Skip to main content

Full text of "In memory of Col. James Monroe"

See other formats

<n ' 


"> .-. 

i'« \„./ /JM^*-, *^..^* .'I«^^". Vc/ '**^sie^'. ^. 

o > 

.'^ii'. Vc.** /^I^\ v.^^ 




Died September 7, 1870: 

AGED 71. 

Blessed are the Pure in Heart : 
For they shall see God." 

Matthew V. 8. 

^^A G , V4 - C v-v\ \ <> >A 



CHOUGH the coinmeiidations of a good 
man who has finished his course — like 
floivers planted by a ffectio7t on his grave 
— are of notJiing zvorth to the dead, yet, to 
the living and the loving, they breathe a 
perpetual fragrance : therefore it is that 
many of the zvarni friends of the late 


and those zvho clasp his memory still closer 
to their hearts, have desired to see, in a 
more enduring form, some of the fugitive 
tributes to his icorth, zvhich appeared as 
Obituaries zvhen he had descended to the 
tomb, embalmed zvith the tears of all zjho 
had shared his intiinacy in life. 

" Only the actions of the just 
Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust." 






Colonel James Monroe, who was 
born September lo, 1799, in Albemarle 
county, Virginia, died September 7, 
1870, at the residence, on Orange Moun- 
tain, N. J., of his only surviving child, 
Mrs. Douglas Robinson, having nearly 
completed seventy - one years of an 
eventful life. He was the nephew of 
President Monroe, who was a younger 
brother of his father, Andrew Monroe. ' 
They were descended from Captain 
Monroe, an officer in the army of 
Charles the First, who emigrated with 
the Cavaliers to Virginia in 1652. 

Colonel Monroe, after receiving a 


good preliminary education, entered 
the United States Military Academy 
at West Point, N. Y., when scarce 
fourteen years old, and was graduated 
at that institution, March 2, 1815. Of 
his classmates of 181 5, but six survive 
him — Henry Middleton, of South Caro- 
lina ; Simon Willard, a retired mer- 
chant of Boston ; Generals Thomas J. 
Leslie and Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, 
of the U. S. Army ; General Samuel 
Cooper ; and Professor Charles Davies. 
Upon his graduation, he became third 
lieutenant in the Corps of Artillery ; 
was promoted second lieutenant, May 2, 

1 81 7, and first lieutenant, December 31, 

18 18, retaining the same rank in the 

1 1 

Fourth Artillery in the re-organiza- 
tion of the Army, June i, 1821 ; was 
breveted a captain, December 31, 1828, 
** for faithful service ten years in one 
grade ; " and resigned his commission 
in the Army, September 30, 1832. 

On the very day, March 2, 181 5, of 
Colonel Monroe's graduation, our war 
Avith Great Britain having just termi- 
nated. Congress passed an act author- 
izing hostilities against Algiers, that 
piratical power having for some time 
before been engaged in depredations 
upon the little American commerce 
that remained in or near the Mediter- 
ranean. On May 20, a squadron, con- 
sisting of three frigates, one sloop of 


war, and six brigs and schooners, sailed 
from New York for the Mediterranean, 
under Commodore Decatur's command, 
the Guerriere, 44, being his flag-ship. 
On board of this latter vessel was em- 
barked Brevet Major S. B. Archer's 
company of U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant 
Monroe being one of its subaltern of- 
ficers. On June 17, 181 5, when off 
Cape de Gata, on the southern coast 
of Spain, Decatur's squadron fell in 
with and captured the Algerine frigate 
Mashouda, 46, after a short running 
fight, in which the Algerine admiral 
and nearly one hundred of his officers 
and men were killed and wounded, and 
four hundred and six made prisoners. 


