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James Monroe: effective chief exec

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President James Monroe tends to come up short when compared with such contemporaries and mentors as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

But, today, Monroe would be considered a model of the laid-back but effective chief executive. Evidence:
  • When Jefferson, who proposed ceding land to the national government for westward expansion, left for France in 1785, Monroe took up the cause. This was more controversial than it sounds because New Englanders saw expansion as commercial competition. Monroe prevailed.

  • Always warm, sincere and kind, Monroe also developed good judgment as his knowledge increased. Elected as a U.S. senator in 1790, he argued for open government, saying the doors to the Senate should stand open so each senator could improve under the watchful eyes of citizens. It took four years, but he won.

  • He stood alone in realizing that the United States could never steer clear of foreign entanglements, so we might as well step up and protect our interests.

  • Acting with a spectacular degree of independence when Napoleon declared “I renounce Louisiana,” Monroe skillfully negotiated the Louisiana Purchase for President Jefferson.

  • He consistently broke with his state-centric party in favor of a national defense.

  • Inaugurated as president in 1817, Monroe oversaw a subsiding of partisan politics and the dawn of an “era of good feelings.”
— Adapted from James Monroe, Gary Hart, Times Books, Henry Holt & Co.

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