Highland serves as a case study in the formation of American identity, the complexities of slavery, and a nation forging its way into a powerful Atlantic world. These resources provide primary documentation and objects related to these themes. Our goal is to help teachers make them accessible and approachable for students.
These educational resources serve two main purposes. First, the educational resources provide teachers, primarily secondary educators, with the building blocks for thoughtful and engaging primary source activities. Lessons in transcribing original manuscripts, reading assignments using student-produced transcripts, discussions around document-based questions, object analysis, and bibliographies for further research are made available for use in history classrooms. The variety of lessons utilizing these primary sources also align to both Virginia and National Standards of Learning, assuring teachers that they can be used as part of their curriculum. Second, scholarly researchers now have easy access to a wealth of manuscripts of local and national significance pertaining to Monroe, many of which are not available elsewhere online. The thematic compilations of manuscripts, combined with their bibliographies, are invaluable tools for anyone researching the early history of the United States.
A New American Diplomacy: The Monroe Doctrine
Independence brought the United States into a world dominated by European empires, each with interests in the western hemisphere. The United States desired to balance trade with these empires while steering “clear of European contentions,” as Thomas Paine cautioned in Common Sense. European contentions, President James Monroe learned, often boiled over into the Americas…
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James Monroe purchased Highland in 1793. It was already functioning as an agricultural plantation, but had no main residence at the time of purchase. Monroe intended for his uncle Joseph Jones and his friends and political associates James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to “site the buildings” and begin construction on a house while Monroe was serving as Minister to France during the Washington presidency…
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The Era of Good Feelings
No president since George Washington travelled as extensively as James Monroe did during his 1817 tour of the northern United States. Beginning in Baltimore, Monroe visited over a hundred cities across eleven states, along with the Michigan Territory. Monroe intended to inspect post-war fortifications, but his presence North, a traditional cradle of federalism, also demonstrated his commitment to national unity…
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Furnishings at Highland
One of James Monroe’s first tasks as the nation’s new president was to rebuild the capital city after British forces set fire to it during their Chesapeake campaign in 1814. Monroe supported James Hoban, the White House’s original architect, in reconstructing the executive mansion, though Monroe’s personal work centered around replacing destroyed furniture…
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Gabriel was born on the Prosser family’s Brookfield plantation in 1776, the same year that the United States declared its independence from Britain. Virginia’s enslaved population, perhaps more than anyone, cherished the Revolution’s principles of liberty and equality. In 1800, fueled by these ideals, Gabriel devised a plan to achieve freedom for him and his people…
Learn more about Gabriel’s Rebellion
Monroe and Lafayette
James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette forged their friendship during the American Revolution, first serving together under General George Washington prior to the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. Despite their difference in rank and nationality, Monroe greatly admired the leadership of the Frenchman, and both men shared an affinity for the democratic ideals for which they both fought…
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Native American Relations
James Monroe’s presidency represents a transitional era in U.S. – Native relations. He shared his predecessor’s hopes for acculturation and continued policies that aimed to “civilize” Native Americans, such as funding missionary schools that taught agricultural and domestic work…
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Negotiating for Louisiana
New Orleans was a lucrative prize for all nations interested in trade along the Mississippi River. As president of the expanding nation, Thomas Jefferson wanted Foreign Minister Robert Livingston to negotiate with France for its acquisition, and later appointed James Monroe envoy extraordinary with the same objective…
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Slavery at Highland
It is impossible to separate James Monroe’s enslavement of others from his status as a founding father. Likewise, the inhumane nature of slavery cannot be divorced from Monroe’s opposition to the institution, representing a contradiction evident in many of his actions and writings…
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These Teacher Resources were done in partnership with Hampton Kennedy from the Blue Ridge School. Hampton has previously worked at schools in North Carolina and New Hampshire and has taught world history, civics, economics, and United States history, although America’s early republic remains his favorite topic of study. Hampton earned a Master’s degree in history from Norwich University and a Bachelor’s degree in history education from Appalachian State University. He is an outdoorsman and hiker, avidly exploring places as local as Shenandoah National Park and as far away as the Himalayan Mountains.
Hampton would like to extend a special thanks to the following institutions for their support and permission to reproduce their manuscript holdings for this educational project: The American Numismatic Society, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The James Monroe Museum, The James Monroe Papers at Mary Washington University, The Library of Congress, The Library of Virginia, The National Archives and Records Administration, The New York Public Library, The University of Virginia, The University of Wisconsin, and The White House Historical Association.