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In the Spirit of the People

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See video of “An Evening with President Monroe” at

James Monroe's 1817 Tour of the Northern States

In the Spirit of the People: James Monroe's 1817 Tour of the Northern States, a traveling exhibit commemorating the bicentennial of an historic presidential tour, will be at the St&nbps;Lawrence County Historical Association, 3 East Main St., Canton from August 8th thru August 26th. President James Monroe himself will attend the exhibit opening at 6 pm on August 8th and give a presentation on his life and career, followed by a question and answer session for participants. Monroe will be portrayed by Dennis Bigelow, long-time Monroe interpreter at Ash Lawn – Highland, the fifth president’s home, in Charlottesville, VA.

James Monroe became the fifth president of the United States in March, 1817. Three months later he embarked on a fifteen-week tour of the northern states, traveling up the east coast from Washington, DC to Portland, Maine; west to Detroit; and back to Washington via Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and Maryland, totaling some 2,000 miles. During the course of his travels through Northern New York, Monroe visited Malone, Potsdam, Hamilton (now called Waddington), Ogdensburg, Morristown, Rossie, Watertown and Sackets Harbor in the summer of 1817.

Modern-day presidents are readily recognizable by almost every American. This was not true two hundred years ago. Monroe’s predecessors rarely traveled, and there was, of course, no electronic media continually broadcasting the president’s image or the sound of his voice. Monroe’s tour therefore created a national sensation. Americans came out by the thousands, thrilled by the opportunity to see the president, and newspapers across the country gave day-by-day accounts of his progress. Political differences were forgotten as Americans of both parties joined together in grand celebrations marked by parades, speeches, dinners, balls, receptions, and concerts. A Boston newspaper coined the phrase “Era of Good Feelings” to describe the national unity created by Monroe’s tour. The term became the catch-phrase of his presidency.

The exhibit is a joint project of The James Monroe Museum and The Papers of James Monroe, both of which are administered by the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The museum, founded in 1927 by Monroe descendants, is a National Historic Landmark housing the largest single collection of artifacts and archives related to the fifth president. The Papers of James Monroe is a publication project that has produced six volumes to date of selected official and personal correspondence pertaining to Monroe's long career in public service. The University of Mary Washington is a public university in Virginia that focuses on undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. Signature degree programs include a major in historic preservation and minor in museum studies, both of which emphasize hands-on learning. Students in the university's museum studies program worked on all aspects of In the Spirit of the People, from research and image acquisition to copy writing and graphic design.

“In the Spirit of the People” will be on exhibit in Canton from August 8 through 26 at the St Lawrence County Historical Association. The museum is open Tuesday – Thursday, 12 – 4 pm, Friday 12 – 6 pm and Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Admission is free and there is free parking available at the rear of the museum. For more information, contact the SLCHA at 315-386-8133 or by email.

Online map of President Monroe's Travels

Flyer for the exhibit (PDF, 500K)

Portrait of President James Monroe

by John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), 1821

  • “An Evening with President Monroe”
    (interpreter Dennis Bigelow)
    Tuesday, August 8 at 6 pm
  • “Madison & Monroe”
    (David Buton)
    Thursday, August 10th at 12 noon
  • “The Monroe Doctrine”
    (James Monroe, Esq)
    Tuesday, August 15 at 12 noon
  • “The North Country in 1817 & the Rossie
    Iron Works”
    (Art Johnson & Jim Carl)
    Thursday, August 17 at 12 noon
  • Dr Melissane Parm Schrems, Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of Native American Studies at St Lawrence University
    Tuesday, August 22 at 6 pm
  • Some Presidential ‘Firsts’ for Monroe
    (Brad Mintener)
    Thursday, August 24 at 7:30 pm

The St Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House is open Tuesday through Thursday noon to 4 pm, Friday noon to 6 pm and Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. Admission to the museum is free; admission to the archives is free for members and children, $2.50 for college students, and $5 for the general public.The St Lawrence County Historical Association is located at 3 East Main Street, Canton. Parking is available in the back of the SLCHA, next to the museum's main entrance.

The St Lawrence County Historical Association is a membership organization open to anyone interested in St Lawrence County history. For more information, or to become a member, call the SLCHA at 315-386-8133 or e-mail. Exhibits and programs are made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.