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ELECTED PRESIDENT-POPULARITY OF HIS ADMINISTRATION-RE-ELECTED
ARLY in the spring of 1816 the republican members of Congress
assembled in caucus, to place in nomination a candidate for the presidential succession. The party in New York pressed the claims of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins to the first place on the ticket. At the time of the resignation of General Armstrong as secretary of war, Mr. Madison proposed that Monroe should vacate the office of state, and that Governor Tompkins should succeed him. To this the latter demurred, assigning as a reason, that he could render more service to the government as governor of New York than as a member of the cabinet. This offer of the President was construed by the friends of Governor Tompkins as an intimation that he would receive the support of the administration in the next presidential contest. That he was not so supported was a disappointment to his friends, who thereupon united with others of the party who were inimical to Monroe, in efforts to secure the nomination of William H. Crawford, of Georgia. The caucus was 'held March 16th, and developed a warm contest; the result was sixty-five votes for James Monroe, and fifty-four for William H. Crawford. For Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins received eighty-five votes as against thirty cast for Simon Snyder, governor of Pennsylvania. The federalist party selected as candidate Rufus King, who had won considerable renown as minister to England. The election, held in the late autumn of 1816, gave to Monroe and Tompkins one hundred and eighty-three electoral votes, as against thirty-four given Rufus King for President. The electoral vote for Vice President on the federal ticket was divided among several candidates.
After the election of Mr. Monroe was an assured fact, although the electoral college had not yet met and announced the result, he received a let. ter from General Andrew Jackson, in which the latter proffered advice rela
tive to the selection of a cabinet. The following is an extract from the letter: "Your happiness and the nation's welfare materially depend upon the selections which are to be made to fill the heads of departments. Everything depends on the selection of your ministry. In every selection, party and party feelings should be avoided. Now is the time to exterminate that monster called party spirit. By selecting characters most conspicuous for their probity, virtue, capacity, and firmness, without regard to party, you will go far to, if not entirely, eradicate those feelings which, on former occasions, threw so many obstacles in the way of government; and perhaps have the pleasure and honor of uniting a people heretofore politically divided. The chief magistrate of a great and powerful nation should never indulge in party feelings. His conduct should be liberal and disinterested, always bearing in mind that he acts for the whole and not a part of the community." How closely this advice was followed by Jackson himself, when he came to the presidential chair, future pages will illustrate.
In his reply Mr. Monroe discussed, at some length, the subject of parties and appointments, and in the course of his remarks said: “The election of a successor to Mr. Madison has taken place, and a new administration is to commence its service. The election has been made by the republican party, and of a person known to be devoted to that cause. How shall he act? How organize the administration? How fill the vacancies existing at the time? The distinction between republicans and federalists, even in the southern, and middle, and western states, has not been fully done away. To give effect to free government, and secure it from future danger, ought not its decided friends, who stood firm in the day of trial, to be principally relied on? Would not the association of any of their opponents in the administration, itself wound their feelings, or at least of very many of them, to the injury of the republican cause? Might it not be considered, by the other party, as an offer of compromise with them, which would lessen the ignominy due to the counsel which produced the Hartford convention, and thereby have a tendency to revive that party on its former principles ? My impression is, that the administration should rest strongly on the republican party, indulging toward the other a spirit of moderation, and evincing a desire to discriminate between its members, and to bring the whole into the republican fold, as quietly as possible. Many men, very distinguished for their talents, are of opinion that the existence of the federal party is necessary to keep union and order in the republican ranks; that is, that free government cannot exist without parties. This is not my opinion. The first object is to save the cause, which can be done by those who are devoted to it only, and, of course, by keeping them together; or, in other words, by not disgusting them by too hasty an act of liberality to the other party, thereby breaking that generous spirit of the republican party, and keeping alive that of the federal party. The second is, to prevent the reorganizatioa
and revival of the federal party, which, if my hypothesis is true, that the existence of party is not necessary to a free government, and the other opinion which I have advanced is well founded, that the great body of the federal party are republican, will not be found impracticable. To accomplish both objects, and thereby exterminate all party divisions in our country, and give new strength and stability to our government, is a great undertaking, not easily executed. I am, nevertheless, decidedly of opinion that it may be done; and should the experiment fail, I shall conclude that its failure was imputable more to the want of a correct knowledge of all circumstances claiming attention, and of sound judgment in the measures adopted, than to any other cause. I agree, I think, perfectly with you, in the grand object, that moderation should be shown the federal party, and even a generous policy adopted toward it; the only difference between us seems to be, how far shall that spirit be indulged in at the outset; and it is to make you thoroughly acquainted with my views on this highly important subject, that I have written you so freely upon it.” In this communication Monroe enunciated in more moderate form the principle afterward given to the country by William L. Marcy, which has since been one of the cardinal doctrines of the democratic party: “To the victors belong the spoils.
The installation of James Monroe and Daniel D. Tompkins as President and Vice President, took place in Washington, March 4, 1817. An imposing procession was formed, its head at the house of the President-elect, who, in company with the Vice President-elect, attended by a large number of gentlemen on horseback, proceeded to Congress hall, where the ceremonies of inauguration were conducted. The Vice President being first inducted into his office, the Senate adjourned, and the President-elect, the Vice President, judges of the supreme court, senators, and representatives, advanced to a temporary portico, where the President delivered his inaugural address, after which the oath of office was administered by Chief-justice Marshall.
