History of the United States
Volume III


Chapter VII
Monroe's Administration

In its political principles the new administration was Democratic. The policy of Madison was adopted by his successor. But the stormy times of Madison gave place to many years of almost unbroken peace. The new President was a native of Virginia; a man of moderate talents and accomplishments. He had been a Revolutionary soldier; a member of the House of Representatives; a senator; governor of Virginia; envoy to France; minister to England; secretary of state under Madison. The members of the new cabinet were--John Quincy Adams, secretary of state; William H. Crawford, secretary of the treasury; John C. Calhoun, secretary of war; B. W. Crowninshield, secretary of the navy; William Wirt, attorney-general. The animosities and party strifes of the previous years were in a measure forgotten. Statesmen of all parties devoted their energies to the payment of the national debt. It was a herculean task; but commerce revived; the government was economically administered; population increased; wealth flowed in; and in a few years the debt was greatly reduced.

The most important financial event at the close of the war was the re-establishing of the United States Bank. The charter of the old bank, which Hamilton had founded, had expired in 1811 and a recharter had been denied by Congress. But in 1816, when the secretary of the treasury urged that the bank be re-established, Congress passed the bill and granted a charter for twenty years. The capital stock was thirty-five million dollars, seven millions of which was taken by the government. The new bank had a magic effect in restoring public confidence.

Closely associated with this question was that of the tariff. Before the war there were two great industries of the American people--agriculture and commerce. To these must now be added a third--manufacturing. The embargo and the war had forced the people to manufacturing in order to supply their own wants. But on the coming of peace the country was flooded with English goods and sold purposely at a rate so low that the American manufacturers could not compete with their British rivals. To meet these conditions there was a loud clamor for a higher teriff on foreign imports. Congress answered by passing the tariff law of 1816. By this tariff the duties were raised to an average of about twenty per cent, and the result proved very beneficial to the infant industries that had sprung up all over the country. Frm that day to the present the United States has steadily pressed forward in this field of industry and now stands second to none as a manufacturing nation.

In December of 1817 the western portion of Mississippi Territory was organized as the State of Mississippi and admitted into the Union. The new State contained an area of forty-seven thousand square miles, and a population of sixty-five thousand souls. At the same time the attention of the government was called to a nest of buccaneers who had established themselves on Amelia Island, off the northeastern coast of Florida. They claimed to be acting under the authority of some of the South American republics, but were in reality pirates. An armament was accordingly sent against them, and the lawless establishment was broken up. Another rendezvous of the same sort, on the island of Galveston, off the coast of Texas, was also suppressed.

In the first year of Monroe's administration the question of internal improvements began to be much agitated. The territorial vastness of the country made it necessary to devise suitable means of communication between the distant parts. Without railroads and canals it was evident that the products of the great interior could never reach a market. Had Congress a right to vote money to make the needed improvements? Jefferson and Madison had both answered the question in the negative. Monroe held similar views; and a majority of Congress voted against the proposed appropriations. In one instance, however, a bill was passed appropriating the means necessary for the construction of a national road across the Alleghanies, from Cumberland to Wheeling. For many years appropriations were made for this road, and it was continued to Illinois. But at length it was turned over to the States in which it lies, and internal improvements by the national government were confined chiefly to rivers and harbors. Other forms of internal improvements were referred to the several States; and New York took the lead by constructing a splendid canal from Buffalo to Albany, a distance of three hundred and sixty-three miles. The cost of this important work was more than seven and a half million dollars, and the eight years of Monroe's administration were occupied in completing it.

In the latter part of 1817 the Seminole Indians on the frontiers of Georgia and Alabama became hostile. Some bad negroes and treacherous Creeks joined the savages in their depredations. General Gaines, commandant of a post on Flint River, was sent into the Seminole country, but after destroying a few villages his forces were found inadequate to conquer the Red men. General Jackson was then ordered to collect from the adjacent States a sufficient army and reduce the Semiles to submission. Instead of following his directions, that sterm and self-willed man mastered a thousand riflemen from West Tennessee, and in the spring of 1818 overran the hostile country with little opposition. The Indians were afraid to fight the man whom they had named the Big Knife.

While engaged in this expedition against the Seminoles, Jackson entered Florida and tood possession of the Spanish post at St. Mark's. he deemed it necessary to do so in order to succeed in suppressing the savages. The Spanish troops stationed at St. Mark's were removed to Pensacola; and two Englishmen, named Arbuthnot and Ambrister, who fell into Jackson's hands, were charged with inciting the Seminoles to insurrection, tried by a court-martial, and hanged. Jackson then advanced against Pensacola, captured the town, besieged and took the fortress of Baraneas, at the entrance to the bay, and sent the Spanish authorities to Havana. These summary proceedings excited much comment throughout the country. The enemies of General Jackson condemned him in unmeasured terms; but the President and Congress sustained him. A resolution of censure, introduced into the House of Representatives, was voted down by a large majority.

