James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, was born in Westmoreland on the Northern Neck of Virginia near the birthplace of the first President of the United States, George Washington. He attended the College of William and Mary and while there the young rebel patriot participated in a raid on the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg seizing weapons that had been confiscated by Lord Dunmore, the repressive Colonial Governor of Virginia. Following the Declaration of Independence in 1776 James Monroe enlisted in the Virginia infantry commanded by Hugh Mercer and marched to New York to join Washington's forces there.

Young Monroe fought at Harlem Heights and White Plains in New York. On Christmas night in 1776 as Washington's army crossed the Delaware River in a surprise attack on the Hessian camp at Trenton, Monroe's detachment guarded the roads around Trenton to prevent warning of the attack and coordinate further assaults on the Hessian camp. During the Battle of Trenton young Lt. Monroe was severely wounded in the shoulder while leading a charge. The eventual surrender of the Hessians was a major turning point for the patriots in the Revolutionary War. Monroe was promoted to captain and carried a musket ball in his shoulder for the rest of his life. The young Captain became an aide-de-camp to Lord Stirling, a descendent of Scottish nobility who rose to Brigadier General during the American Revolution.

In 1779 James Monroe began a correspondence with Thomas Jefferson and subsequently left the Continental Army to study law with him. In 1782 Monroe was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He married Elizabeth Kortright of New York in 1786, and the couple moved to Fredericksburg where Monroe established a law practice.

James Monroe Museum

James Monroe's 1825 portrait by Rembrandt Peale hangs in the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg that is located on the site of Monroe's law office.

In 1793 James and Elizabeth moved their family to Highland, a plantation near James' friend and mentor Thomas Jefferson. The globe-trotting Monroes left Highland for Paris in 1794 when James was appointed Ambassador to France. The following year brought the Monroes back to Richmond where James served as Governor of Virginia. In 1803 the Monroes headed to London where James served under President Thomas Jefferson as a Diplomat, Minister to France, Spain and England and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase the doubled the size of the United States. In 1811 the Monroes moved back to Washington D.C. as James served as Secretary of State under President James Madison. Monroe himself was elected the fifth President of the United States in 1816, and the Monroes remained in Washington for eight years. During this 'Era of Good Feelings' President James Monroe presided over U.S. expansion and growing nationalism, and won a second term with a nearly unanimous win of electoral votes.

James Monroe Museum

The bas relief American in Paris exhibit at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library depicts James Monroe's signing of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty that doubled the size of the United States.

In 1823, President Monroe issued The Monroe Doctrine, a sweeping foreign policy declaration that closed the Western Hemisphere to further colonization and ordered foreign powers to stay out of the affairs of North and South America. The Doctrine viewed any attempt by a foreign power to control an American nation as a hostile act. President Kennedy invoked the Monroe Doctrine during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the Cold War era. The Doctrine was invoked by President Reagan to justify the United States' involvement in the civil wars of Nicaragua and El Salvador. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, President Bush extended the Doctrine to justify preventative attacks against potential threats to the United States.

James Monroe Museum

Purchased by the Monroes while they were living in Paris, it is said that this is the desk at which James Monroe penned the Monroe Doctrine. Letters between Monroe and other notables such as Jefferson and Madison were found in a secret compartment in the desk. Those letters now reside in the Museum's archives.

After five decades of public service, James Monroe died on Independence Day in 1831. The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg commemorates the life and work of President James Monroe. Monroe's original law office stood on the property that is currently the site of the museum. The museum is housed in a building that was constructed in the 1800s and served a variety of purposes including, providing post-Civil War housing for newly-freed African Americans. The building became a museum in 1927. The museum features interpretive panels and displays as well as numerous Monroe family artifacts. The museum is open daily for self-guided tours and features an outdoor courtyard seating area and museum store.

Pictured at the very top: James Monroe Museum courtyard and entrance in downtown Fredericksburg.