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Great Men, Good Feelings, Lasting Policy

December 2, 2013

James Madison was President during the War of 1812, but it was his successor, James Monroe, who enjoyed the resulting period of national unity known as “The Era of Good Feelings.”  By the time Monroe ran for re-election, the opposition party was dead.  He would have received all 232 Electoral votes in 1820, but one elector cast his ballot for John Quincy Adams, in order to maintain the honor of unanimity for the nation’s first President, George Washington.

John Quincy Adams had not placed himself in competition with Monroe.  As Secretary of State, Adams did much to enhance Monroe’s reputation, especially during the second term.  When faced with a proposal from the British Foreign Minister that the United States and Great Britain issue a joint declaration that would warn the European powers to back off, John Quincy Adams insisted the United States go it alone.  On December 2, 1823, in his Annual Message to Congress, Monroe employed Adams’s carefully crafted phrases when he declared: “The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”

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