James Monroe was the country’s fifth president and the last of the American Founding Fathers. A man of great integrity, he had very little party feeling and was extremely popular. He called himself a Republican. He dressed traditionally and was the last president to wear his hair in a ponytail. (When was the last time you thought a man in a ponytail was sporting a traditional, conservative style?!) Monroe favored a weak presidency and was a strict constructionist. This meant he thought the federal government had power to do only what was explicitly written in the Constitution. One of the last men who had fought against Great Britain in the American Revolution, Monroe worked to keep government small. In 1820, he was reelected without any opposing candidate.
James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 and lived until the age of 73, passing in 1831. Monroe was home schooled by his mother until the age of 11. After this he attended college for four years. A Virginian, just like four of the first five presidents, Monroe dropped out of college to fight the British in the American Revolution as an officer. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Trenton (Washington’s crossing of the Delaware), later trained soldiers at Valley Forge, and fought at the Battle of Monmouth. During and after the war, Monroe trained to be an attorney under Thomas Jefferson. Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright when he was 28 and they lived 44 years together as husband and wife. They had three children, though one died at the age of sixteen months. Their daughter Maria was the first child of a President to be married in the White House.
Like other founding fathers, James Monroe’s relationship with slavery was complicated. He owned slaves and a plantation and slaves served him in Virginia and later in the White House. But he was morally opposed to slavery, tried making the international slave trade illegal, and worked to establish a country in Africa, later called Liberia with Monrovia as its capital, to resettle all African-Americans. As Governor of Virginia in 1800, he helped crush a slave rebellion and participated in the arrest of over 70 and execution of 10. As President, he resided over the Compromise of 1820, which added new states to the Union and maintained an equal number of slave states to free states. Monroe and the Founding Fathers feared that slavery would one day end the American republic, but they never resolved this issue and left it as a cancerous sore.
James Monroe served as a representative, a senator, the governor of Virginia, a minister to France where he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase under President Jefferson, and was Secretary of State and then Secretary of War under James Madison during the War of 1812. His long political history and major accomplishments earned him the trust of the Presidential electors who voted him in two terms as President, from 1817-1825.
Throughout his tenure, there was no opposing political party, and historians have called this time the “Era of Good Feelings.” Monroe’s actions as President exemplify the founder’s ideal of a republic with a limited government. Monroe favored public works, but only if they were related to national defense. The federal government created and improved coastal forts. However, Monroe opposed the government spending money on roads, canals or other projects if they were not strictly related to defense, because the Constitution does not give the federal government this power. In 1822, Monroe vetoed a bill that would have authorized federal funds to improve the Cumberland Road. Monroe claimed, “it is with deep regret, approving as I do the policy, that I am compelled to object to its passage and to return the bill to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, under a conviction that Congress does not possess the power under the Constitution to pass such a law.”
James Monroe achieved great success in the area of foreign policy. He settled the U.S.-Canadian border dispute through a treaty with Great Britain. In Georgia, his administration ordered General Andrew Jackson to defeat the Seminole Indians, who had been raiding settlers and then escaping into Spanish Florida. Jackson illegally invaded Florida, conquered the Indians, and found two British agents, then tried, convicted, and hung them as spies. Spain was thus forced to sell Florida to the U.S. for $5 million in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. However, Monroe is best known for the Monroe Doctrine.
The Monroe Doctrine of 1820 forbids any European power from meddling in the affairs of North and South American countries in return for America staying out of European affairs. In the early 1800s, Spanish colonial power in the Americas was weakening, and France appeared to want to take Spain’s possessions. The United States wanted to make sure no European power would ever again colonize the Americas, and Great Britain was eager to create a “special relationship” with their former colonies. Great Britain secretly assured America it would use its navy to defend the Americas.
James Monroe was the last American Founding Father to serve as President, and as such he continued the great fortune and blessings that were bestowed on the first republic of modern times. Though imperfect and unable to resolve slavery, Monroe helped establish the United States of America as one of the strongest and freest countries on earth. His sacrifice in the American Revolution, his service in various offices in Virginia, and his Presidency were all in the aim of building a country founded in individual liberty and constitutionalism.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) is the first Native American to be canonized a Catholic saint. She was born in 1656 in what is today the state of New York. Her tribe was the mighty Mohawk, her father was Chief Kenneronka, and her mother was an Algonquian who had been assimilated into the Mohawks. Her Mohawks name “Tekakwitha” means “one who bumps into things.” Kateri had a tough childhood and was faced with many moral challenges throughout her life. Immediately after her death at the age of 24, witnesses claim a miracle occurred. As a young girl of four, she survived smallpox but for the rest of her life bore ugly facial scars. Witnesses claim that after her death all of her scars completely disappeared. A church was built in her honor, and numerous miracles have been attributed to her.
From a young age, Kateri suffered hardship. At the age of four, her parents and her younger brother died of smallpox. She survived but her face was badly scarred, she suffered poor eyesight and poor health the rest of her life. Her aunt adopted her. At the age of 10, Kateri’s village was attacked by the French, and to end the fighting her Mohawk tribe agreed to live in French territory with the Jesuit missionaries, who wanted to convert the Indians. Kateri’s uncle forbade her to speak to the missionaries, but she disobeyed him.
