James Monroe the Republican Hero
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Happy belated birthday to James Monroe. That’s why we started this conversation, because Monroe was one of two continentals that was wounded in the Battle of Trenton. If you’ve heard Times That Try Men’s Souls or if you’ve read about it, you know that it was Monroe with a Colonel William Washington — no relation to George — that was the first to exchange fire and have to kill a Hessian. It was Monroe that had to kill the Hessian guard at the outpost outside the town of Trenton that they encountered. Of course, one Hessian gets away and runs into town screaming “Die feind! Die feind! Heraus! Heraus!”” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Happy belated birthday to James Monroe. That’s why we started this conversation, because Monroe was one of two continentals that was wounded in the Battle of Trenton. If you’ve heard Times That Try Men’s Souls or if you’ve read about it, you know that it was Monroe with a Colonel William Washington — no relation to George — that was the first to exchange fire and have to kill a Hessian. It was Monroe that had to kill the Hessian guard at the outpost outside the town of Trenton that they encountered. Of course, one Hessian gets away and runs into town screaming “Die feind! Die feind! Heraus! Heraus!” That’s Prussian for “The enemy, the enemy, out, out,” or something to that event. Monroe just does not have as elevated a place in history as he should.
Brion McClanahan points this out at the Abbeville Institute website, which is now up and running and beautifully redone. As a matter of fact, they’re featuring today my essay about the limits of congressional power over territories and other lands. McClanahan has written a really nice piece here about “James Monroe and the Principles of ’76.” I call this the spirit of ’76. I wrote a movie and audio feature about it titled Sprit of ’76 because that’s what Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson called it. Jefferson would recall and say and refer to the Spirit of ’76 until the day he died.
There’s a letter that Jefferson wrote in either April or May of 1776, a few months before he expired, where he lamented the fact that the spirit of ’76 had basically expired among his countrymen and that he had failed.
“James Monroe and the Principles of ‘76” is worth reading. I posted it in today’s Pile of Prep. I made an individual item out of it yesterday afternoon and put it on the website at MikeChurch.com. I posted just a part of it about James Monroe. McClanahan writes:
But Monroe was more important to the fabric of American history than his time in the executive mansion. He was a hero of the American War for Independence and almost lost his life at the Battle of Trenton. He was Governor of Virginia and represented his home State in the Continental Congress and in the United States Senate; he served as Minister to both France and Great Britain and then as Secretary of War and Secretary of State; however, as with Jefferson, Washington, and other members of the founding generation, office and political station did not make the man. Monroe helped define American republicanism in the 1790s.
Mike: I don’t want to bore you people with historical facts because I know you’d rather talk about bashing Obama and the LA Clippers and what have you. James Monroe was the central figure in what many think, including yours truly, was the principal — well, there were two principal events that drove men to attend the Federal Convention of 1787 and draft the Constitution. One was Shays’ Rebellion, which was a crock and was used for that purpose, to scare many that were reticent into attending the convention, George Washington included. The second was this episode in history that no one knows about. This would be a great miniseries, that’s the Jay, Don Diego de Gardoqui, who was a minister plenipotentiary to the then-Confederation Congress of the United States from Spain. Monroe believed that Don Diego de Gardoqui was conspiring with New England states to basically lock the Southern states — meaning Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia — out of negotiations for access to the Mississippi River.
If you know anything about American geography, you know the western part of Kentucky is going to touch the Mississippi River. Tennessee, at the time, was part of North Carolina. That touches the Mississippi River as well. Parts of what were South Carolina at the time, or the territory that South Carolina and Georgia claimed touched the Mississippi River. This was something that was of grave concern. During the John Jay / Don Diego de Gardoqui intrigue, this all came to a head in a vote in Congress where Jay had basically presented this treaty and Monroe already knew what was in the treaty. Jay and company were shocked: How could Monroe possibly have known what was in the treaty? Well, Monroe was onto the scam. He was writing letters to Virginia governor at the time, Patrick Henry, telling him: Look, I don’t know what these clowns are up to in total, but I can tell you this, it’s not good. It’s not going to be good for us.
This was probably the most acrimonious episode that happened after the end of the American Revolutionary War, the war for American independence. There could have been a schism in the Union at this point. That’s how serious this was. This is all going on while the Northwest Territory question has still not been settled. It’s a fascinating epoch in history and Monroe was right there in the middle of it. If you read any parts of the Virginia Ratification Debates over the Constitution, the subject of the Mississippi River will come up over and over and over again, to the point where at one point in the convention Mason actually calls Monroe and makes him come up in front of the convention. He basically starts interrogating him, friendly, of course, because they were on the same side, and has him explain to the delegates of the convention what the northerners that so desperately want Virginia to ratify the Constitution, what they were up to in the Gardoqui matter.
All these things are interrelated. Monroe, of course, had a huge place, a huge role in this. I don’t have to tell you that Monroe was the author of this thing called the Monroe Doctrine. It’s principally the work of John Quincy Adams, but Monroe certainly had a role in it. Monroe also believed, as do many of us today, that American foreign policy should always be predicated on the idea that the defense of our space here in this hemisphere is sufficient enough to safeguard and protect our actual safety, that we don’t need to be embroiled in the affairs of Asia or Europe, thus the Monroe Doctrine. That’s basically what it says, that we’re not going to go across the ocean and interfere in their affairs. Now, if they come over here and start mucking things about in Central and South America and we get wind of it, then we may strongly encourage them to stop, which we did. That’s the Monroe Doctrine.
There’s another part about Monroe that most people don’t know. Monroe detailed a bill that would have, after Madison had vetoed the Bonus Project Bill, which would have built all kinds of roads and bridges and canals, Monroe got the exact same bill from Henry Clay, almost identical. Clay, thinking that Monroe was not a federalist or a constitutionalist of the high order that Madison was, sent the Bonus Bill back over, basically in the same form, and Monroe vetoed and sent the bill back with almost the same message that Madison had sent, which is: Look, you clown, you guys don’t have the power to build roads, end of story.
I think we ought to have the power to build roads, but to do that you’re going to have to amend the Constitution and you’re going to have to get the states to ratify it. No one thought that that could be ratified. They never bothered with the amendment because they had no confidence that the state legislatures and the people of the states would ever actually go along with the central government building, owning, and maintaining roads.
Just imagine this! Today we take it for granted that Mordor on the Potomac River, not only should they build our roads and maintain them, they ought to build everything that goes in the sky. They ought to build the railroads and maintain them. They ought to build everything.
They ought to maintain the waterways and canals and ditches (see Corps of Engineers tyranny), yet back in 1824 when that bill came to Monroe’s desk, no one could think of, could imagine the day that the people of the states, so jealous and guarded of their liberty and their rights to their own property would ever cede any control whatsoever to the national legislature to do that.
End Mike Church Show Transcript