Inaugurating the Era of Good Feelings

  By Cassandra Good, Associate Editor, Papers of James Monroe On an unusually warm March afternoon two hundred years ago, James Monroe took the oath of office as America’s fifth president. In a capital city still recovering from having government buildings burned to the ground three years earlier by the British, large crowds thronged the city to celebrate Monroe’s inauguration on March 4, 1817.  The planning of the ceremony itself caused a congressional squabble, the oath was taken under a temporary portico outside of a temporary capitol building, and nobody could hear Monroe’s speech.  But that day ushered in a brief era of national unity and good feeling, when Americans formed (in Monroe’s words) “one great family with a common interest.” James Monroe entered the presidency with more experience in elected or appointed office than any man before—or since. Born on Virginia’s Northern Neck in 1758, he had joined the Continental Army to fight in the Revolution as a teenager … [Read more...]