The beginning of the 19th century was marked by the differences of opinions among the political parties. The War of 1812 served as the major ground that made America assert a new feeling of nationalism: people had a considerable need to take the steps, which could improve the relations, which developed between the representatives of different political parties, and the international relations, which began to spoil because of numerous inner conflicts. The decline of the Federalist Party signified that another political party should take leading positions in order to run the country and provide it with an opportunity to be recovered after long exhausted times of the war. The results of the presidential elections of 1817 were rather optimistic: James Monroe was chosen as the fifth President of the United States, and only several votes were opposite to this person. He ran the office for two periods from 1817 till 1825, and those times went down in American history as the Era of Good Feelings. The Boston Sentinel was the newspaper, whose journalist Benjamin Russell introduced such phrase to the public for the first time. The Era of Good Feelings was a significant period in American history that was marked by the politically peaceful rule of James Monroe and the Democratic-Republican Party, absence of political battles, and the creation of the Monroe Doctrine that proclaimed freedom of the Americans from any possible future colonization from the European side.
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Backgrounds of the Era
The end of the War of 1812 that happened between the British Empire and the United States of America was not successful for the Federalist Party. The losses for both parts of this war were too considerable; however, the political situation in America created new conditions for the existence of the Federalist Party. This party lost its support as a result of succeeding the Hartford Convention, and was eliminated as the meaningful political force. The last hope of the Federalist Party was the support from the New Englanders’ side, but even they gave their votes for the Democratic Republicans. The representatives of the Federalist Party could not agree to participate in the War of 1812, however, the results of the votes (more than 70% was for the war) became crucial for the Federalist Party, and their role in the development of the relations turned out to be insignificant. Finally, the results of the elections of the President, which happened during 1817 and 1820, provided the Democratic Republican with a chance to demonstrate their potential and ideas of how to win the war and take leading positions.
The attitudes to the War of 1812 were quite different. As it was mentioned above, the representatives of the Federalist Party tried to do everything possible to oppose the war and prevent the country against numerous losses both financial and human. From the very beginning, New England took opposing side as well and refused providing financial or military support. Private bankers also did not want to support the war, this is why the Federalist Party believed till the end that their opposition to the war would achieve success. However, unexpected betrayal from the New England’s side led to the complete collapse of Federalist and the rise of the new era, nowadays known as the Era of Good Feelings.
Westward expansion is another movement in the United States that considerably influence the rise of the Era of Good Feelings because, first of all, it encouraged land speculation and abilities to take credits. The rise of dept, increasing of migrations, the development of plantation systems and unbelievable need of slaves – these are the major traits of westward expansion, which negatively influence the American style of life. The outcomes of westward expansion change the character of the American people and promote them developing a new society that would be able to correspond to all current conditions. In other words, westward expansion led to the development of social tension in the forms of slavery and regionalism. Different approaches and principles of the economical growth from each region had a certain influence of the country’s sectionalism, this is why it was crucially important to stop divisions in accordance to the regions and policies, and the differences between political parties were considered to be the first ones to undergo some changes.
James Monroe as the only president, who won unanimously
The peculiar feature of the election campaign that happened in 1816 was its one-sided nature. As the Federalist Party collapsed at the beginning of the War of 1812, the representative from the Democratic Republican Part, James Monroe got all chances to win and become the fifth president of the United States of America. The peace that had been achieved due to the activities, offered by the Democratic Republican Party, the satisfaction of the American people could serve as a good ground for collective support. Rufus King was the only one representative from the Federalist Party, who tried to find out supporters in order to opposite to slavery. So, the results of the elections of 1816 were obvious – James Monroe, the representative of the Democratic Republican Party won the elections. Almost the same situation happened during the elections of 1820, when James Monroe saved his position, and with only one opposite vote won the elections one more time. The administration of James Monroe from 1817 till 1825 was also called the Era of Good Feelings due to the absence of competitions between the political parties. “Unlike so many inauguration mornings, March 4, 1817, was a beautiful day. A warm sun beamed down on the Capitol, still scorched and battered after its burning the British in the recent war.” Such description of the day of the fifth president’s inauguration should promise that these elections should lead to positive results and the chosen policy of this man should certainly help the country to improve social, political, economical, and other spheres of life.
The Panic of 1819
One of the first crises that happened during the Era of Good Feelings in the United States was famous Panic of 1819. In spite of the fact that grounds for this crisis was born in far 1780s, its crucial point was reached in 1819. During this period of time, the demand for numerous American good declined considerably because many European countries had recovered after the wars of Napoleon. The American economy started collapsing, and the result of this collapse was banks’ inability to continue lending operations. So many borrowers became bankrupts within a short period of time; the prices on land increased on 50%, and homesteaders could pay for their lands. Such quick rehabilitation of Europe and aftermaths of the War of 1812 required considerable adjustments in the economic sphere. Bank speculation could be stopped: payment in paper was not allowed, this is why only hard money like gold or silver coins were in demand. Due to the fact that many farmers could not allow themselves to pay for their lands in such ways, they lost their farms and had to find jobs in the cities.
