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James Monroe

President James MonroeThe struggle between nationalism and agrarian democracy which underlay the conflict between the Federalists and the Democratic/Republicans and their protagonists Adams and Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison continued during the administration of James Monroe.  Hamilton supported a strong federal government with a powerful financial and merchant foundation led by the wealthy, educated class, his followers were comprised of a northeast populace with strong ties to England.  On the other hand, Jefferson and Madison fought for a broad based democracy with states retaining more power than the national government.

The political disputes did not deter the growth of the economy of the nation which expanded steadily during the terms of Washington, John Adams, Jefferson and Madison, growth which was accomplished with a minimal involvement of government.  In those early days of the republic, international events absorbed a disproportionate share of attention of those who were chief magistrates of the nation.

The war of 1812, which had inspired patriotism, provided an agreeable though brief resolution of the conflict defined by Hamilton and Jefferson.  Manufacturing had thrived and blossomed in New England during the war due to protectionism against British imports.  Southern plantations flourished as well.  The peace and prosperity which characterized the last two years of Madison's presidency continued through much of James Monroe's first term which began in 1817.  The mood of the country reflected gratitude over its success in the war and pride in its economic progress.  It was a period well named the "Era of Good Feeling."  For some time after the war Americans experienced a national purpose, and a unity of goals encompassing economic and geographic expansion destined to harness the nation's strengths and resources.  Ominously, however, while the national economic and physical expansion was underway with the assistance of an active federal government, the spirit of nationalism was about to run into conflict with regional interests.





This image of James Monroe was acquired through public domain