|James Monroe, the 5th President of the United States|
1. James Monroe was born in 1758 in Virginia. Born into a prosperous family, Monroe received a good education, but dropped out of college in 1775 to join the Continental Army. He served as an officer and was involved in Washington's famous Crossing of the Delaware. In Leutze's famous painting of the event, Monroe is depicted right behind Washington, holding the U.S. flag. In the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was wounded in the shoulder. He was the last U.S. president to serve in the Revolutionary War.
2. Monroe never finished his college degree. Instead, he studied law under Thomas Jefferson, hoping to use his training as a means of entering politics. It worked. He entered the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, and was elected to the Continental Congress the following year. In 1786 he married Elizabeth Kortright, and together they had two daughters and a son. The son died in childhood, but his second daughter became the first presidential child to get married in a White House ceremony.
3. After the adoption of the Constitution, Monroe ran for a seat in the new U.S. House of Representatives in 1789, but was defeated by James Madison. Instead, Monroe won a seat in the Senate the following year, where he very quickly allied himself with the Jeffersonians - those early politicians who supported agriculture and states' rights over a strong centralized government.
4. In 1794, Monroe was named Minister to France by president Washington. An ardent supporter of French interests, he was outraged by the passage of the Jay Treaty, which effectively allied the U.S. with Britain, and kept the U.S. neutral in the ongoing war between Britain and France. In 1796, he was fired by Washington for working against the Washington administration in regards to French interests.
5. Elected Governor of Virginia in 1799, Monroe called out the milita to put down a slave rebellion, after which 26 slaves were hanged. The leader of the rebellion had been a literate (that is, educated) slave, and as a result of the rebellion, Virginia and other states began passing laws aimed at limiting the amount of education slaves could receive.
6. Named Minister to Britain during the Jefferson presidency, Monroe brokered a renewal of the Jay Treaty that he had so vociferously opposed a decade earlier (and which had ultimately cost him his job). Jefferson, however, refused to accept the treaty, as it did not end the British practice of impressment (forcibly removing British sailors from American ships and conscripting them to serve on British ships). As a result, the two countries inched closer to war.
7. Monroe served as Secretary of State under James Madison, and when the War of 1812 began going badly, Monroe was named Secretary of War to replace the previous secretary. No replacement for Secretary of State was ever named, however, so Monroe effectively held both offices at the same time - the only person in history to hold two cabinet posts under the same president. When a peace treaty was finally signed, Monroe resigned as Secretary of War and resumed the full-time duties of Secretary of State.
8. Monroe ran for president in 1816, and due to the collapse of the old Federalist party, he won a landslide victory against a weak Federalist opponent, winning all but three states, and all but 34 of the electoral votes. In 1820, running for re-election, the Federalist party - now all but defunct - didn't even run a candidate, and Monroe became the only president since George Washington to run unopposed. He won every state, and would have won every electoral vote, but one elector in New Hampshire decided to cast a vote for Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who wasn't even running. As a result, Washington remains the only president to ever win a unanimous electoral vote.
9. Because of the collapse of the Federalist party, Monroe had little to no organized opposition during his two terms in office. This resulted in what commentators at the time called "The Era of Good Feelings" - a time when there was very little rancor in Washington, and the country was sailing smoothly. Monroe's most famous legacy is the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the U.S. would no longer tolerate European intervention in North or South America. Monroe is also the only U.S. president to have a foreign capital named after him (Monrovia, capital of the African nation Liberia).
10. Monroe was the last U.S. president who still dressed in the 18th century fashion of powdered wigs and knee breeches. He was also the last 2-term president to succeed a 2-term president from his own party. (In fact, no 2-term president succeeded any 2-term president until Bill Clinton and George W. Bush). Monroe is also the last president who was never photographed. Monroe was the first president to deliver an inaugural address outdoors to a public crowd. Monroe is also considered one of the least religious presidents in U.S. history, with no known religious affiliation. Finally, Monroe was the first president to live in the White House when it was actually white (prior to Monroe's presidency, the White House was gray). He died on July 4, 1831, the third president in a row to die on Independence Day.