The Monroe and Adams Administrations

The Election of 1816 and the Monroe Presidency

The U.S. presidential election of 1816 resulted in an easy win for James Monroe and ushered in the “Era of Good Feelings.”

Learning Objectives

Assess the domestic and foreign legacies of the Monroe presidency

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • James Monroe, former secretary of state under President James Madison, won the presidential election of 1816 against very weak opposition.
  • Monroe’s presidency ushered in what is known as the “Era of Good Feelings,” a time marked by a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812.
  • Domestic political and economic troubles—such as the question of the balance of free versus slave states and the Panic of 1819 —provided challenges for Monroe’s administration, but he remained popular regardless.
  • Monroe sparked a constitutional controversy in 1817 when he ordered the attack of the Seminole Indians in Spanish Florida, sparking the First Seminole War. Relations with Spain over the purchase of Spanish Florida also proved to be troublesome.
  • Monroe’s administration is probably most well known for his Monroe Doctrine, which warned that the nation would not tolerate Europe interfering in affairs in the Western Hemisphere.

Key Terms

  • The Virginia dynasty: A term sometimes used to describe the fact that four of the first five presidents of the United States were from the same state.
  • Era of Good Feelings: A period in the political history of the United States during President Monroe’s administration that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812.
  • Panic of 1819: The first major financial crisis in the United States, which occurred during the political calm of the “Era of Good Feelings.”

The Election of 1816

The U.S. presidential election of 1816 came at the end of the two-term presidency of Democratic-Republican, James Madison. With the Federalist Party in collapse, Madison’s secretary of state, James Monroe of Virginia, had an advantage in winning the presidency against very weak opposition. Monroe won the electoral college by the wide margin of 183 to 34.

Monroe was the favorite candidate of both former President Jefferson and retiring President Madison. However, Monroe initially faced stiff competition from Secretary of War William H. Crawford of Georgia. There was also widespread sentiment, especially in New York, that it was time to end the dynasty of Virginian presidents (both Jefferson and Madison also had been from Virginia). Monroe’s long service at home and abroad, however, made him a fitting candidate to succeed Madison. Crawford never formally declared himself a candidate because he believed he had little chance against Monroe and feared such a contest might deny him a place in the new cabinet. Still, Crawford’s supporters posed a significant challenge during the election.

Highlights of Monroe’s Presidency

The “Era of Good Feelings”

Monroe largely ignored old party lines in making appointments to lower posts, which reduced political tensions and engendered an “Era of Good Feelings” that lasted throughout his administration. He made two long national tours in 1817 to build national trust. Frequent stops on these tours allowed innumerable ceremonies of welcome and expressions of good will. The Federalist Party continued to fade away during his administration; it maintained its vitality and organizational integrity in Delaware and a few localities, but was no longer a factor in national politics. Lacking serious opposition, the National Republican Party ‘s congressional caucus stopped meeting, and for practical purposes, the National Republican Party stopped operating.

Domestic Troubles: The Panic of 1819 and the Missouri Compromise

During Monroe’s presidency, the country’s commitment to nationalism was starting to show serious fractures. The Panic of 1819 caused a painful economic depression, and an amended bill for gradually eliminating slavery in Missouri precipitated two years of bitter debate in Congress. The Missouri Compromise bill resolved the struggle, pairing Missouri as a slave state with Maine as a free state and barring slavery north of latitude 36°30′ north. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1857 when it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Dred Scott decision. Despite these domestic tensions, Monroe’s popularity remained undiminished.

The First Seminole War and Spanish Florida

Monroe sparked a constitutional controversy in 1817 when he sent General Andrew Jackson to move against Spanish Florida to attack the Seminole Indians and punish the Spanish for aiding them. This action sparked the First Seminole War. Relations with Spain over the purchase of Spanish Florida also proved to be troublesome. In the end, largely through the skillful work of John Quincy Adams, a treaty was signed with Spain in 1819 that ceded Florida to the United States in return for the assumption of $5,000,000 in claims and the relinquishment of any claims to Texas. Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821.

Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was a U.S. policy introduced by Monroe on December 2, 1823, which stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. The doctrine was issued at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved independence from the Spanish Empire (except Bolivia, which became independent in 1825, and Cuba and Puerto Rico). The United States, working in agreement with Britain, wanted to maintain its foothold and to guarantee no European power would move on these newly independent countries. Despite its own drive to colonize lands for itself, the United States proclaimed that the Americas should be free from future European colonization and free from European interference in sovereign countries’ affairs.

