The Last Founding Father

James Monroe.

James Monroe was the last president who was truly part of the American Revolution generation. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 91. He crossed the Delaware River with George Washington. Id. Obvious to his contemporaries, he dressed the part of the Revolutionary gentleman, wearing knee breeches and buckled shoes, with a powdered wig and three-cornered hat. Id.

In Monroe’s presidential inaugural address, in 1817, he stated: “And if we look to the condition of individuals what a proud spectacle does it exhibit! On whom has oppression fallen in any quarter of our Union? Who has been deprived of any right of person or property?” Id. at 92 quoting Presidential Messages, II, 4-10, quotations from 5 and 8. President Monroe seemed to ignore the existence of slavery, the deprivation of women’s rights, and the treatment of Native Americans, and the next generation of Americans would challenge these injustices. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 92.

Beginning his term, President Monroe wanted to render the Federalists entirely obsolete and establish Republican dominance in politics. Id. at 94. Gradually, his wish became true, which temporarily fulfilled his goal of achieving nonpartisan politics. Id. at 95. But this would not be a prolonged phenomenon, as the Republican party would factionalize. Id.

While some called these few years the Era of Good Feelings, it would prove to be marred by factionalism and disagreement amongst Republicans. Id.

President Monroe perhaps reflected one of the last sentiments of the Founding Fathers: that true equality would not be easily achieved and should be left to subsequent generations of Americans. This antiquated notion of equality would be challenged and ultimately replaced by subsequent generations of Americans. In that way, President Monroe was a transitional president, one who bridged the gap between the Founding Fathers and the progressing American society.

Leave a Reply