Episode 249: BFW Road Trip: Charlottesville, VA, James Monroe’s Highland

Between 1789 and 1825, five men would serve as President of the United States. Four of them hailed from Virginia.

Many of us know details about the lives and presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. But what do we know about the life and presidency of the fourth Virginia president, James Monroe?

Sara Bon-Harper, Executive Director of James Monroe’s Highland, joins us to explore the public and private life of James Monroe.

This episode originally posted as Episode 103.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Sara Bon-Harper, Executive Director of James Monroe’s Highland, leads us on an exploration of the life and presidency of James Monroe, the fourth president in the so-called Virginia Dynasty.

During our exploration, Sara reveals details about James Monroe’s diplomatic service and presidency; Monroe’s private life at his estate, Highland; And, the interpretive challenges historians and interpreters at Highland face given the surprising new discovery they made about the estate in April 2016.

What You’ll Discover

  • Overview of James Monroe
  • Monroe’s experience in the Continental Army
  • Monroe’s participation in the Battle of Trenton, 1776
  • How Monroe met Thomas Jefferson & the role Jefferson played in his life
  • Monroe’s diplomatic service on behalf of the United States
  • Monroe’s European political leanings
  • Details about Monroe’s presidency
  • The Monroe Doctrine
  • Monroe’s private life at his estate Highland
  • Dendrochronology and what it revealed about Monroe’s Highland estate
  • How the dendrochonology findings have changed historians’ interpretation of Monroe’s Highland estate
  • Monroe as a slaveholder
  • Interpretation of slave life at Highland
  • Interpretive challenges Highland faces while trying to interpret the life and home of a United States president


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if James Monroe had not served as President in 1820? Would the Missouri Compromise, which kept the balance of power between slave states and free states in the Senate, by adding Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, have been signed into law?

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