James Monroe was the fourth Virginian to become President, and it was logical that he would follow in the footsteps of his friends Jefferson and Madison. When we reach Monroe, however, we reach an individual about whose religion we know little. He was an Episcopalian and was baptized, married and buried within the Episcopal Church. There is little, however, to indicate his per oral religious sentiments. A paper in the archives of St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, noted that President Monroe "agreed with Jefferson that religion is a matter between our Maker and ourselves." Monroe attended the College of William and Mary, served in the Virginia legislature, was governor of Virginia and was also minister to France and England, as well as Secretary of State under Madison. He was President during a fortunate period of American history known as the "Era of Good Feelings." It was a time when the political divisions of the past had almost vanished and the nation was bent on creating a harmonious and prosperous society.
We had just defeated Britain for the second time in the War of 1812 and there was a great feeling of security in the new Republic. Monroe basked in the affection of the people and he was elected almost unanimously.
Monroe was probably best known for the "Monroe Doctrine" which, though written mostly by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, is considered Monroe's contribution to American diplomatic history. In it Monroe warned the European nations to stay out of the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.
One of Monroe's few religious statements occurs in his second annual message to Congress: "When we view the blessings with which our Country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow. Let us, then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgements for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good.
Monroe's curious use of the words, "Divine Author of All Good," to refer to God seems to pre-date Christian Science or Unity. It is not a strictly orthodox Christian statement and has baffled many students of religion and the Presidency. On an earlier occasion, as he entered the White House, Monroe wrote, "I enter on the trust to which I have been called... but my fervent prayer is to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor.”
After leaving the White House, Monroe became a Regent at the University of Virginia, but eventually had serious financial reverses and had to sell his estate at Ashlawn and move to his daughter's home in New York City. He died on the Fourth of July, 1831, and was buried at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, his funeral being conducted by the Bishop of that city.
Related albums • See other albumsReligion In The Lives Of The American Presidents
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