Seeing that the defense of such a province would cost more than it was worth, the Spanish monarch proposed to cede the territory to the United States. For this purpose negotiations were opened at Washington city; and on the 22d of February, 1819, a treaty was concluded by which East and West Florida and the outlying islands were surrendered to the American government. In consideration of the cession the United States agreed to relinquish all claim to the territory of Texas and to pay to American citizens, for depredations committed by Spanish vessels, a sum not exceeding five million dollars. By the same treaty the eastern boundary of Mexico was fixed at the river Sabine.

Monroe's administration was noted for the great number of new members which were added to the Union. In 1818, Illinois, the twenty-first State, embracing an area of more than fifty-five thousand square miles, was organized and admitted. The population of the new commonwealth was forty-seven thousand. In December of the following year Alabama was added, with a population of a hundred and twenty-five thousand, and an area of nearly fifty-one thousand square miles. About the same time Arkansas Territory was organized out of the southern portion of the Territory of Missouri. Early in 1820 the province of Maine, which had been under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts since 1652, was separated from that government and admitted into the Union. At the time of admission the population of the new State had reached two hundred and ninety-eight thousand; its territory embraced nearly thirty thousand square miles. In August of 1821 the great State of Missouri, with an area of sixty-seven thousand square miles and a population of seventy-four thousand, was admitted as the twenty-fourth member of the union; but the admission was attended with a political agitation so vilent as to threaten the peace of the country.

When the bill to admit Missouri was brought before Congress, a proposition was made in that body to prohibit slavery in the new State. This measure was strongly supported by the free States of the North, and as strongly opposed by the slave-holding States of the South. The country was sectionally divided. Congress was distracted with long and angry debates in which the whole question of slavery was discussed. At last a compromise, suggested by the Senate, was agreed to. As this matter had to be arranged by a joint committee of which Henry Clay was chairman, he has usually been regarded as the author of the compromise. This measure, known as the Missouri Compromise, was one of the most important acts of American legislation. The principal conditions of the plan were these: first, the admission of Missouri as a slaveholding State; secondly, the division of the rest of the Louisiana Purchase by the parallel of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thirdly, the admission of new States, to be formed out of the territory south of that line, with or without slavery, as the people might determine; fourthly, the prohibition of slavery in all the new States to be organized out of territory north of the dividing line. By this compromise the slavery agitation was allayed for some years.

Meanwhile, the country had measurably recovered from the effects of the late war. With peace and plenty the resources of the nation were rapidly augmented. Toward the close of his term Monroe's administration grew into high favor with the people; and in the fall of 1820 he was re-elected with great unanimity. As Vice-President, Mr. Tompkins was also chosen for a second term. Scarcely had the excitement over the admission of Missouri subsided when the attention of the government was called to an alarming system of piracy which had sprung up in the West Indies. Early in 1822 the American frigate Congress, accompanied with eight smaller vessels, was sent thither; and in the course of the year more than twenty piratical ships were captured. In the following summer Commodore Porter was dispatched with a larger fleet to cruise about Cuba and the neighboring islands. Such was his vigilance that the retreats of the sea-robbers were completely broken up; not a pirate was left afloat.

At this time the countries of South America were disturbed with many revolutions. From the days of Pizarro these states had been dependencies of European monarchies. Now they declared their independence, and struggled to maintain it by force of arms. The people of the United States, having achieved their own liberty, naturally sympathized with the patriots of the South. Mr. Clay urged upon the government the duty of giving official recognition to the South American republics. At last his views prevailed; and in March of 1822 a bill was passed by Congress recognizing the new states as sovereign nations. In the following year this action was followed up by the President with a vigorous message, in which he declared that for the future the American continents were not to be considered as subjects for colonization by any European power. This famous declaration constitutes what has ever since been known in the politics and diplomacy of the United States as the Monroe Doctrine--a doctrine by which the entire Western hemisphere, except the portions already occupied by European powers, is consecrated to free institutions.

Great was the joy of the American people in the summer of 1824. The venerated La Fayette, now aged and gray, returned once more to visit the land for whose freedom he ahd shed his blood. The honored patriots who had fought by his side came forth to greet him. The younger heroes crowded around him. In every city, and on every battlefield which he visited, he was surrounded by a throng of shouting freemen. His journey through the country was a triumph. It was a solemn and sacred moment when he stood alone by the grave of Washington. Over the dust of the great dead the patriot of France paid the homage of his tears. In September of 1825 he bade a final adieu to the people who had made him their guest, and then sailed for his native land. At his departure, the frigate Brandywine--a name significant for him--was prepared to bear him away. While liberty remains to cheer the West, the name of La Fayette shall be hallowed.

Before the departure of the illustrious Frenchman another presidential election had been held. It was a time of great excitement and much division of sentiment. Four candidates were presented for the suffrages of the people. There was an appearance of sectionalism in the canvass. John Quincy Adams was put forward as the candidate of the East; William H. Crawford, of Georgia, as the choice of the South; Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson as the favorites of the West. No candidate received a majority of the electoral votes, and for the second time in the history of the government the choice of President was referred to the House of Representatives. By that body Mr. Adams was duly elected. For Vice-President, John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, had been chosen by the electoral college.


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