A Mohawk girl in the 1600s was supposed to grow up within the tribe, marry one of the Mohawk men, have babies, cook, weave mats and baskets, and work on the farm. Kateri chose at an early age to do something completely opposite. While with the Jesuits, her tribe was attacked by the Mahican, and she helped the missionaries care for the sick and wounded. After this experience, she told her aunt she never wanted to marry.
In 1674, at the age of 18, Kateri decided to become a Catholic Christian and receive training form the French priests. Most in her tribe were disappointed and angry. She was ridiculed, called a witch, and ostracized. Two years later, she was baptized and moved to the Jesuit settlement of Kahnawake. It was then she took the Christian name of Kateri, after Saint Catherine of Sienna.
At Kahnawake were other Indian converts to Christianity. Kateri was no longer bullied but instead was encouraged to follow her heart’s wishes. There, she met her mother’s best friend who had also converted and other Christian women. Kateri attempted to strive to live a Christian life in how she treated others, in fasting, and even in acts of self-mortification. Throughout the medieval Christian world, many believed that if you harmed yourself physically in honor of God you gained blessings for yourself and others. Kateri wanted to tie her physical pain to the sufferings of Christ.
In 1680, Kateri Tekakwitha died at the Jesuit community of Kahnawake. Witnesses swore that within minutes of her death her facial scars healed and she became radiantly beautiful. Christians built a church in her honor, and pilgrims arrived to pray at her burial site. Some reported miracles that occurred because of Kateri’s intercessions. The Catholic Church proclaimed her a saint in 2012, the first Native American saint.
Some believe Kateri’s story is joyful while others see it as a terrible tale of colonization. Catholics and other Christians point to her to show that Christianity gave Indian women the freedom to do what they want to do and to live in a loving community. Others say that her story shows how European colonization destroyed the Native American way of life and that the missionaries were wrong to convert her.
Geronimo (1829-1909) is one of the most-recognizable of American Indians who resisted the American government in the 1800s and 1900s. A leader of the Chiricahua tribe of the Apache, Geronimo fought Mexico, the United States of America, and other Native American Indians until he surrendered to the United States in 1886 and died a prisoner of war. Married nine times and father to many children, Geronimo brought fear into the hearts and minds of Mexicans and Americans.
Geronimo was born in Mexico in 1829, in present-day Arizona, and he was raised in the Apache war culture. The Apaches raided Mexican and other Indian villages as a way of life. During these raids, Apache would steal cattle and horses, kill men, and steal women as slaves. In response, Mexico tried to kill all Apache, offering $25 for every Apache scalp. As a young man, Geronimo married and had three children with his wife, Alope. On one outing while he was away on a trading trip, Mexican soldiers came into his camp and murdered women and children, including his mom, his young wife, and his three boys. He vowed to seek revenge the rest of his life against the Mexicans.
In 1848, the land Geronimo’s Apaches lived on changed hands from the Mexicans to the Americans, and the Apaches were now enemies of not only the Mexicans but the Americans, as well. For the next 38 years, Geronimo and the Apaches successfully waged war against Mexico and the United States of America. His band of soldiers, and women and children, would travel as far as 70 miles a day to avert capture. At the same time, they waged guerilla war against settlers. 5,000 United States soldiers, 3,000 Mexicans, and hundreds of Indian scouts hounded Geronimo’s Apaches throughout the Southwest.
Finally, Geronimo surrendered and he and his Apache tribe were taken prisoner to Oklahoma. Three years before Geronimo died, he converted to Christianity. In his autobiography, he said,
“Since my life as a prisoner has begun I have heard the teachings of the white man's religion, and in many respects believe it to be better than the religion of my fathers. However, I have always prayed, and I believe that the Almighty has always protected me. Believing that in a wise way it is good to go to church, and that associating with Christians would improve my character, I have adopted the Christian religion. I believe that the church has helped me much during the short time I have been a member.”
However, on his deathbed, it has been reported that he said he was no longer a Christian. This truth of this incident is uncertain, though, and he was buried in a Christian cemetery.
Many Americans did not believe his conversion was real. Stories of his brutal tactics and successes would not allow them to think this Indian leader had accepted Christ. The New York Times noted when he died that Geronimo “was the worst type of aboriginal American savage. Even his so-called religious conversion was not without cunning.” The Times journalists believed he had converted in order to persuade President Roosevelt to give the Apaches back their land in Arizona.
Geronimo was very fond of marriage. He married nine times and it appears he had many children. Some of his wives, like his first one, Alope, were murdered by soldiers. One witness claims he killed one of his wives when she would not escape from soldiers with him. He did have multiple wives at the same time, which was keeping in tradition with the Apache custom.
Toward the end of his life, Geronimo appeared in Wild West shows, at world’s fairs, and rode in President Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade. On the reservation, he sold bows and arrows and posed for pictures. As there was little work available for Indians, it is a sign of resourcefulness that Geronimo stayed active through the age of 90. The night before he died, he went into town and got drunk. Riding home, he fell off his horse. Injured and unable to get back on, he stayed out all night long. He caught pneumonia and eventually died.
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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