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President James Monroe: This portrait of James Monroe can be found in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The “Era of Good Feelings”

The “Era of Good Feelings” marked a period that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity at the end of the War of 1812.

Learning Objectives

Describe the “Era of Good Feelings”

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The “Era of Good Feelings” was induced by a lull in partisan politics between the Federalists and Democratic- Republicans and the disintegration of the Federalist party.
  • The era saw a national trend that envisioned a permanent role for the federal government in developing the nation’s prosperity.
  • James Monroe brought about the decline of the Federalist Party through neglect while also avoiding persecution of the Federalists.
  • Perhaps the greatest expression of the “Era of Good Feelings” was Monroe’s countrywide goodwill tours in 1817 and 1819. Loss of Republican Party discipline, the Panic of 1819, the Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland , and the Missouri Crisis of 1820 all contributed to the decline in the political consensus—leading to the end of the “Era of Good Feelings.”

Key Terms

  • McCulloch v. Maryland: A landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that established two important principles in constitutional law: First, the Constitution grants to Congress implied powers for implementing the Constitution’s expressed powers, and second, state action may not impede valid constitutional exercises of power by the federal government.
  • amalgamation: The process of merging or consolidating.
  • Hartford Convention: An event in 1814–1815 in the United States in which New England Federalists met to discuss their grievances concerning the ongoing War of 1812 and the political problems arising from the federal government’s increasing power.

Introduction: The “Era of Good Feelings”

The “Era of Good Feelings” marked a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The era saw a brief lull in the bitter partisan disputes that had plagued the Democratic-Republican and Federalist parties. President James Monroe endeavored to consolidate the Republican and Federalist parties, with the ultimate goal of eliminating parties altogether from national politics.

The designation of the period by historians as one of good feelings is often conveyed with irony or skepticism, as the political atmosphere of the era was strained and divisive, especially among factions within the Monroe administration and the Republican Party.

Post-War Nationalism

The “Era of Good Feelings” began in 1815 in the mood of victory that swept the nation at the end of the War of 1812. Exaltation replaced the bitter political divisions between Federalists and Republicans, between northern and southern states, and between east-coast cities and settlers on the western frontier. The Federalist Party largely dissolved after the Hartford Convention in 1814–15, and subsequently, political bitterness declined. The Democratic-Republican Party was nominally dominant but was also largely inactive at the national level and in most states.

The era saw a national trend that envisioned a permanent role for the federal government in developing the nation’s prosperity. Madison announced this shift in policy with his “Seventh Annual Message to Congress” in December of 1815, which authorized measures for a national bank and a protective tariff on manufactures. The emergence of new Republicans, undismayed by mild nationalist policies, anticipated Monroe’s “Era of Good Feelings,” and a general mood of optimism emerged with hopes for political reconciliation.

Monroe and Political Parties

The method Monroe employed to encourage the deflating of the Federalist Party was largely one of neglect: He denied them all political patronage, administrative appointments, and federal support of any kind. Monroe pursued this policy dispassionately and without any desire to persecute the Federalists, however. His purpose was simply to remove the Federalists from positions of political power, both at the federal and state levels, especially in Federalism ‘s New England strongholds.

In his public pronouncements, Monroe was careful to make no comments that could be interpreted as politically partisan. In his private encounters with Federalists, he made favorable impressions—committing himself to nothing, yet eliciting good feelings.

Great Goodwill Tours

Perhaps Monroe’s countrywide goodwill tours in 1817 and 1819 were the greatest expression of the “Era of Good Feelings.” His visits to New England and the Federalist stronghold of Boston, Massachusetts, were the most significant of the tour. Here, the descriptive phrase “Era of Good Feelings” was bestowed by a local Federalist journal by journalist Benjamin Russell. Monroe achieved the primary goal of his tour in the heart of Federalist territory. Monroe was assiduous in avoiding any remarks or expressions that might chasten or humiliate his hosts. He presented himself strictly as the head of state and not as the leader of a triumphant political party.

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Benjamin Russell, American journalist: Russell, pictured above, coined the term “Era of Good Feelings” during Monroe’s goodwill tour in 1817.

Failure of Amalgamation

Monroe’s success in mitigating party rancor produced an appearance of political unity, with almost all Americans identifying themselves as Republicans. His nearly unanimous electoral victory for reelection in 1820 seemed to confirm this unity.

