M ADISON was twice elected President. He was chosen for the second time during the war with Britain. In 1817 his second term came to an end and James Monroe took his place.
Monroe was not so clever as the presidents who had gone before him. But he was a kindly, generous man. Every one liked him, and the time during which he was President was called the "era of good feeling."
And indeed men were so glad of this time of peace which had come after such long years of war that they forgot old quarrels and became friends again.
Unfortunately the peace was broken by a war with the Seminole Indians in Florida. Florida still belonged to Spain, and it became a haunt for all sorts of adventurers. These adventurers robbed, and murdered, and created terrible disturbances among the Indians, until along the frontier between Georgia and Florida there was neither safety nor peace for any white man.
So the President at length sent General Jackson, who had won great fame in the War of 1812, to bring the Indians to order. Jackson marched into Florida, and in three months' time had subdued the Indians, brought order out of wild disorder, and in fact conquered Florida.
But this was far more than Monroe had meant Jackson to do. And it seemed as if General Jackson was like to be in trouble with the Government, and the Government in trouble with Spain. However things were smoothed over, and the matter with Spain was put right by the United States buying Florida in 1819. And of this new territory Jackson was made Governor.
Meanwhile more states were being added to the Union.
After the War was over, hundreds of families had found a new home, and a new life, in the unknown wilderness of the West. Indeed, so many people moved westward that the people in the East began to grow anxious. For it seemed to them that soon the eastern states would be left desolate, and they asked their State Governments to stop the people going west. "Old America seems to be breaking up and moving westward," said one man.
All sorts of stories of the hardships and dangers of the West were spread abroad. But in spite of all that was said the stream still poured westward. The people went in great covered waggons drawn by teams of horses, carrying with them all their household goods, or they rode on horseback taking nothing with them but a few clothes tied up in a handkerchief, while some even trudged the long hundreds of miles on foot.
The rivers, too, were crowded with boats of all sorts, many people going part of the way by river, and the rest on foot. In the East fields were left desolate, houses and churches fell to ruins, while in the West towns and villages sprang up as if by magic, and the untrodden wilderness was turned to fertile fields.
So, as the great prairies of the West became settled, the settlers became eager to join the Union. Thus new states were formed. Mississippi became a state in 1817, the first year of Monroe's presidency. Illinois followed in 1818, Alabama in 1819, and Missouri in 1821. Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama were framed out of original territory but Missouri was framed out of the Louisiana Purchase. All four names are Indian. Mississippi and Missouri are named after the rivers which flow through them, Mississippi meaning Father of Waters and Missouri Great Muddy. For the Missouri is full of yellow mud. Illinois is named after the tribe of Indians who lived there. Their name was really Iliniwok meaning "Men" but white people pronounced it badly and it became changed to Illinois. Alabama means "here we rest."
In 1820 Maine also was admitted as a state. Maine, however, was not newly settled country. Since colonial days it had been a part of Massachusetts. But having become dissatisfied, it separated from Massachusetts, and asked to be admitted to the Union as a separate state.
It was just about the same time that Missouri was also asking to be admitted as a state. And strangely enough the admission of these two states became connected with each other. We must look back a little to see how.
You remember that two hundred years before this, slaves were first brought to Virginia. In those days no one thought that slavery was wrong. So as colony was added to colony they also became slave owners. But gradually many people began to think that slavery was a great evil, and every now and again one colony or another would try to put it down. But these attempts always ended in failure.
In the northern states, however, there were few slaves. For in these northern states there was not much that slaves could do which could not be done just as well by white men. So it did not pay to keep slaves, and gradually slavery was done away with.
But in the South it was different. There it was so hot that white men could not do the work in the rice and cotton fields. And the planters believed that without negro slave labour it would be impossible to make their plantations pay.
Then, when the power of steam was discovered and many new cotton spinning machines were invented, the demand for cotton became greater and greater; the Southern planters became more sure than ever that slavery was needful. They also became afraid that the people in the North would want to do away with it, and if the number of the states in which slavery was not allowed increased it would be easy for them to do this. So the Southerners determined that if non-slavery states were admitted to the Union slavery states must be admitted also to keep the balance even.
Now when Maine and Missouri both asked to be admitted as states the Southerners refused to admit Maine as a free state unless Missouri was made a slave state to balance it.
There was tremendous excitement and talk over the matter. Meetings were held in all the large towns. In the North the speakers called slavery the greatest evil in the United States, and a disgrace to the American people.
In the South the speakers declared that Congress had no right to dictate to a state as to whether it should have slavery or not. But even in the South few really stood up for slavery. Almost every one acknowledged that it was an evil. But it was a necessary evil, they said.
In the House and the Senate there were great debates also. But at length an arrangement was come to. Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state, but in the rest of the Louisiana Territory north of the degree of latitude 36° 30' slavery was forbidden for all time. This was called the Missouri Compromise; compromise meaning as you know that each side gave up something. And in this way a quarrel between the North and South was avoided for the time being.
But it was only for the time being, and wise men watched events with heavy hearts. Among these was the old President Jefferson. "The question sleeps for the present," he said, "but is not dead." He felt sure that it would awake again and shatter the Union, and he thanked God that being an old man he might not live to see it.
In 1821 Monroe was chosen President for a second time and it was during this second term that he became famous throughout all the world. He became so through what is known as the Monroe Doctrine.
During the wars with Napoleon the King of Spain had been so crushed that he was no longer strong enough to govern his colonies. So one after another the Spanish colonies in America had declared themselves free and had set up as independent republics. But Spain of course was anxious to have her colonies back again, and it seemed very likely that the King would ask some of the other great powers in Europe to help him to reconquer them. Monroe however determined to put a stop to wars of conquest between the old world and the new.
So he announced that the Continents of America were no longer to be looked upon as open to colonisation by any European power. And that if any European power attempted to interfere with any American government they would have the United States to reckon with. Those colonies which still belonged to European powers would be left alone, but any attempt to reconquer colonies which had declared themselves to be free would be looked upon as an act unfriendly to the United States.
Such was the famous Monroe Doctrine, and because of it the name of Monroe is better known all over the world than any other United States President except Washington.
The British were quite pleased with Monroe's new doctrine. The other great powers of Europe were not. But they yielded to it and dropped their plans for conquering any part of America. And ever since the doctrine was announced the Continents of America have been left to manage their own affairs.