Lesson Plan

Lesson 1: The Monroe Doctrine: U.S. Foreign Affairs (circa 1782–1823) and James Monroe

James Monroe portrait by William James Hubbard, ca. 1832.
Photo caption

James Monroe portrait by William James Hubbard, ca. 1832.

James Monroe spent most of his life in public office, devoting a significant portion of his career to foreign affairs. He served as George Washington's Minister to France, but was eventually recalled by the President. Thomas Jefferson appointed Monroe as a special envoy for negotiating the purchase of New Orleans and West Florida. He and principal negotiator Robert Livingston exceeded their authority and all expectations by acquiring the entire Louisiana Territory as well as a claim to all of Florida. Next, Monroe became Minister to Great Britain. Under James Madison, he served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War.

Monroe brought a vision of an expanded America to his presidency—a vision that helped facilitate the formulation of what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Because this Doctrine bears his name, the general public is not inclined to recognize the significant contributions made by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and unofficial presidential advisor Thomas Jefferson.

In this lesson, students will review the Monroe Doctrine against a background of United States foreign relations in the early years of the republic.

Guiding Questions

What was the Monroe Doctrine? What principles of foreign policy did this Doctrine establish?

What were the significant events in U.S. diplomacy before 1823?

What diplomatic roles had James Monroe played before he became president?

Who were the key figures in U.S. diplomacy before 1823? What did each do?

Which events were connected to peace and safety concerns for the United States?

What factors led the United States to engage in diplomatic exchanges with other countries?

Which events touched on American sympathy for revolutionary movements?

Which events related to the expansion of the United States?

Learning Objectives

Create a timeline of significant events in U.S. foreign affairs before 1823

Cite the roles played by James Monroe and his contributions to U.S. diplomacy before he became president

Make connections between diplomatic events and revolutionary movements, concerns over U.S. peace and safety, and U.S. expansion