Recognizing the danger of intraparty rivalries, Monroe attempted to include prospective presidential candidates and top political leaders in his administration. His cabinet comprised three of the political rivals who would vie for the presidency in 1824: John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, and William H. Crawford. A fourth, Andrew Jackson, held high military appointments. Monroe felt he could manage the factional disputes and arrange compromise on national politics within administration guidelines. His great disadvantage, however, was that amalgamation deprived him of appealing to Republican solidarity that would have cleared the way for passage of his programs in Congress. The end result was a loss of party discipline.

Old Republican critics of the new nationalism, among them John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia, had warned that the abandonment of the Jeffersonian scheme of Southern preeminence would provoke a sectional conflict between the North and the South that would threaten the Union. Old Republicans feared such an outcome was inevitable if universal adherence to the precepts of Jeffersonianism was absent.

The disastrous, yet brief, Panic of 1819 and the Supreme Court’s case of McCulloch v. Maryland reanimated the disputes over the supremacy of state sovereignty and federal power. The Missouri Crisis in 1820 made the explosive political conflict between slave and free states open and explicit. With the decline in political consensus, Jeffersonian principles were indeed revived on the basis of Southern exceptionalism, and the interlude of the “Era of Good Feelings” came to an end.

The Panic of 1819

The Panic of 1819 was the first major financial crisis in the United States and occurred during the political calm of the “Era of Good Feelings.”

Learning Objectives

Assess the factors that led to the Panic of 1819

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the political calm of the “Era of Good Feelings,” a financial crisis occurred that became known as the ” Panic of 1819.”
  • The Panic marked the end of the economic expansion that had followed the War of 1812 and ushered in new financial policies that would shape economic development.
  • The first major economic crisis after the War of 1812 was due, in large measure, to factors in the larger Atlantic economy. It was made worse, however, by land speculation and poor banking practices at home.
  • President Monroe, interpreting the economic crisis in narrow monetary terms, limited governmental action to economizing and ensuring fiscal stability. He acquiesced in suspending specie payments to bank depositors.
  • Monroe’s handling of the crisis set a precedent for the way in which the Panics of 1837 and 1857 were remedied.

Key Terms

  • Era of Good Feelings: A period in the political history of the United States during President Monroe’s administration that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812.
  • specie: Money, especially in the form of coins made from precious metal, that has an intrinsic value; coinage.

Introduction: The Panic of 1819

The Panic of 1819 was the first major financial crisis in the United States and occurred during the political calm of the “Era of Good Feelings.” The new nation had previously faced an economic depression following the War of Independence in the late 1780s and 1790s, but nothing as severe. The Panic marked the end of the economic expansion that had followed the War of 1812 and ushered in new financial policies that would shape economic development.

Causal Factors

The first major economic crisis after the War of 1812 was due, in large measure, to factors in the larger Atlantic economy. It was made worse, however, by land speculation and poor banking practices at home. British textile mills voraciously consumed American cotton, and the devastation of the Napoleonic Wars had made Europe reliant on other American agricultural commodities such as wheat. This drove up both the price of American agricultural products and the value of the land on which staples such as cotton, wheat, corn, and tobacco were grown.

Land Fever

Many Americans were struck with “land fever.” Farmers strove to expand their acreage, but they needed money to purchase land. Small merchants and factory owners, hoping to take advantage of this boom time, also sought to borrow money to expand their businesses. When existing banks refused to lend money to small farmers and others without a credit history, state legislatures chartered new banks to meet the demand. As loans increased, paper money from new state banks flooded the country, creating inflation that drove the price of land and goods still higher. This, in turn, encouraged even more people to borrow money with which to purchase land or to expand or start their own businesses. Speculators took advantage of this boom in the sale of land by purchasing property not to live on, but to buy cheaply and resell at exorbitant prices.

Specie and Bank Notes

The government had borrowed heavily to finance the War of 1812, which caused tremendous strain on the banks’ reserves of specie, or “hard money” usually in the form of gold and silver coins. During the war, the Bank of the United States had suspended payments in specie. When the war ended, the bank continued to issue only paper banknotes and to redeem notes issued by state banks with paper only. The newly chartered banks also adopted this practice, issuing banknotes in excess of the amount of specie in their vaults. This shaky economic scheme worked only so long as people were content to conduct business with paper money and refrain from demanding that banks instead give them the gold and silver that was supposed to back it. If large numbers of people, or banks that had loaned money to other banks, began to demand specie payments, the banking system would collapse, because there was no longer enough specie to support the amount of paper money the banks had put into circulation.

