The Monroe Administration

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

The Monroe Administration

With the collapse of the Federalist Party and the election of Democratic- Republican James Monroe in 1816, the Era of Good Feelings began. For the first time in American politics, partisan fighting was at a minimum.

Foreign Policy

President Monroe’s first concern was to put relations with Britain on a sound footing after the American victory in the War of 1812. Since peace in the Great Lakes region would benefit both Britain and the United States, Monroe’s desire for disarmament in that region found a favorable reception in Britain. First, the Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1818 strictly limited the number of warships in the Great Lakes. Second, the U.S.-Canadian border was established at the 49th parallel. Third, Britain and the United States agreed that they would both occupy Oregon Country until 1828, at which time they would set boundaries.

The United States had been watching the series of colonial rebellions in Latin America with interest, as it watched every revolution of a colony against its mother country. Although the United States took no active part in these rebellions, its sympathies were with the rebels. Monroe knew that the European powers would help Spain retake its colonies if they could. In an 1823 speech to Congress, he stated that the United States would remain neutral in any conflict between a Latin American colony and its European mother country. However, the United States would regard any attack on an independent Latin American republic or any further attempts to colonize the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States itself:

With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. . . . It is impossible that the allied powers [of Europe] should extend their political system to any portion of either continent [North or South America] without endangering our peace and happiness. . . . It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference.

This statement, the terms of which had largely been worked out by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, became known as the Monroe Doctrine.

Most Americans supported the Monroe Doctrine, although there were those who viewed it with concern, fearing that it would force the United States to become involved in wars outside its borders. The effect of the Monroe Doctrine was what the administration had hoped: European nations made no further efforts to colonize in the Western Hemisphere.

Territorial Expansion

At this time, Spain claimed Florida Territory, which was much larger than the present-day state of Florida; it included parts of present-day Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Taking advantage of a period when Spain was trying to quell colonial rebellions in South America, the United States annexed West Florida with little difficulty. In the First Seminole War, General Andrew Jackson and his troops put down Seminole Indian uprisings against American claims to West Florida. Jackson exceeded his commission, commanding his troops to seize Spanish forts in East Florida. When he ordered the military execution of two British officials, European leaders condemned the United States. President Monroe did not punish Jackson, but he did return the captured forts to Spain. Monroe and John Quincy Adams argued that if the Spaniards could not control the Seminole population, they must give their rights to Florida to the United States. Unable to match American military force, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Early 19th Century Practice Test

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