As was intimated in his communication to General Jackson, the President was guided by party bias in the choice of his advisers. For secretary of state he selected John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts; for secretary of the treasury, William H. Crawford, of Georgia; for secretary of war, John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina ; for attorney general, William Wirt, of Virginia. The two last named were appointed in December, 1817, the former in place of Governor Isaac Shelby, of Kentucky, who declined the appointment. Benjamin W. Crowninshield, who had been appointed secretary of the navy by Mr. Madison, was continued in office until November 9, 1818, when he was succeeded by Smith Thompson, of New York. Return J. Meigs, of Ohio, was continued as pestmaster-general, which was not at that time a cabinet office. He retained that office from March 17, 1814, until June 26, 1823, when he was succeeded by John M’Lean, also from
Ohio. During his two terms as President these were all the changes made by Mr. Monroe in the cabinet, or heads of department.
From the beginning of his administration President Monroe carried forward the measures that had been instituted in the latter part of Madison's administration, looking to the strengthening of the government at home. First among these was the preparation for defense against foreign invasion. The recent war with Great Britain had developed the weakness of coast defenses, and to these attention was first directed. Himself already pos. sessed of considerable military knowledge derived in two wars, the President supplemented this by practical observation. Immediately after the ceremonies of inauguration were concluded, he turned his attention in this direction; and an interval of leisure presenting itself, on the 31st of May, 1817, he entered upon the duty of personally inspecting the coast fortifications to the northeast, and the defenses in the north and northwest. Departing from the capital he proceeded to Baltimore, thence through the state of Delaware to Philadelphia and New York. To the northeast he journeyed, visiting the principal cities and towns in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, to Boston. Thence to Concord and the larger towns in New Hampshire, and through Maine to Portland.
Here a counter course was pursued, westward through Vermont to Plattsburgh, thence through the forest to the St. Lawrence, where the party took boat and proceeded to Sackett's Harbor and Fort Niagara ; along the strait to Buffalo, through Lake Erie to Detroit; thence south through the territory of Michigan ; through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to the capital-in all an absence of three months. In this time he inspected garrisons, examined fortifications, reviewed troops, and obtained an accurate knowledge of the condition of the government works on the sea and lake coast; all of which was of great advantage in the eight years of his administration. Added to this, he met the people of diverse points in the Union, and acquired a variety of information regarding the capabilities of the country, the character and surroundings of the people. Since Washington no President had made a tour that brought him before the people, and his visits were confined to the eastern and middle states. Everywhere on his journey was the President received with enthusiasm ; as he approached towns and cities delegations of citizens met him, and as he proceeded on his way, accompanied him toward the next stopping place. Addresses were made and responded to. Before the New York Society of the Cincinnati,-composed of officers who had served in the war of the Revolution, -he said: “The opportunity which my visit to this city has presented of meeting the New York Society of the Cincinnati, with many of whom I was well acquainted in our revolution, affords me heartfelt satisfaction. It is impossible to meet any of those patriotic citizens, whose valuable services were so
intimately connected with that great event without recollections which it is equally just and honorable to cherish.”
The prospects of a merging of parties being alluded to in an address pre sented by the citizens of Kennebunk, Maine, the President replied: “You are pleased to express a confident hope that a spirit of mutual conciliation may be one of the blessings which may result from my administration. This, indeed, would be an eminent blessing, and I pray it may be realized. Nothing but union is wanting to make us a great people. The present time affords the happiest presage that this union is fast consummating. It cannot be otherwise; I daily see greater proofs of it. The further I advance in my progress in the country, the more I perceive that we are all Americans—that we compose but one family—that our republican institutions will be supported and perpetuated by the united zeal and patriotism of all. Nothing could give me greater satisfaction than to behold a perfect union among ourselves—a union which is necessary to restore to social intercourse its former charms, and to render our happiness, as a nation, unmixed and complete. To promote this desirable result requires no compromise of principles, and I promise to give it my continued attention, and my best endeavors."
The first session of the fifteenth Congress opened on the 1st of December, 1817, and continued until the 30th of April, 1818. During that time important legislation was effected; the duties on licenses to distillers, on refined sugar, licenses to retailers, sales at auction, on pleasure carriages, and stamps, were repealed, as recommended by the President in his message. The compensation for members of both houses of Congress was fixed at eight dollars per day, and eight dollars for every twenty miles travel; the act of March, 1816, establishing the salary of members at fifteen hundred dollars per year, was repealed. A great measure of relief was afforded the officers and soldiers of the revolutionary army, by the passage of a pension act; two years subsequently this act was amended to apply only to those in destitute circumstances. Hitherto this measure,-long in contemplation, -had been delayed by the financial condition of the country, but public opinion was aroused and sustained the law for the relief of those who had imperilled their lives for the establishment of independence. An act in modification of the act of 1807, relative to the importation of slaves, was passed ; also a law prohibiting filibustering expeditions against the subject:) of any government at peace with the United States. This law was passed to prevent an invasion of the territory of Mexico, which was then apprehended. The state of Mississippi was admitted into the Union December 10, 1817; and an act passed in the following April, authorizing the people of the territory of Illinois to form a constitution and organize a state government, preparatory to being admitted into the Union. The ports of the United States were closed to vessels from any colony of Great Britain, the