In an effort to bring stability to the nation’s banking system, Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States (a revival of Alexander Hamilton’s national bank) in 1816. But this new institution only compounded the problem by making risky loans, opening branches in the South and West where land fever was highest, and issuing a steady stream of Bank of the United States notes, a move that increased inflation and speculation.

International Events

The Panic was also partially impacted by international events. After the Napoleonic Wars came to an end, European demand for American foodstuffs decreased as agriculture in Europe began to recover. Prices had already begun falling in 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when Britain began to “dump” its surplus manufactured good (the result of wartime overproduction), in American ports, where they were sold for low prices and competed with American-manufactured goods. In 1818, to make the economic situation worse, prices for American agricultural products began to fall both in the United States and in Europe; the overproduction of staples such as wheat and cotton coincided with the recovery of European agriculture, which reduced demand for American crops. Crop prices tumbled by as much 75 percent. In addition, war and revolution in the New World destroyed the supply line of precious metals from Mexico and Peru to Europe.

The Burst

The inflated economic bubble burst in 1819, resulting in the Panic of 1819. Because it was the first economic depression experienced by the nation, the American public panicked as they saw the prices of agricultural products fall and businesses fail. The Second Bank of the United States was forced to call a halt to its expansion and launch a painful process of contraction. There was a wave of bankruptcies, bank failures, and bank runs; prices dropped, and wide-scale urban unemployment occurred.

This dramatic decrease in the value of agricultural goods left farmers unable to pay their debts. As they defaulted on their loans, banks seized their property. However, because the drastic fall in agricultural prices had greatly reduced the value of land, the banks were left with farms they were unable to sell. Land speculators lost the value of their investments. As the countryside suffered, hard-hit farmers ceased to purchase manufactured goods. Factories responded by cutting wages or firing employees.

Proposed Remedies

Many remedies to the Panic of 1819 were proposed, including the following:

  • an increase of tariffs (largely proposed by northern manufacturing interests);
  • a reduction of tariffs (largely proposed by southerners, who believed free trade would stimulate the economy and increase demand);
  • monetary expansion (i.e., restriction or suspension of specie payment);
  • rigid enforcement of specie payment;
  • restriction of bank credit;
  • direct relief of debtors;
  • public works proposals;
  • stricter enforcement of anti-usury laws.

President Monroe, interpreting the economic crisis in narrow monetary terms, limited governmental action to economizing and ensuring fiscal stability. He acquiesced in suspending specie payments to bank depositors, setting a precedent for the Panics of 1837 and 1857. Although he agreed to the need for improved transportation facilities, he refused to approve appropriations for internal improvements without a prior amendment of the Constitution.

In an effort to stimulate the economy in the midst of the economic depression, Congress passed several acts modifying land sales. The Land Law of 1820 lowered the price of land to $1.25 per acre and allowed small parcels of eighty acres to be sold. The Relief Act of 1821 allowed people from Ohio to return land to the government if they could not afford to keep it. The money they received in return was credited toward their debt. The act also extended the credit period to eight years. States, too, attempted to aid those faced with economic hard times by passing laws to prevent mortgage foreclosures so buyers could keep their homes. Americans made the best of the opportunities presented in business, in farming, or on the frontier, and by 1823 the Panic of 1819 had ended.

The Missouri Compromise

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 concerned the regulation of slavery in the western territories.

Learning Objectives

Recognize the political problems that emerged with the Missouri Compromise

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Missouri Compromise was the result of attempts to regulate slavery in western territories of the United States.
  • One of its main effects was a ban on slavery in new states north of the parallel 36°30′ north.
  • Congress’ consideration of Missouri’s admission raised the issue of sectional balance in the United States; both northern and southern states sought to maintain the balance between free and slave states, out of the fear of being outnumbered in political representation.
  • In the Dred Scott v. Sandford case in 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have authority to prohibit slavery in territories and that those provisions of the Missouri Compromise were unconstitutional.

Key Terms

  • Louisiana Territory: An organized incorporated area of the United States that existed from July 4, 1805, until June 4, 1812, when it was renamed the “Missouri Territory.”

Introduction: The Missouri Compromise

Another stage of U.S. expansion took place when inhabitants of Missouri began petitioning for statehood beginning in 1817. The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and antislavery factions in the U.S. Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north, except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. Prior to the agreement, the House of Representatives had refused to accept this compromise and a conference committee was appointed.

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Missouri Compromise line: This map of the United States, circa 1820, shows the line between free and slave states that was established by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The line extended along the parallel 36°30′ north, which roughly runs along the northern edge of present-day North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and westward through Nevada and California.

