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|James Monroe: Later Life
Following the inauguration of John Quincy Adams as President in 1825, Monroe remained in the White House for three weeks because his wife was too ill to travel. The couple then retired to Oak Hill, their estate in Loudoun County, Virginia.
After more than 40 years of public service, Monroe was ready to relax and spend time time with his family. He did agree, however, to accept appointment to the Board of Regents of the University of Virginia, which had been founded by friend and mentor Thomas Jefferson; he served from 1826 to 1830. In 1829, he became president of the Virginia Constitutional Convention.
Monroe's long period of public service had also left him deeply in debt, and he spent many of his later years pressing the federal government for tens of thousands of dollars due him. He eventually recovered enough of that money to pay off his debts and leave his children an inheritance, but only after he had sold off virtually all of his property. Elizabeth Kortright Monroe died on September 23, 1830, and was buried at Oak Hill, after which James Monroe moved to New York City, New York, to live with his daughter and son-in-law.
Monroe inherited Oak Hill from his uncle in 1808, at which time the main house was a simple wood frame clapboard structure. Financial difficulties prevented construction of a more substantial home until 1820, but by 1823 a true mansion stood on the property. The estate passed out of the family after Monroe's death. It still exists today, as a private residence closed to the public.
Monroe's health began declining in the early apring of 1831, and he died in his daughter's home on July 4 of that year. Thousands of mourners followed his hearse up Broadway in Manhattan to the Gouverneur Family vault in Marble Cemetery (on East 2nd Street, between Second and First Avenues), while church bells tolled and guns fired at Fort Columbus.
In 1857, a number of Virginians living in New York wanted to erect a monument over Monroe's vault. That desire prompted the Virginia Legislature to pass a resolution to have his remains returned to Virginia. The Gouverneur Family agreed, and on July 2, 1858, Monroe's body was removed to the Church of the Annunciation on Fourteenth Street, where it lay in state until being placed on the steamboat Jamestown and taken to Richmond, Virginia, where it arrived on July 5. An impressive burial ceremony was held at Hollywood Cemetery that same day. Monroe was interred in a simple granite sarcophagus enclosed within an ornate cast iron Gothic Revival cage-like structure designed by Albert Lybrock and erected in 1859. Elizabeth Monroe's remains were removed from Oak Hill and reinterred next to her husband in 1903.
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This page was last updated on May 15, 2017.