James Monroe had to take certain steps in order to recover own country and support people so that they stopped losing their lands and money. Some of his suggestions were to restrict bank credit activities, to encourage public work, to increase certain tariffs, and to control specie payment. And even taking into consideration, that the crisis took place under Monroe’s rule, he was chosen as the President for the second time with ease, because people realized that there was not his fault in this Panic, but still, he had good ideas to stop this Panic. It was crucial for the country to restrict fiscal stability, and at the beginning of the 1820s, two important acts appeared: the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The panic under consideration ended in 1823 due to proper policies, chosen by the government, and mutual support from citizens’ and banks’ sides.
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Despite of the fact that the name of the period under discussion did not imply any tragedy and challenge for people, the reign of James Monroe was not always about cooperation and goodwill. The controversies between the North and the South could not be solved, and westward expansion stimulated the development of the conflict. There were still numerous slave states, and Missouri was one of them. It was stated that no more slaves could be brought to this state, and the idea to stop emancipating children of slaves became real. In order to solve the problems, which start rising in the states of Missouri and Maine, the Congress started debates. James Tallmadge offered a resolution according to which the introduction of slaves to Missouri would be prohibited. In spite of the fact that the House approved the offered bill, the Senate could not agree to the idea. At the same time, Maine was eager to get their statehood, and the Senate found out just the necessary way out – they agreed for the Missouri Compromise, according to which Maine was regarded as a free state, and Missouri was still a slave state, however, slavery was prohibited on a certain territory of Louisiana: “the southern boundary line of Missouri at 36o30 north latitude would be the dividing line. No slavery would be allowed north of that line. Both sides seemed satisfied.” The Missouri Compromise was one of the most notable agreements during the Era of Good Feelings. The situation in Missouri and Maine was hard to decide, this is why the government had to weigh all pros and cons in order to make a state free and, at the same time, not to lose the control over the necessary states.
The last considerable step that was taken by James Monroe during the Era of Good Feelings was the Monroe Doctrine that is “a prohibition by the United States of European interference with the political arrangements of the New World”10. The actions of James Monroe always had certain meaning, reasons, and influence on the international relations of the United States. The reason of why Monroe proclaimed this doctrine was rather simple: he was afraid that Spain could take back Latin America with the help and support of the conservative European governments. This is why it was obligatory to recognize the United States of America as an independent nation in order to make Spain give up Florida. The British Empire did not want Spain having Latin America as their territory and was eager to support America. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson tried to persuade Monroe and Adams, current Secretary of State, to accept British help. The major purpose of John Adams was to proclaim American dominance, and he had nothing to do but offer a new doctrine according to which the United States of America promised to stay out of the affairs in Europe. The Monroe Doctrine had three major principles:
- in spite of personal interests, America would not participate in European wars;
- North and South America could not subjects to colonization from European side;
- any attempt of Europe to colonize United States would be defined as an unfriendly act.
Such step of John Adams, further approved by James Monroe proved the readiness of the United States to serious intentions in the world arena.
The end of the Era of Good Feelings is caused by the presidential campaign of 1824
Like Washington and Jefferson, James Monroe did not accept an opportunity to agree for the third term in office, and five more representatives of the Republican Party got a chance to compete and take the desire position of the President11. The Panic of 1819 and the Missouri Compromise turned out to be the main reasons for making national mood tenser. Monroe’s resignation provoked the development of fights between the parties in order to present the best policy to save the country and to maintain the same or even more wining positions on the world arena. The presidential elections of 1824 started, and several men decided to try. They were John Quincy Adams, William Crawford, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay. John Adams won the elections, and his activities initiated the beginning of a new era, so that the Era of Good Feelings was over.
The Era of Good Feelings was an important part of the American history. The Monroe Doctrine and the Missouri Compromise, proclaimed under the rule of James Monroe had an influence on further development of the relations between the United States of America and Europe. This period raised American pride and made its government believe that America had enough powers to conquer the world even if it was not actually possible for that period of time, certain grounds were built during the Era of Good Feelings. The only thing required was the abilities of the American Presidents to offer appropriate policies and control the states in order to show the other countries its unity, power, and desire to conquer and win. As any other era in the American history, the Era of Good Feelings had its pros and cons, however, the point that the absence of parties’ fight was inherent only for this era, and this is what makes this era so important and worthy of attention.
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