The Issue of Slavery

The Missouri territory had been part of the Louisiana Purchase and was the first part of that vast acquisition to apply for statehood. By 1818, tens of thousands of settlers had flocked to Missouri, including slaveholders who brought with them some ten thousand slaves. When the status of the Missouri territory was taken up in earnest in the U.S. House of Representatives in early 1819, the territory’s admission to the Union proved to be no easy matter, because it brought to the surface a violent debate over whether slavery would be allowed in the new state.

Politicians had sought to avoid the issue of slavery ever since the 1787 Constitutional Convention arrived at an uneasy compromise in the form of the “three-fifths clause.” This provision stated that the entirety of a state’s free population and 60 percent of its enslaved population would be counted in establishing the number of that state’s members in the House of Representatives and the size of its federal tax bill. Although slavery existed in several northern states at the time, the compromise had angered many northern politicians because, they argued, the “extra” population of slaves would give southern states more votes than they deserved in both the House and the Electoral College. Admitting Missouri as a slave state also threatened the tenuous balance between free and slave states in the Senate by giving slave states a two-vote advantage.

The Tallmadge Amendment

In 1819, a bill was drafted to enable the people of the Missouri Territory to draft a constitution and form a government preliminary to admission into the Union, and the bill was brought before the House of Representatives on February 13. James Tallmadge of New York offered an amendment (named the “Tallmadge Amendment”) that forbade further introduction of slaves into Missouri and mandated that all children of slave parents born in the state after its admission should be free at the age of 25. Debaters of the amendment were largely divided along sectional lines, rather than party lines. With only a few exceptions, northerners supported the Tallmadge Amendment regardless of party affiliation, and southerners opposed it despite having party differences on other matters. The House adopted the measure and incorporated it into the bill, which was passed on February 17, 1819. The Senate, however, refused to concur with the amendment, and the whole measure was lost. The crisis over Missouri led to strident calls for disunion and threats of civil war.

The Missouri Compromise

Congress finally came to an agreement called the “Missouri Compromise” in 1820. Missouri and Maine (which had been part of Massachusetts) would enter the Union at the same time: Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. The balance between free and slave states was maintained in the Senate, and southerners did not have to fear that Missouri slaveholders would be deprived of their human property. To prevent similar conflicts each time a territory applied for statehood, a line coinciding with the southern border of Missouri (at latitude 36° 30′) was drawn across the remainder of the Louisiana Territory. Slavery could exist south of this line but was forbidden north of it, with the obvious exception of Missouri.

Impact on Political Discourse

The debate leading up to the Compromise raised the issue of sectional balance. The country had been equally divided between eleven slave states and eleven free states. To admit Missouri as a slave state would tip the balance in the Senate (made up of two senators per state) in favor of the slave states. For this reason, northern states wanted Maine admitted as a free state to maintain the balance.

The Compromise of 1820 was an important example of Congressional exclusion of slavery from U.S. territories acquired since the Northwest Ordinance. Following Maine’s 1820 and Missouri’s 1821 admissions to the Union, no other states were admitted until 1836, when Arkansas was admitted as a slave state, followed by Michigan in 1837 as a free state.

Repeal

The provisions of the Missouri Compromise forbidding slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north were effectively repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This occurred despite efforts made to fight the Act by prominent speakers, including Abraham Lincoln in his “Peoria Speech.”

In the Dred Scott v. Sandford case in 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have authority to prohibit slavery in territories and that those provisions of the Missouri Compromise were unconstitutional. Under the Admission Act of Missouri, it ruled that African Americans and mixed-race individuals did not qualify as citizens of the United States.

The Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine opposed efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America.

Learning Objectives

Define the Monroe Doctrine and its effect on foreign policy

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Monroe Doctrine, famously delivered by President Monroe but authored by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, called for the halt of European intervention in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The doctrine put forward that the Americas and Europe were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, being composed of entirely separate and independent nations.
  • While the Doctrine seemingly supported the independence and freedom of the new Latin American states, it was driven by the United States’ desire for economic and political power in the region. Because the United States lacked both a credible army and navy at the time, the doctrine was largely disregarded internationally; however, it was met with tacit British approval.

Key Terms

  • The Monroe Doctrine: A U.S. policy introduced in 1823 that stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention.
  • Pax Britannica: The period of British imperialism after the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, which led to a period of overseas British expansionism.
  • free trade: A policy by which a government does not discriminate against imports or interfere with exports by applying tariffs (to imports), subsidies (to exports), or quotas.