In this spirited engagement Lieutenant 
Monroe directed a part of the quarter- 
deck 2:uns of the Gtierriere, and was 
wounded in the right hand while him- 
self firing one of the pieces, which dis- 
abled several of his fingers for life. 
His physical bravery, here tested, was 
no less a marked characteristic of his 
after career than his ever conspicuous 
moral courage first exhibited on this 
cruise. Having challenged a young 
naval officer, the meeting took place 
the next morning on the coast of 
Spain ; but, instead of proceeding to 
blow out each other's brains, an apol- 
ogy was made to Monroe, who in- 
stantly, with the true chivalry of his 


nature, said to his antagonist that he 
had but anticipated his own intention 
in making the amende Jwnorable. Quick 
to resent an affront, and ever ready to 
meet the responsibiHty of his own 
words and acts, this was the only oc- 
casion on which he appeared as a prin- 
cipal on the field, though, as second or 
friend, he settled no less than eighteen 
contemplated duels, some quite noted 
in our annals. 

After his return to the United States, 
he served as battalion adjutant of ar- 
tillery at New Orleans, December 28, 
1816, to December 18, 1817; as aide- 
de-camp to Brevet Major- General 
Winfield Scott, December 18, 18 17, to 



April 4, 1822 ; on ordnance, garrison 
and commissary duty at various posts 
for the next ten years ; and again be- 
came aide-de-camp to General Scott, 
June 22 to July 13, 1832, on the Black 
Hawk expedition, but did not reach 
the seat of war, he being taken sick at 
Chicago, where a large proportion of 
the troops were prostrated with Asi- 
atic cholera. 

After leaving the Army he entered 
political life at the soKcitation of nu- 
merous friends who appreciated his 
clear intellect and high character. 
His first service was as assistant 
alderman in 1832-33, and alderman 
in 1833-35, of the Third Ward of 


New York city, being elected in 
1834 to be President of the Board, 
when it was a distinction and proof 
of integrity to be in the City Council. 
In 1836, William L. Marcy, then Gov- 
ernor of the State, tendered to him the 
position of his aide-de-camp, with the 
rank of colonel, but it was not accept- 
ed. From 1839 to 1841 he was an able 
and useful member of the U. S. House 
of Representatives, his colleagues from 
New York being such men as Ogden 
Hoffman, Moses H. Grinnell and Ed- 
ward Curtis. He was again elected to 
Congress, November 3, 1846; but his 
election being contested by his oppo- 
nent, David S. Jackson, the case was 


sent back, March 25, 1848, to the 
people, neither contestant being ad- 
mitted. Colonel Monroe was re-nom- 
inated for the remainder of the term, 
but declined to run. Subsequently, in 
1850 and 1852, he became a distin- 
guished and leading member of the 
Legislature of New York, his adopted 
state. In 1852 he was a very active 
and influential partizan of General 
Scott, who was the Whig nominee for 
President of the United States. On 
this, as on all other occasions, he 
proved the sincere and ardent friend 
of his old chief, whom he had faithfully 
served during his military career, his 
devotion never ceasing during the de- 


dining years of that venerated hero 
and patriot. 

His exemplary wife, to whom, as Miss 
Elizabeth Mary Douglas, he was mar- 
ried in 1 82 1, having died in 1852, Col- 
onel Monroe abandoned political life, 
and never after took an active part in 
city, state or national affairs, except dur- 
ing part of the session of the Virginia 
Convention which met February 13, 
1 86 1, and after a fierce struggle of 
months, finally, April 17, 1861, resolved 
to throw off her allegiance to the 
United States. On this momentous 
occasion Colonel Monroe, true to the 
memory of a great name so intimately 
connected with our existence as a na- 


tion, and to himself, educated under the 
flag of that nation, promptly proceed- 
ed to Richmond, where his bold heart 
and eloquent tongue, both in public 
and private, denounced the treasonable 
and suicidal act which was about to 
drench his beloved Virginia in blood. 
But though his native state took the 
fatal leap, he, during the long and de- 
solating years of the terrible contest 
which ensued, never for a moment, in 
thought or deed, faltered in true loyalty 
to the Union. Though remaining in 
civil life, he never after ceased to feel 
a deep interest in all that affected the 
welfare of his country and the progress 
of civil liberty throughout the world. 


