James Monroe was born on April 28, 1758 in Westmoreland, Virginia. His father was a tobacco planter and his mother owned a large amount of land. He attended school at Campbelltown Academy, then went on to study at the College of William and Mary.
After Monroe graduated with his degree in 1776, he joined the Continental Army of the United States. After serving his time in the military, he opened a law firm in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 1782, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and then joined the Continental Congress in 1783.
In 1790, he was elected to the United States Senate. He was selected to serve as ambassador to France from 1794 through 1796 and helped to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. After returning to the United States, he was elected as governor of Virginia.
In 1803, he was served as ambassador to France again, then ambassador to Great Britain until 1808. In 1811, he was elected to serve as governor of Virginia once again, but resigned a few months later to become Secretary of State. In 1814, he was appointed Secretary of War and served until 1816.
In 1816, Monroe ran for the presidency and was elected. He also won the next election in 1820. He appointed some very important politicians to his cabinet, including future president John Quincy Adams and John Calhoun. His nonpartisan relationship with Congress led to the era being named "The Era of Good Feelings".
One of Monroe's more controversial actions was his handling of Missouri's application for statehood. Missouri wanted to become a slave state, but the federal government had no desire to add more slave states to the union. The Missouri Compromise resulted in Missouri becoming a slave state, but barred slavery to the north and west of Missouri permanently.
Monroe's political stance was largely nationalist and this was reflected by his famous act, the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. He declared that America and other countries should be free from the interference of European nations and that the United States should stay out of European conflicts.
After retiring from the presidency, Monroe moved to his home on the University of Virginia campus. The campus land had originally been part of Monroe's farm, but he had donated it to the university. Unfortunately, he had developed a large debt during his public servitude and was forced to sell off a good deal of his land to pay it off.
In 1830, after his wife died, Monroe moved to New York City to live with his daughter Maria. He died there on July 4, 1831 from heart failure and tuberculosis. After an initial burial in New York City, he was reburied in the President's Circle at Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond, Virginia.