Introduction: The Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was a U.S. policy introduced on December 2, 1823, that stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. The doctrine noted that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The doctrine was issued at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved independence from the Spanish Empire (except for Bolivia, which became independent in 1825, Cuba, and Puerto Rico). The United States, working in agreement with Britain, wanted to maintain its new influence in the regions and to guarantee that no European power would move on these newly independent countries.

President James Monroe first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress. It became a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets. Later it would be invoked by many U.S. statesmen and several U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. The intent and impact of the Monroe Doctrine persisted—with only minor variations—for almost two centuries.

Portrait of James Monroe

James Monroe: President James Monroe put forth the Monroe Doctrine, written by John Quincy Adams, in 1823.

Background

The Monroe Doctrine was inspired in large part by American government fears that European powers victorious in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) would revive monarchical forms of government. France had already agreed to restore the Spanish monarchy in exchange for Cuba. As the revolutionary Napoleonic Wars ended, Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed the Holy Alliance to defend monarchism. In particular, the Holy Alliance authorized military incursions to re-establish Bourbon rule over Spain and its colonies, which were establishing their independence. The United States, dedicated to the ideals of republicanism, wanted to uphold republican institutions in these newly independent states, as well as to seek treaties of commerce on a most-favored-nation basis.

Allowing Spain to reestablish control of its former colonies would have cut Great Britain from its profitable trade with the region. For that reason, Great Britain’s foreign secretary, George Canning, proposed to the United States that they mutually declare and enforce a policy of separating the Americas (the “new world”) from Europe (the “old world”).

Although it is Monroe’s most famous contribution to history, the doctrine was written by Adams, who designed it in cooperation with Britain. Monroe and Adams realized that American recognition alone would not protect the new countries against military intervention to restore Spain’s power. In October 1823, Richard Rush, the American minister in London, advised that British Foreign Secretary George Canning was proposing that the United States and Britain jointly declare their opposition to European intervention. Britain also opposed the reconquest of Latin America and suggested that the United States join in proclaiming a “hands off” policy. After much discussion, Monroe took Adams’s advice to not align with Britain.

Analysis

On the surface, the objective of the Doctrine was to free the newly independent colonies of Latin America from European intervention, ensuring that the colonies in the Americas would not become a battleground for European powers. The doctrine put forward that the Americas and Europe were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, being composed of entirely separate and independent nations. In reality, the Doctrine reflected a battle for economic and political power in the region in which the United States wanted the upper hand. The United States proclaimed that the Americas should be free from future European colonization and free from European interference in sovereign countries’ affairs; however, this did not stop the United States from having its own drive to colonize further lands for itself.

Language of the Doctrine

The full Monroe Doctrine is long and couched in diplomatic language, but its essence is expressed in two key passages. The first is part of its introductory statement:

The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

The second key passage, a fuller statement of the doctrine, is addressed to the “allied powers” of Europe (that is, the Holy Alliance). It clarifies that the United States remains neutral on existing European colonies in the Americas, but is opposed to “interpositions” that would create new colonies among the newly independent Spanish-American republics:

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

International Response

Because the United States lacked both a credible army and navy at the time, the doctrine was largely disregarded internationally. However, the Monroe Doctrine met with tacit British approval, and the Royal Navy mostly enforced it as part of the wider Pax Britannica, which maintained the neutrality of the seas. This was in line with the developing British policy of laissez-faire free trade: Fast-growing British industry was ever seeking outlets for its manufactured goods, and if the newly independent Latin American states were to become Spanish colonies once more, British access to these markets would be cut off by Spanish mercantilist policy.

The Election of 1824

John Quincy Adams was elected president by the House of Representatives in 1824, despite not winning the popular vote.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the implications and outcomes of the Election of 1824

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The election of 1824 is significant for being the only presidential election in which the winner of the most electoral votes did not win the election.
  • The election of 1824 is also the only election since the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in which the resulting president was chosen by the House of Representatives.
  • Although Andrew Jackson won the plurality of both the popular and electoral votes, Adams won the 1825 Contingent Election by the House of Representatives.
  • Accusations of a corrupt bargain between Adams and Clay helped Jackson win the later 1828 election.

Key Terms

  • majority: More than half (50 percent) of some group.
  • plurality: A number of votes for a single candidate or position which is greater than the number of votes gained by any other single candidate or position voted for, but which is less than a majority of valid votes cast.