After losing his wife, much of his 
time was spent at the Union Club in 
New York, of which he was one of the 
earhest members. In the success of 
the club he took the deepest interest, 
and ever tried to maintain for it a high 
social position. It is unnecessary to 
say how universal was the attachment 
of all the members, who looked up to 
the Colonel as the father of the club. 
His presence ever shed a genial warmth 
amid the groups of fond friends which 
clustered around him to listen to his 
exhaustless store of anecdotes and in- 
cidents of the times in which he had 
lived. In his retentive memory were 
garnered many of the most precious 


scraps of the history of the events of 
our country and countrymen, particu- 
larly of the " Monroe family," General 
Scott, and, in fact, of all the public 
men — Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Marcy, 
Crittenden, Hoffman, etc. — with whom 
he had been intimate in and out of 
Congress. For hours he would dwell 
upon the services of his disting-uished 
uncle, detailing the part taken by him 
in our Revolutionary struggle at White 
Plains, crossing the Delaware, storm- 
ing the battery at Trenton, fighting at 
Brandywine by the side of Lafa3^ette 
when wounded, as aide-de-camp to 
Lord Stirling at the battles of Ger- 
mantown and Monmouth, and his pres- 


ence at Annapolis when Washington 
surrendered his commission as com- 
mander-in-chief; of his services in 
the Virginia Legislature and Conven- 
tion, and halls of Congress, with such 
men as Patrick Henry, George Mason, 
Madison, Pendleton, Marshall, Grayson 
and others ; of his enthusiastic recep- 
tion as iSIinister to France, when pub- 
Hcly embraced by the President of the 
National Convention, the stars and 
stripes being intertwined with the tri- 
color of the new republic, and his later 
important agency in the acquisition of 
Louisiana ; of his varied services as 
Governor of Virginia, Minister to Eng- 
land and Spain, and Secretary of State 


and temporarily of War during Madi- 
son's administration ; and as President 
of the United States, making his north- 
ern tour with his Revolutionary blue 
coat, buff breeches and cocked hat ; 
or enthusiastically receiving, in 1824, 
Lafayette, who, from his youthful Re- 
volutionary companion, had grown old 
with the cares of state and the suffer- 
ings of a dungeon, shared by his de- 
voted wife, whose life, perhaps, had 
been rescued from the tigers of the 
Reign of Terror by the womanly cour- 
age of Mrs. Monroe while residing in 
Paris during her husband's embassy to 
France. AVith pride the Colonel would 
recount the memorable events of his 


uncle's administration ; the admission 
into the Union of the States of Mis- 
sissippi, Illinois and Maine ; the ac- 
quisition of Florida from Spain ; the 
Missouri compromise ; the recognition 
of the independence of Mexico and the 
South American republics ; the decla- 
ration of the " Monroe doctrine ;" the 
judicious re-organization of the Army ; 
the increase of the Navy ; the strength- 
ening of the national defenses ; the 
protection of commerce ; the aid to 
internal improvements ; and the vigor 
and efficiency infused into every de- 
partment of the public service. 

It would require a volume to record 
Colonel Monroe's numerous anecdotes 


of General Scott and other distinguish- 
ed soldiers and statesmen. Suffice it 
to say in this connection, it was due to 
Colonel Monroe's energy and devotion 
that the nation was saved from the dis- 
grace of seeing the conqueror of Mex- 
ico superseded by the appointment of 
Thomas H. Benton as Heutenant- gen- 
eral, and consequently to command the 
army, then triumphantly marching to 
the halls of the Montezumas. 

