Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

                    Elizabeth Kortright was born on June 30, 1768, in New York; she was the daughter of Laurence Kortright and Hannah Aspinwall Kortright.  Her father was an officer in the British army and had made a fortune "privateering" during the French and Indian War.  Elizabeth was no taller than five feet as shown by one of her gowns in the collection of the James Monroe Museum.  She "acquired social grace and elegance at an early age."

                    Miss. Kortright attracted the attention of James Monroe in 1785 while he was a member of the Continental Congress meeting in New York.  James and Elizabeth were married on February 16, 1786, in New York City when he was twenty-seven and she was seventeen.   The couple spent a brief honeymoon on Long Island and then returned to live with her father until Congress adjourned.  They then returned to Virginia where their first child was born.

                    James and Elizabeth were parents of three children, two daughters and one son.  Eliza Monroe Hay (1786/87-1835) married George Hay in 1808 and was a substitute for her ailing mother.  The son (1799-1801) died at age two.  His grave stone lists his name as "J.S. Monroe."   He was apparently named James Monroe, Jr., with speculation that his middle name was Spence.  Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur (1803-1850) married her cousin, Samuel L. Gouverneur, on March 8, 1820, and was the first child of a President to be married in the White House.

                    Elizabeth accompanied her husband when he was appointed to be Minister to France by President George Washington.  Life in Paris was anything but dull because the Monroe family was there for the Reign of Terror that came after the onset of the French Revolution.  Elizabeth, acting as the wife of the American Minister, helped to secure the release of Madame LaFayette, wife of the Marquis de Lafayette, upon learning of her imprisonment and threatened death by guillotine.  The American citizen, Thomas Paine, also found refuge with the Monroe family after his arrest for his opposition to the execution of Louis XVI.

                    While the Monroe family was in France, Eliza became friends with Hortense de Beauhrnais who was the step-daughter of Napoleon; the girls attended the school of Madam Jeanne Campan, who had previously advised Marie Antoinette in court etiquette.  The Monroe family and the Napoleon Bonaparte family were friends.

                    The Monroe's only son was born in Virginia in 1799 upon their return from France but died in 1801.  In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson appointed Monroe to be Minister to Great Britain and to Spain.  Their youngest daughter, Maria, was probably born in England in 1803.  Monroe was sent back to France in 1804 to negotiate the purchase of Louisiana.

                    While Monroe was still serving as Ambassador to both Great Britain and Spain in December 1804, James and Elizabeth were invited by Napoleon to attend his coronation in Paris and were part of the delegation from the United States.  The family returned to Virginia in 1807.

                    James was elected to be Virginia Governor in 1811 but served in that office for only four months. He was appointed as Secretary of State in April 1811 and didn't have much to do with the War of 1812.  As the war was going badly, President James Madison turned to Monroe and appointed him to be Secretary of War in addition to being Secretary of State.  He served in both positions from October 1, 1814, until February 28, 1815, when the peace treaty was ratified.  He resigned from the office of Secretary of War and was formally reappointed as Secretary of State.  He held this position until he was elected to be President of the United States.

                    Because James had observed court etiquette during his trips to Europe, he decided to have a strict social attitude in the White House when he became President.  Mrs. Monroe suffered from ill health and received only those visitors that she invited to the White House.  Her oldest daughter, Eliza Hay, was sent to "pay calls" and served as official White House hostess in place of her ailing mother.  People in Washington considered Mrs. Monroe to be "snobbish" until they realized that she was following the wishes of the President in establishing protocol.   During her husband's second term in office, Mrs. Monroe's Wednesday receptions were popular events.  The Marquis de Lafayette visited the White House on New Year's Day, 1825, and added a touch of splendor to the Monroe's last months there.

                    Elizabeth Monroe had the unenviable position of following Dolley Madison as First Lady.  Mrs. Madison had "captivated" Washington society and set a high standard for all future First Ladies.  Considered to be snobbish during her husband's first term in office, Mrs. Monroe regained respect and admiration during his second term.

                    Mrs. Monroe was sick and suffered several long illnesses until her death on September 23, 1830, in her home (Oak Hill) at age 62.  She was interred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

                    Information for this article is from Wikipedia.  

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