The Election of 1824

John Quincy Adams was elected president on February 9, 1825, in the United States presidential election of 1824, after the election was decided by the House of Representatives. The presidential election of 1824 is notable for being the only election since the passage of the Twelfth Amendment to have been decided by the House of Representatives. The Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804, addressed concerns that had arisen in the elections of 1796 and 1800 and stated that an election would be turned over to the House if no candidate secured a majority of the electoral vote. The election of 1824 is often claimed to be the first in which the successful presidential candidate did not win the popular vote; however, the popular vote was not measured nationwide at the time, making this claim somewhat speculative.

General Election

Campaign

The presidential election of 1824 featured five candidates, all of whom ran as Democratic-Republicans (the Federalists having ceased to be a national political force). The crowded field included John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president, John Adams. Candidate Adams had broken with the Federalists in the early 1800s and served on various diplomatic missions, including the mission to secure peace with Great Britain in 1814. He represented New England. A second candidate, John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, had served as secretary of war and represented the slaveholding South. He dropped out of the presidential race to run for vice president. A third candidate, Henry Clay, the speaker of the House of Representatives, hailed from Kentucky and represented the western states. He favored an active federal government committed to internal improvements, such as roads and canals, to bolster national economic development and settlement of the West. William H. Crawford, a slaveholder from Georgia, suffered a stroke in 1823 that left him largely incapacitated, but he ran nonetheless and had the backing of the New York machine headed by Martin Van Buren. Andrew Jackson, the famed “hero of New Orleans,” rounded out the field. Jackson had very little formal education, but he was popular for his military victories in the War of 1812 and in wars against the Creek and the Seminole. He had been elected to the Senate in 1823, and his popularity soared as pro-Jackson newspapers extolled the courage and daring of the Tennessee slaveholder.

The election was as much a contest of favorite sons as it was a conflict over policy, although positions on tariffs and internal improvements did create some significant disagreements. In general, the candidates were favored by different sections of the country, with Adams strong in the Northeast; Jackson in the South, West, and mid-Atlantic; Clay in parts of the West; and Crawford in parts of the East.

Results

With tens of thousands of new voters, the older system of having members of Congress form congressional caucuses to determine who would run no longer worked. The new voters had regional interests and voted on them. For the first time, the popular vote mattered in a presidential election. Electors were chosen by popular vote in eighteen states, while the six remaining states used the older system in which state legislatures chose electors.

Results from the eighteen states where the popular vote determined the electoral vote gave Jackson the election, with 152,901 votes to Adams’s 114,023, Clay’s 47,217, and Crawford’s 46,979. The Electoral College, however, was another matter. Of the 261 electoral votes, Jackson needed 131 or more to win but secured only 99. Adams won 84, Crawford 41, and Clay 37. Meanwhile, John C. Calhoun secured a total of 182 electoral votes and won the vice presidency in what was generally an uncompetitive race.

Jackson won New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. John Quincy Adams won Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Crawford won Virginia (including present-day West Virginia) and Georgia. Clay won Ohio, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Electoral College votes in the election of 1824: This map of the Electoral College votes of 1824 illustrates the number of electoral votes allotted to each candidate in each state.

1825 Contingent Election

Because Jackson did not receive a majority vote from the Electoral College, the election was decided following the terms of the Twelfth Amendment, which stipulated that when a candidate did not receive a majority of electoral votes, the election went to the House of Representatives, where each state would provide one vote. Following the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment, only the top three candidates in the electoral vote were admitted as candidates in the House: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William Harris Crawford.

House Speaker Clay did not want to see his rival, Jackson, become president and therefore worked within the House to secure the presidency for Adams, convincing many to cast their vote for the New Englander. Clay’s efforts paid off; despite not having won the popular vote, John Quincy Adams was certified by the House as the next president on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot with 13 states, followed by Jackson with 7 and Crawford with 4. Once in office, Adams elevated Henry Clay to the post of secretary of state.

Adams’s victory shocked Jackson who, as the winner of a plurality of both the popular and electoral votes, expected to be elected president. Jackson and his followers accused Adams and Clay of striking a corrupt bargain. The Jacksonians would campaign on this claim for the next four years, ultimately attaining Jackson’s victory in the Adams-Jackson rematch of 1828.

J.Q. Adams captured 54% of the vote, winning Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, new York, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana. Jackson captured 29% of the vote, winning New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. Crawford captured 17% of the vote, winning Delaware, Virginia (including present-day West Virginia), North Carolina, and Georgia.

