Tuesday, April 03, 2012

James Monroe Law Office

Did you know that James Monroe studied law under Thomas Jefferson? There is a museum now for Monroe’s law offices:
In 1782, only two years after James Monroe began to read law under Thomas Jefferson, he entered the Virginia House of Delegates. The following year, he took a seat in the Continental Congress, where he served until 1786. That year he left New York City for Fredericksburg, Virginia to establish his law practice. He brought his new wife, the former Elizabeth Kortright, with him. At the age of 28 and disillusioned with politics, Monroe at the time could not have realized his destiny of becoming the fifth President of the United States.

He practiced law in Fredericksburg for three years in a modest one and one half story brick building. Events of this period included the birth of his first child and his election to the Virginia Assembly. Monroe also attended the Annapolis Convention, one of the forerunners of the Constitutional Convention, while living in Fredericksburg. In 1790, he left Fredericksburg when he was elected to the United States Senate. From that point on, Monroe served in a State or national office almost continuously, culminating in the highest of them all, the presidency of the United States.

In 1927, Rose de Chine Gouverneur Hoes, Monroe’s great-granddaughter, learned about the planned demolition of the buildings on Monroe’s Fredericksburg town lot, the site of his law office. She bought the property and opened the James Monroe Museum containing her extensive collection of Monroe objects, books, and documents. Her son, Laurence Hoes, added to the collection, built a large addition to the original museum in 1948, and donated the complex to the State of Virginia. Over the years, other Monroe descendents gave many more family objects and furniture.

President Monroe’s descendants thought the little brick building on the site was Monroe’s original law office. Since then, however, further research has determined that the building where the museum is housed is not Monroe’s law office but is instead three individual buildings constructed at different times beginning in 1816 and now combined into one. The museum on the site of the original law office houses the largest collection of objects and memorabilia related to James Monroe. Everything on display in the museum belonged to the Monroe family; no reproductions or replacement pieces are included. The on-site archives contains over 10,000 documents, and the library holds more than 3,000 volumes of rare and historic books, some once part of James Monroe’s personal library. Adorned with plaques and memorials to James Monroe and his achievements and several varieties of Mrs. Monroe’s favorite flower, the rose, the peaceful Memorial Garden offers a contemplative setting.

The museum’s permanent and changing exhibits present a variety of perspectives on James Monroe’s life and times. Everything on display belonged to the Monroe family. Objects come from all of the Monroes' homes; documents are from the museum's archives. The State of Virginia owns the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, and the University of Mary Washington administers it.

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