5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James Monroe

On December 4, 1816, James Monroe of Virginia was elected the fifth president of the United States. Here are 5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about James Monroe...


He Beat George Washington Across The Delaware River Washington is famous for crossing the Delaware River to engage in a surprise attack against the Hessian (German mercenaries) forces in Trenton, New Jersey in 1776. Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” depicts Monroe just behind Washington, holding up the army’s early American flag. Leutze took a bit of artistic license as Monroe was actually part of an advance unit that crossed the river hours before Washington. James Monroe and Captain William Washington led their men in attempt to capture a Hessian position at the Battle of Trenton. Monroe was shot in the shoulder but received a promotion to captain for his bravery. He later spent the infamous winter at Valley Forge.

He Was The Last Founding Father to Serve as President While not all of the Founding Fathers served as President, Monroe was the last to hold the honored position. George Washington served from 1789–1797; John Adams from 1797–1801; Thomas Jefferson from 1801–1809; and James Madison from 1809–1817. Monroe served as President of the United States of America from 1817–1825.


He Is The Only Person In History To Hold Two Cabinet Positions At Once During his political career, Monroe held a number of positions before becoming President in 1817. He served in the Virginia assembly, was a delegate to the Virginia Convention, and was a strong supporter of adding a Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. He was Minister to France and Great Britain and governor of Virginia. But under his friend, President James Madison, Monroe was appointed as both Secretary of State (1811-1817) and Secretary of War (1814–1815) simultaneously. A first that hasn’t been repeated by any other politician since.

Monroe Had No Opponent in His 1820 Reelection The election of 1820 was the last presidential contest in which the ticket ran virtually unopposed.  President James Monroe won all but one electoral vote, which went to John Quincy Adams.  The only other president elected without opposition had been George Washington in 1788 and 1792. William Plumer of New Hampshire, the one elector who voted against Monroe, did so because he thought Monroe was incompetent. He cast his ballot for John Quincy Adams. Later in the century, the fable arose that Plumer had cast his dissenting vote so that only George Washington would have the honor of unanimous election.

Monroe Died on The Fourth of July Three Founding Fathers who were elected president died on July 4. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Monroe died on July 4, 1831. Monroe was also the last president who was never photographed in his lifetime.