House of Representatives votes in the election of 1824: This map illustrates the voting for candidates by state in the House of Representatives election of 1824. Adams, despite not winning the popular vote, won 54 percent of the House votes and was elected president in 1825.

The Adams Presidency

John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, served from March 4, 1825, to March 4, 1829.

Learning Objectives

Describe the achievements of the John Quincy Adams presidency

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • President Adams’s one term in office was mired by partisan challenges to his executive agenda.
  • Adams achieved several small domestic and foreign policy successes, but the opposing Jacksonian faction made it difficult for the administration to push substantial legislation through Congress.
  • During his term, Adams worked to transform America into a world power through ” internal improvements ” as a part of the ” American System ” of economics.

Key Terms

  • internal improvements: A term used historically in the United States for public works from the end of the American Revolution through much of the nineteenth century, mainly for the creation of a transportation infrastructure, including roads, turnpikes, canals, harbors, and navigation improvements.
  • tariff: A system of government-imposed duties, or fees, levied on imported or exported goods; a list of such duties, or the duties themselves.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, was the son of former President John Adams. The younger Adams began his term in office on March 4, 1825, after the House of Representatives decided the 1824 election. The Adams administration’s record was mixed: It saw some domestic policy achievements and some minor foreign-policy achievements. Adams encouraged internal improvements (such as roads, ports, and canals ), the founding of a national university, and federal support for the arts and sciences. He favored a high tariff, which made imports more expensive and thus encouraged the construction of U.S. factories. He restricted land sales to slow westward expansion. He also reduced the national debt from $16 million to $5 million, the remainder of which was paid off by his successor. However, opposition from the states’-rights faction of a hostile Congress limited many of his proposals.

Domestic Policies

The American System

During his term, Adams worked on transforming America into a world power through “internal improvements” as a part of the “American System” of economics. This system consisted of a high tariff to support internal improvements such as road-building, as well as the charter of a national bank to encourage productive enterprise and to form a national currency. In his first annual message to Congress, Adams presented an ambitious program for modernization that included roads, canals, a national university, an astronomical observatory, and other initiatives. The support for his proposals was mixed, mainly due to opposition from Andrew Jackson ‘s followers, who were angered by the controversial results of the 1824 election.

Internal Improvements

Some of Adams’s proposals were adopted, such as the extension of the Cumberland Road into Ohio with surveys for its continuation west to St. Louis. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canals and the Louisville and Portland Canals around the falls of the Ohio were constructed, as was the connection of the Great Lakes to the Ohio River system in Ohio and Indiana. In addition, the Dismal Swamp Canal in North Carolina was enlarged and rebuilt.

Tariffs

One of the issues that divided the administration was protective tariffs, of which Henry Clay was a leading advocate. After Adams lost control of Congress in 1827, the situation became more complicated. By signing into law the Tariff of 1828 (labeled by critics as the “Tariff of Abominations” and quite unpopular in parts of the South), he further antagonized the Jacksonians.

American Indian Policies

Adams’s policies toward the American Indians also caused him trouble. Settlers on the frontier who were constantly seeking to encroach westward cried for a more expansionist policy. When the federal government tried to assert authority on behalf of the Cherokees, the governor of Georgia took up arms. Adams defended his domestic agenda as continuing James Monroe’s policies. In contrast, Jackson and Martin Van Buren instigated the policy of American Indian removal to the West, later leading to the Trail of Tears.

Foreign Policies

During his tenure as secretary of state, Adams was the chief designer of the Monroe Doctrine. He had witnessed the Barbary Wars against the Islamic pirates of North Africa and the Greek War of Independence waged against the Ottoman Turks. Adams accepted that the Greek fight for independence from the Turks was only the beginning of a long conflict between Islam and the West. Although he sympathized with the Greeks and held a deep mistrust of the defeated Muslims, he was reluctant to support America’s involvement in continuing wars far from home.

During his term as president, however, Adams achieved little of long-term consequence in foreign affairs. A reason for this was the opposition he faced in Congress, where his rivals prevented him from accomplishing much. Among his diplomatic achievements were treaties of reciprocity with a number of nations, including Denmark, Mexico, the Hanseatic League, the Scandinavian countries, Prussia, and Austria. However, thanks to the successes of Adams’s diplomacy during his previous eight years as secretary of state, most of the foreign policy issues he might have faced had been resolved by the time he became president.

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John Quincy Adams: Portrait of John Quincy Adams by George Peter Alexander Healy (1858).