Thursday, June 9, 2016

Flashback Thursday: James Monroe Museum Fredericksburg, Va

James Monroe Museum & Memorial Library


 "a better man there cannot be" - Thomas Jefferson


Everyone should visit this museum. I have never considered James Monroe as anything but the 5th President and the writer of the Monroe Doctrine, but to limit him to these two is a sad miscarriage of justice. In actuality he has to be the most under appreciated man in American history. 

I was previously unaware that we really owe the Louisiana Purchase to his negotiations with Napoleon and also that he had fought in and been wounded at the battle of Trenton.


What we have here is James Monroe’s personal collection of papers as well as papers belonging to other Monroe family members. They were passed down through the Monroe family for generations before finding a home here. 

Some of them date to the early 17th century and include maps and newspapers as well as books, manuscripts, and documents. His collection of 3000 books was however, sold after his death. This constitutes the Library portion but it is the museum that really fascinates.

James Monroe moved to Fredericksburg to work in his uncles law office in 1786. He purchased the land where the museum is located in 1786 but he didn’t live on it, he lived with his uncle. We don’t know where the law office was located, it may have been on this location but that is only supposition. His uncle’s home is still standing at 30 Caroline Street. 

The building that houses the museum was built after the American Revolution. The museum was founded by his great granddaughter, Rose Gouverneur Hoes and her sons in 1927, and it was given to the State of Virginia in 1964.


This is a self-guided tour however, there are docents available and ours was very enthusiastic. Almost to the point of being annoying however, his excitement with his topic was commendable and he just wasn’t used to someone knowing about history in general. I have to admit that he for the most part was dead on though I caught him embellishing a couple of times much to my amusement.

I was however, enthralled by his wife Elizabeth who I really knew not a thing about. She was exceptionally beautiful as well as talented and was a great favorite of the French. Napoleon referred to her as the "beautiful American". It was through James' and her influence at the French Court that Lafayette and his wife were released from prison and he never forgot it. He and the Monroes were friends for over 50 years.

What you will see are personal items, Elizabeth’s necessary case, the desk which Monroe used to write and sign the Monroe Doctrine, his eye glasses, court rapier and many other personal items. It is a very enjoyable museum and there is a small garden in the rear.

   
This museum will be of interest to the younger set as well, they offer a scavenger hunt to keep them occupied.



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