Colonel Monroe, in general appear- 
ance and character, much resembled 
his distinguished namesake. Although 
not a man of brilliant endowments, he 
possessed a robust intellect, sharpened 
more by contact with men than the 


study of books ; clear perceptions which 
penetrated through the outer husk of 
pretension direct to the inner mo- 
tives of action ; a sagacious judgment, 
quickly discriminating between true 
and counterfeit character ; and a ten- 
acious memory that profited by every- 
thing coming within his keen observa- 
tion. His manly courage, scrupulous 
integrity and earnestness of purpose 
gave him great strength with his asso- 
ciates ; while his genuine truthfulness, 
scorn of all hypocrisy and sincere ap- 
preciation of real worth secured their 
universal confidence. He never became 
a petrified humanity wrapt in self, but 
was a living soul, genially and loving- 


ingly in sympathy with his fellows. 
In the social circle, which was his fav- 
orite arena, his courteous manner, mod- 
est simplicity, sportive smile and per- 
sonal magnetism won all hearts. With 
his intimate friends he had no reserve, 
but would tell his stories with the 
mirthful humor of a boy. This sun- 
shine of temperament, springing from 
warmth of feeling, never deserted him, 
even in his declining years or hours of 
pain. His pleasantry, however, which 
was the jubilee of a joyous heart, never 
wounded even the most sensitive by 
ridicule, satire, or a sneer. He never 
forgot a kindness or a friend ; his be- 
nevolence and generosity were only 


surpassed by his chivalric honor and 
keen sense of justice ; and it might 
truly be said of him, as was remarked 
by Jefferson of his uncle, that '' if his 
soul was turned inside out, not a spot 
would be found upon it." 

The writer knew him most intimately 
during his ebbing years, when life's last 
sands were low ; but 

" Though old, he still retain'd 
His manly sense and energy of mind. 
Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe; 
He still remember'd that he once was young: 
His easy presence check'd no decent joy. 
Him even the dissolute admired ; for he 
A graceful looseness, when he pleased, put on, 
• And, laughing, could instruct." 



New York Evening Post 



Of Colonel James Monroe, whose 
death was announced in the Evening 
Post a few days since, I would ask the 
privilege of offering a few additional 
remarks, and of relating an incident in 
his life which may be not only of in- 
terest to his many friends, but to those 
who had not the pleasure of his ac- 

Colonel Monroe was a remarkable 
man. He commenced life with the 
usual education of a youth born and 
reared on a Southern farm, or planta- 
tion, as it is termed in the South, and, 
at a very early age, was appointed a 


cadet at the West Point Academy. 
The obituary notices that have been 
published of him in the papers give 
the record of his promotion and ad- 
vancement in the Army of the United 
States, and of his services as a gallant 
and accomplished soldier. I became 
acquainted with Colonel Monroe in 
1832, when he was about thirty- three 
years of age. He was a man of pre- 
possessing appearance, frank and manly 
in his demeanor, and with a generosity 
of temperament that inspired me with 
great admiration for his character. 
These qualities he retained throughout 
his whole life, as every friend he had in 
early or in later life will acknowledge. 


One event connected with his life 
and public services I think is worthy 
of permanent record. The "great fire" 
of 1835, which desolated a very large 
portion of the lower part of the city, is 
connected Avith the incident to which 
I allude. I was present in the private 
office of the New York Post-office, of 
which his friend Samuel L. Gouver- 
neur was the head. The fire was rag- 
ing fearfully, and almost immediately 
threatened the building with destruc- 
tion, as also the entire row of build- 
ings in Garden Street (now Exchange 
Place). The Mayor, Cornelius W. 
Lawrence, was in consultation with 
several prominent citizens, among 


whom were General Joseph G. Swift, 
formerly Chief Engineer of the Unit- 
ed States Army, Colonel Monroe, John 
C. Hamilton and other equally distin- 
guished men, as to what was to be done 
under the appalling circumstances. I 
listened with great interest to the va- 
rious propositions made to save the 

Mr. Lawrence seemed undeter- 
mined and irresolute. General Swift, 
Colonel Monroe and others advised 
the blowing up of the buildings in 
Garden Street. Colonel Monroe, con- 
curring with the General, insisted that 
it was the only means by which the 
further destruction of the lower part 


of the city could be prevented. I re- 
member the earnest, emphatic manner 
in which this plan was urged, and the 
hesitancy of the Mayor to adopt it, on 
account of the fearful responsibility 
that might fall upon him. It was final- 
ly determined to adopt the course ad- 
vised by the gentlemen present, and 
General Swift undertook the hazard- 
ous duty of carrying it out, which he 
did most successfully. 

