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American Political History


"Era of Good Feeling"

James Monroe
James Monroe 1758-1831

Image Source: The White House

The "Era of Good Feeling", a phrase first used in the Boston Columbian Centinel newspaper on July 12, 1817 following the good-will visit to Boston of the new President James Monroe, is generally applied to describe the national mood of the United States from about 1815 to 1825. The period after the conclusion of the War of 1812 was marked by a lower level of concern over potential foreign intervention on the American continent, and a relative consensus over domestic policy illustrated in the lack of partisan factions.

The Era reached its peak in the election of 1820, when President Monroe was re-elected with all but one electoral vote--a vote withheld only due to the voter's concern that George Washington should remain as the sole president elected unanimously. During that year, the bitter debate over slavery provoked by the application of the territory of Missouri to be admitted to the Union as a slave state was at least temporarily deferred with The Missouri Compromise, allowing Maine to split off as a separate state from Massachusetts and join the Union to counter the admission of Missouri, thus keeping the uneasy balance of slave and free states. The 1820 election also marked the effective end of the Federalist Party, which had lost popular support due to its opposition to the War of 1812, and opened a period where the Democratic-Republican Party initially established by Thomas Jefferson governed on the national level without substantial opposition.

The Era also saw other divisive issues, including the the enactment of the first U.S. protective tariff and the establishment of the second National Bank, either resolved or deferred. During Monroe's second term, Florida was acquired from Spain and the President promulgated what would later become known as the The Monroe Doctrine, warning European powers against attempts to re-assert their control over former colonies in the New World that had declared their independence.

...We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States....

The Monroe Doctrine, December, 2, 1823, excerpt from President James Monroe's Seventh Annual Message to Congress

Source: The Avalon Project, Yale Law School

The Era ended as Monroe's second term drew to a close, largely due to the competing presidential ambitions of three members of the President's Cabinet--John Quincy Adams, secretary of state, John Calhoun, secretary of war, and Willliam H. Crawford, secretary of the treasury. In addition to Madison's advisers, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson were also candidates. Calhoun was nominated for the Vice-presidency. Of the other four, Jackson received 99 electoral votes, Adams 84, Crawford 41, and Clay 37; since no one had a majority, the election was determined by the House of Representatives, which was confined in its choice to the three candidates who had received the largest number of votes. Clay, who was speaker of the House of Representatives, and long had been hostile to Jackson, used his influence for Adams, who was elected on the first ballot cast in the House.

After his inauguration, Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State. This greatly angered Jackson and his supporters, who charged that a "corrupt bargain" had taken place and immediately began their campaign to win the Presidency from Adams in 1828.

Resources

The Avalon Project, Yale Law School

Era of Good Feeling>>Harwich (MA) School District

Era of Good Feelings>> Encyclopaedia Brittanica

Presidential Election of 1824>> Multieducator, Inc.