental Congress.

Monroe thought that the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government. He was elected president when one of the first political parties, the Federalist Party, was pretty much broken, and he won more than 80% of the electoral vote!

Still, even with that strong a "mandate," Monroe still tried to soothe Federalists with a tour of the country. Apparently the tour was a popular move.

Today we know Monroe for his famous "doctrine," the Monroe Doctrine. This was a very important and influential part of American policy:

It opposed any further European colonialism in North or South America, beginning in 1823.
It clearly stated that, if a European nation tried to gain control of an independent nation in the Americas, the U.S. would view that as an unfriendly move against us, as well as against the nation in question.
It also promised that the U.S. would not meddle in the internal concerns of European nations, and that U.S. wouldn't mess with already-established colonies.

Note that, at the time of the first statement of the Monroe Doctrine, many nations in "Latin America" (Central and South America that had been part of the Portuguese or Spanish Empires) had already broken free of the European powers that once ruled them, and several were about to.

Basically, the Monroe Doctrine said, "Hey, Old World. We in the New World can carry on without your meddling and wars, thank you very much!"

Since the New World had already been overrun by Europeans - and the original inhabitants had been murdered and killed by disease and driven off their ancestral lands and herded into the more unattractive spots of the nations - this doctrine rings a bit weird to indigenous people.

Also, a careful look at the doctrine and the events that followed would show that many Americans wanted the resources and lands of the New World to be THEIR cherry-picking ground, more than they cared about the actual freedoms of self-rule of their Western Hemisphere neighbors.

However, by the time to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. accepted the Latin American interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine that the U.S. would ALSO not intervene with the independence and internal affairs of the nations of the Americas.

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