James Monroe, 5th President

American Minute with Bill Federer

James Monroe, 5th President “When the people become ignorant & corrupt … they become the willing instruments of their own … ruin”

James Monroe’s great-grandfather, Captain Andrew Monroe, fought as a Royalist on behalf of King Charles I in the English Civil War. He was taken prisoner, and in 1647, was exiled to Virginia. There Andrew acquired a farm, which grew in two generations to 1,100 acres, part of which was inherited by Colonel Spence Monroe. Spence signed Richard Henry Lee’s Westmoreland Protests in 1765 against the British Stamp Act. Spence’s son, James Monroe,  was born APRIL 28, 1758, and was baptized in the Anglican Church in Washington Parish, Westmoreland County, Virginia, the same country George Washington was born in…

SOURCE: Read American Minute


NOTE:

The quote in the headline (also found in the text of the story) is from President Monroe’s first Inaugural Address. It is a warning the U.S. has failed to heed. Here it is in full context:

Such, then, being the highly favored condition of our country, it is the interest of every citizen to maintain it. What are the dangers which menace us? If any exist they ought to be ascertained and guarded against.

In explaining my sentiments on this subject it may be asked, What raised us to the present happy state? How did we accomplish the Revolution? How remedy the defects of the first instrument of our Union, by infusing into the National Government sufficient power for national purposes, without impairing the just rights of the States or affecting those of individuals? How sustain and pass with glory through the late war? The Government has been in the hands of the people. To the people, therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is the credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in different principles had they been less intelligent, less independent, or less virtuous can it be believed that we should have maintained the same steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same success? While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and healthful state everything will be safe. They will choose competent and faithful representatives for every department. It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.

James Monroe
FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS
TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 1817

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