I admired the vehement resolution 
of Colonel Monroe in this matter, and 
the recollection of that determined 
trait of his character remains upon my 
memory to this hour. * 

General Swift's priv^ate journal, in 


the possession of his family, presents a 
faithful record of this event. 

Colonel Monroe had, both in public 
and private life, mingled much with 
men, and he had an instinctive and un- 
erring judgment of character. His 
memory was very remarkable, not only 
of the names of men, but of the various 
incidents connected with his Hfe. He 
was a frank, whole-souled, truth-spoken 
man ; a true republican in his nature, 
who met every man, high or low, of 
decent behavior, as his equal. His 
genial humor, kindness of nature and 
shrewd observations of men seemed to 
increase as he grew older— resisting the 
usual tendencies which accompany age. 


No word ever escaped his lips which 
would wound the heart — even of one 
he despised ; and if ever a man illus- 
trated the true character of a Chris- 
tian gentleman — in all charity and 
kindness, in the thoughtful appreciation 
of all that is good in human nature — 
it was the noble friend of whom I 

The memory of his kind words and 
deeds is all that remains to us who 
loved him. To me, a youth, they were 
substantial and real, when kindness and 
generosity Avere needed. 

The wide circle of his friends (and 
no man living had more than he) will 
testify to the uprightness and noble- 


ness of his nature and of this iincal- 
culating generosity and manliness of 
character. He had the pecuUar power 
of attracting the affectionate regard of 
every one who knew him. His gen- 
uine love of truth, his detestation of 
hypocrisy and false pretences, come 
from what quarter they may, were 
strong points in his character ; while 
his keen observation and ready wit 
and graphic power of delineation, ren- 
dered him a most delightful and agree- 
able companion, as all w^ill confess who 
knew him. 

After the death of Colonel Monroe, 
at Orange Mountain, N. J., his remains 
were removed to the '' Douglas Man- 
sion," No. 128 West 14th Street, New 
York city, now occupied by his sister- 
in-law, Mrs. Douglas Cruger. 

On the seventy -first anniversary of 
Colonel Monroe's birth (Sept. 10, 1870), 
in presence of his shrouded corpse, 
many bereaved relations, and an im- 
mense concourse of sorrowing friends, 
male and female, including numerous 
distinguished citizens, and nearly all 
of the resident members of the Union 
Club, the solemn funeral services of 



the Episcopal Church were performed 
by the Rev. Henry M. Beare, the pas- 
tor of Little Neck Church, Long Is- 
land, assisted by the Rev. D. F. War- 
ren, of the Church of the Hol}^ Com- 
munion, New York city. 

After the long file of intimates had 
taken their farewell look and the coffin- 
lid had closed upon that benignant 
face, still smiling in death, the mortal 
relics of Colonel Monroe were placed 
in the hearse by the attending pall- 
bearers — General Thomas J. Leslie, 
General Richard Delaiield, General 
Harvey Brown, General Henr}^ Brew- 
erton, General Richard S. Satterlee, 
Judge James J. Rosevelt, Mr. James 


W. Gei*ard,and Hon. Moses H. Grinnell 
— all of whom had been his life -long 
friends, and the four, first named, had 
been fellow cadets with him at the 
Military Academy. Accompanied by 
a large cortege, his remains were con- 
ve3xd to Trinity Church Cemetery, at 
the northern extremity of Manhattan 
Island, and deposited there in his 
family vault — his last resting-place 
being in sight of his former residence, 
" Fanwood," (now the Deaf and Dumb 
Asylum,) where, for years, he had so 
oft dispensed his most generous hospi- 

"AW, that live, must die, 
Passing through Nature to Eternity." 


W 73 

• » 

tvV* A 

0'' o<»_l.'». 'O 

• 4 O 

^^i:^^^ \fiS^^*. "-^-^^n^ ' «(?^i&'- ^v^ ' 

' o. 

•O** AP 

:. *_ 

e w 


o f < 

V **•<»- 

► o. 

<J>. ♦•««" <v 

9^. •••