[00:05.31]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:11.81]James Monroe easily won election in 1816.
[00:17.78]He had a relaxed, likeable personality and was popular with voters.
[00:23.84]In addition, many saw him as a last connection to the country’s founding generation.
[00:31.77]Monroe had fought in George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War against British rule.
[00:39.28]He was a diplomat during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency and helped complete the Louisiana Purchase.
[00:46.84]Monroe served as James Madison’s secretary of state — and briefly as his secretary of war, as well – during the War of 1812.
[00:58.74]Voters’ positive feelings carried Monroe into office and defined his presidency.
[01:15.76]When Monroe became president, the United States had just declared victory against British forces in the War of 1812.
[01:24.75]The American economy also was doing well, at least at first.
[01:30.14]And the government was mostly united under a single party.
[01:34.91]But Monroe did have one immediate problem: He and his wife, Elizabeth, could not move into the president’s house right away.
[01:44.10]The British had burned it badly in an attack on Washington, D.C. Workers were busy making repairs.
[01:53.37]So, Monroe decided to go on a trip.
[01:58.05]He spent the first weeks of his presidency traveling.
[02:02.08]He went north into New England, visiting important places from the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.
[02:10.48]Everywhere he went he reminded Americans of their shared, proud history.
[02:16.75]He even wore clothes in the old colonial style.
[02:20.65]One of Monroe’s nicknames is “the last of the cocked hats.”
[02:25.35]Then President Monroe turned west, toward lands that white migrants were increasingly settling.
[02:32.77]They were able to move west in part because American soldiers had defeated a powerful alliance of Native American tribes.
[02:42.41]What had been a victory for the U.S. government was a crushing loss for Native Americans.
[02:50.52]Many tribes moved farther west.
[02:53.80]Others began to lose their languages and their customs as white settlers took control.
[03:00.96]For Monroe, however, the visit west was a positive sign of the country’s expansion.
[03:07.90]By the time he returned to Washington, Monroe had met many Americans.
[03:13.77]He had learned for himself the geography of the country.
[03:17.56]And he had demonstrated that all parts of the U.S. could be connected by patriotism and a common federal government.
[03:27.48]One newspaper called Monroe’s presidency the beginning of an “Era of Good Feelings.”
[03:34.62]Four years later, Monroe won a second term even more easily than his first.
[03:51.69]Yet James Monroe’s presidency had several crises.
[03:56.76]One was the country’s first economic depression in more than 30 years.
[04:03.74]Another was over slavery.
[04:06.45]The country had been divided over the issue since its founding.
[04:11.52]By the end of 1819, eleven states, all in the South, permitted slavery.
[04:18.51]Eleven states, all in the North, did not.
[04:23.26]The question became: Would the new states in the West permit it?
[04:29.76]Monroe had to face the question when settlers asked Congress permission for Missouri Territory to become a state.
[04:39.17]Many enslaved people already lived there.
[04:42.59]White settlers expected to bring more.
[04:46.15]But a member of Congress from a Northern state proposed that Missouri could become a state only if it banned slavery.
[04:56.92]That proposal started a debate that lasted more than a year.
[05:02.52]For the most part, the debate was not based on the moral problems with people owning other people. Instead, it involved economic and political concerns.
[05:16.45]Northerners argued that slave-holding states had an unfair economic advantage.
[05:22.52]In addition, if Missouri entered the Union as a slave state, its lawmakers would move the balance of power toward the South.
[05:32.19]The debate continued so long that another area asked to enter the Union.
[05:38.79]People in northern Massachusetts wanted to organize into an independent state called Maine.
[05:47.07]After some time, lawmakers offered a compromise.
[05:52.41]They said Maine could be admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state.
[05:59.31]But they also made a line across a map of the country.
[06:04.59]They said Congress would not admit another slave state north of that line.
[06:11.19]James Monroe signed into law what became known as the Missouri Compromise.
[06:17.47]It settled the issue of slavery, at least officially, in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
[06:25.95]But everyone knew that the peace between pro-slavery and anti-slavery groups was only temporary.
[06:41.30]In 1823, Monroe made one of the most important foreign policy decisions in American history.
[06:49.97]It became known as the Monroe Doctrine.
[06:53.91]It related to Spain’s colonies in Latin America.
[06:58.23]Monroe had dealt with Spain before.
[07:01.99]In his first term, he and his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, successfully negotiated with Spain to buy Florida for the United States.
[07:13.77]By Monroe’s second term, Spain had also lost control of some of its former colonies in Latin America.
[07:22.52]The president became concerned that Spain’s European allies would try to help the country re-gain power.
[07:31.45]He did not want European powers interfering in areas so close to U.S. territory and so important to U.S. trade.
[07:41.03]So Monroe gave a speech to Congress. He said the U.S. would stay out of Europe’s affairs.
[07:48.99]But he said Europe should also stay out of Latin America’s affairs.
[07:55.81]And, Monroe declared that European powers would not be permitted to begin colonizing any area in the Western Hemisphere.
[08:06.12]In other words, Monroe declared that the U.S. considered the entire Western Hemisphere its sphere of influence.
[08:16.47]Historians note that Monroe did not aim for the declaration to be a major statement.
[08:22.98]But it became a base of American foreign policy and supported U.S. expansion throughout the 19th century.
[08:36.70]James Monroe was the fourth and last president in the “Virginia Dynasty.”
[08:42.21]Except for John Adams, four of the first five American presidents were from Virginia.
[08:49.27]Monroe and his wife returned to their home there after he left office.
[08:54.72]They had a close relationship with each other, as well as with their two surviving children, both daughters.
[09:02.29]Unlike many politicians of his time, Monroe had brought his family with him on his travels.
[09:09.32]He also believed strongly in education for girls.
[09:13.30]When the Monroes lived in France, young Eliza Monroe attended the best school for girls in Paris.
[09:21.37]This loving family spent as much time together as possible.
[09:26.51]So, when Elizabeth Monroe died, James Monroe was filled with sorrow. His health also began to fail.
[09:36.36]He moved to the house of his younger daughter, Maria, in New York City.
[09:41.30]James Monroe died there one year later, at age 73.
[09:47.02]Like two other former presidents, Monroe died on the 4th of July – America’s birthday.
[09:54.83]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.