James Monroe (1758– 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825). His administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida (1819); the Missouri Compromise (1820), in which Missouri was declared a slave state; the admission of Maine in 1820 as a free state; and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), declaring U.S. opposition to European interference in the Americas, as well as breaking all ties with France remaining from the War of 1812. Before his election as president, Monroe served twice as governor of Virginia, as Secretary of War under James Madison, and as Secretary of State, also under Madison.
Monroe is, along with George Washington, one of only two American Presidents to have been elected to the office without serious opposition.
James Monroe in Trail of Glory
James Monroe was the seventh Secretary of State of the United States and the country's fifth President. In both of these capacities, Monroe played an important role in the history of both his country, and in the founding of the Confederacy of the Arkansas. He was the father-in-law of Sam Houston, the American soldier and politican directly responsible for the creation of the Confederacy.
War of 1812 and Meeting Sam Houston
Like the rest of the Cabinet of President James Madison, Monroe fled Washington after the British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg. The Cabinet regrouped in a tavern in Georgetown, as did most of the U.S. military on the orders of General William Winder. When word came that Captain Sam Houston had elected to stay in Washington and defend the United States Capitol, Winder flew into a rage at Houston's "treason". Monroe, who held Winder responsible for the rout at Bladensburg, colluded with Secretary of War John Armstrong to keep Winder distracted while Monroe returned to Washington.
He arrived at the Capitol just as the British launched their assault. By happenstance, Monroe met with a convoy of three wagons led by teamster Henry Crowell, and carrying shot and gunpowder to the Americans. Monroe joined them. When the group arrived inside the building, Monroe's presence went essentially unacknowledged, as the troops were more concerned with Crowell's cargo.
Monroe found Houston shortly after the British had been driven off. Monroe congratulated Houston and his men, and assured Houston he'd have Monroe's full support (even hinting, falsely, that Houston had President Madison's well-wishes), and that Houston's only task was to defend the Capitol Building.
As the sun rose, it was clear that a storm was coming. Houston decided that he couldn't leave the wounded British soldiers in the open. He sent some of the militia under flag of truce to the British commander, General Robert Ross (who'd been injured leading the assault), who agreed to a truce to allow a collection of the wounded. Ross conveyed his wish that Houston be promoted from captain to major or colonel, as Ross couldn't bear the thought that he'd been defeated by a mere captain. When Barney heard it, he all but demanded Monroe do it. Monroe balked as he didn't have the authority. The conversation was interrupted when British troops under Admiral George Cockburn set fire to the Executive Mansion.
With this lull, Houston took the opportunity to explain to Monroe the original reason for his coming and Andrew Jackson's stated goal of crushing and removing the Indians. This planted the seeds for the future, as Monroe took to heart Houston's concerns, although he was initially dubious of Jackson's intent and ability to follow through. Monroe also asked Houston for a military aide while he was in the Capitol. Houston detached Lt. John Ross. Ross actually held that position until October 9.
After the British officially retreated, President Madison met up with Monroe in the Capitol. Madison shared his pleasure with the successful defense. He also informed Monroe that General Andrew Jackson had forced the Creek to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. Both men realized that voiding the treaty would have too high a political price. Monroe considered this, and then approached Houston, John Ross, and Lt. Patrick Driscol, who had served as Houston's second-in-command, with the outline of the plan that would give birth to the Confederacy of the Arkansas. While Driscol initially and angrily balked, Monroe was able to convince Driscol before taking his leave.
John Armstrong resigned as Secretary of War. Madison immediately appointed Monroe to the office. Monroe continued on as acting Secretary of State, but concentrated his efforts on the War Department. One crucial early decision was to select Houston and his men to reinforce Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. Here, Monroe consulted with Patrick Driscol, as Monroe for a time considered sending General Winfield Scott, but his sense was that both Scott and Jackson were too vain to tolerate each other. Driscol, who'd served under Scott, agreed with that assessment. Thus, Houston got the job, angering Scott.
During that time, Ross and Monroe developed a respect for one another, and Ross came to even like Monroe personally. Both realized what conflicts might lie ahead, and that Monroe, whose rise to the Presidency was almost inevitable, would do all he could to forestall those conflicts. They parted on those reasonably good terms.