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James Monroe: Lawyer

James Monroe began reading law under Thomas Jefferson in 1780, and passed the Virginia bar in 1782. Rather than practice law, however, Monroe pursued a political career, beginning with election to the Virginia Assembly in 1782. In 1783, he was elected to the Congress of the Confederation, where he served three years.

In 1786, Monroe married Elizabeth Kortright, left New York City, New York (then the capital of the United States), and established a law office in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He practiced for three years, during which period he also experienced the birth of his first child, was again elected to the Virginia Assembly, and attended the Annapolis Convention. He left his law office after being elected to the United States Senate in 1790, and never returned.

In 1927, Rose de Chine Gouverneur Hoes, Monroe's great-granddaughter, bought the site on which Monroe's law office was located and opened the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, containing her personal collection of Monroe objects, books, and documents. Her son, Laurence Hoes, added to the collection and built a large addition in 1948, and then donated it to the State of Virginia. Over the years, other Monroe descendants have added family objects, and the museum now holds the country's largest collection of artifacts and documents related to the fifth president of the United States. The museum is still owned by the State of Virginia, but is administered by the University of Mary Washington. The museum's website is

Monroe's Fredericksburg law office

Footnote: Research has determined that the building Monroe's descendants long believed to be the one which Monroe used as his law office is actually three individual buildings constructed at different times beginning in 1816 and now combined into one.

See Also

Thomas Jefferson

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The Robinson Library >> James Monroe

This page was last updated on August 30, 2018.