5. James Monroe

“The Last Cocked Hat”


collaboration with bobblehead george

Presidential Basics

  • Full name: James Monroe
  • Years in office: 1817–1825
  • Political party: Democratic-Republican
  • Vice president: Daniel D. Tompkins
  • Age at inauguration: 58
  • Nicknames: “Last Cocked Hat,” “Era of Good Feeling President”

Random Trivia

  • Virginia, born and raised: Monroe was the last of the Virginia Dynasty, which also included Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
  • July 4, 1831: Like Adams and Jefferson, Monroe died on the Fourth of July.

Birth & Death

  • Birthday: April 28, 1758
  • Birthplace: Westmoreland County, Virginia
  • Death: July 4, 1831
  • Place of death: New York City, New York
  • Place of burial: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia
  • Last words: None recorded


  • Father: Spence Monroe (–1774); Carpenter, farmer
  • Mother: Elizabeth Jones Monroe (–)
  • Wife: Elizabeth Kortright (1768 – 1830)
  • Marriage: February 16, 1786 in New York
  • Kids: Three
    • Eliza Kortright (1786–1835)
    • James Spence (1799–1800)
    • Maria Hester (1803–1850)
  • Homes:
    • Highland in Charlottesville, Virginia (1799-1823)
    • Oak Hill in Loudon County Virginia (1825-1830)

Other Facts

  • Height: 6’
  • Eye color: Blue-gray
  • Ancestry: Scottish
  • Religion: Episcopalian
  • Born in a log cabin: No
  • Owned enslaved people: Yes
  • Freemason: Yes


  • Early education: Parson Campbell’s school
  • College degree: No; Attended but didn’t graduate with a degree because he joined the Continental Army.
  • College: William and Mary


  • Military Service: Yes
  • Lawyer: Yes
  • Revolutionary War: Third Virginia Infantry Regiment, ending as Lt. Colonel (1776-1780)
  • Law student: Under Jefferson (1780–1782)
  • Military observer: In North Carolina for Jefferson (1780)
  • Lawyer (1782-1811)
  • Member of Virginia House of Delegates (1782, 1787, 1810)
  • Member of Virginia Council of State (1782)
  • Member of U.S. Congress of the Confederation (1783-1786)
  • Member of Virginia convention to ratify U.S. Constitution (1788)
  • U.S. Senator from Virginia (1790-1794)
  • U.S. Minister to France (1794-1796, 1803)
  • U.S. Minister to Great Britain and Spain (1803-1807)
  • Governor of Virginia (1799-1802, 1811)
  • Secretary of State: Madison administration (1811–1817)
  • Secretary of War: Madison administration (1814–1815)
  • President (1817–1825)
  • President of Virginia Constitutional Convention (1829)
  • Writer


  • The Political Writings of James Monroe


James Monroe is the last of the Virginia Dynasty to serve as president in our founding era (the others were Washington, Jefferson, and Madison).  The Federalist party had all but disappeared in recent years, but the remaining members endorsed Rufus King of New York.  Monroe, being very popular, a framer of the Constitution, and Revolutionary War hero, was easily elected.

President Monroe ran unopposed in this election.  It would have been a unanimous victory (the first and only since Washington’s victory) but for one elector casting a ballot for John Quincy Adams.  Some say he wanted to keep Washington as the sole person to win unanimously.  Other say that he simply did not like Monroe and did not want to cast his ballot for the incumbent.

Spotlight Artifact

Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851)

Created 75 years after the event, this famous painting by Emanuel Leutze portrays Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River on December 25, 1776.  Washington was hoping to stage a surprise attack on the Hessians stationed around Trenton, New Jersey.

Washington is the main focus here, but next to him, holding the flag, you’ll see the future fifth president.  James Monroe doesn’t get nearly as much attention for his military career as Washington, but it’s worth noting what he did for the revolutionary cause.

While leading an attack at the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was severely wounded.  He fought at Brandywine and Germantown.  He also suffered through the harsh winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778, rooming with John Marshall, future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Emanuel Luetze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware is one of the most famous paintings in American art, but that doesn’t mean it’s historically accurate.  Here’s a few of the inaccuracies:

  • Monroe wasn’t on the same boat as Washington.
  • The American flag design wasn’t used until 1777.
  • Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware in the middle of the night, not at the break of dawn.
  • The boat is really small, perhaps too small to hold that many men.

Although historically inaccurate in several ways, Luetze created an artisitic masterpiece, and it succeeds in conveying the feelings of those soldiers’ crossing a river in the middle of winter.

Here’s the painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

President Monroe’s Homes

James Monroe’s Highland

Oak Hill

President Monroe’s Tomb




© 2021 Periodic Presidents, PJ and Jamie Creek