1758 President James Monroe is born Future U.S. Senator and President James Monroe is born on this day in 1758. Monroe, a contemporary of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, was the last of the original revolutionaries to become president. He served in the Continental Army and was wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Trenton in New Jersey. Prior to becoming president, Monroe served as Washington’s ambassador to France (1804-1807) and Madison’s secretary of state (1811-1817). He was also the first U.S. senator to become president and the first president to ride on the technological wonder of his era, the steamboat. Monroe’s presidency is best known for his negotiation of the Missouri Compromise and his philosophy regarding territorial expansion in the Western Hemisphere, which became known as the Monroe Doctrine. In 1820, President Monroe signed into law the Missouri Compromise, also known as the Compromise Bill of 1820. The bill attempted to solve tensions over slavery by promising to add an equal number of slave-holding and non-slave-holding states into the Union in the future. Although Monroe realized that slavery conflicted with the values written into the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, he favored strong states’ rights over federalism and feared the fissure over slavery would split the Union he and his contemporaries had fought so hard to establish. Passage of the Missouri Compromise contributed to the Era of Good Feelings over which Monroe presided and facilitated his election to a second term. In his second inaugural address, Monroe optimistically pointed out that although the nation had struggled in its infancy, no serious conflict has arisen that was not solved peacefully between the federal and state governments. By steadily pursuing this course, he predicted, there is every reason to believe that our system will soon attain the highest degree of perfection of which human institutions are capable. In the end, though, the Missouri Compromise failed to permanently ease the underlying tensions caused by the slavery issue. The conflict that flared up during the bill’s drafting presaged how the nation would eventually divide along territorial, economic and ideological lines 40 years later during the Civil War. Monroe’s foreign policy fared better. In 1823, Monroe delivered a message to Congress outlining U.S. policy toward territorial expansion. He warned foreign nations with possessions in North America and the Western Hemisphere against any further expansion, saying that the U.S. would consider any additional colonial expansion as dangerous to America’s peace and safety. In return, he promised not to interfere in these nations’ existing colonial affairs. This policy, originally articulated by former president James Madison and fleshed out by Monroe’s Secretary of State (and future president) John Quincy Adams, was thereafter referred to as the Monroe Doctrine. To those who knew him well, Monroe had a reputation as a hard-working and good-natured man who was a little old-fashioned when it came to personal dress. As president, he wore what was by then considered outdated Revolutionary War-era attire. White House social life under Monroe was low-key–both he and his wife Elizabeth preferred private, stately affairs modeled after European society to the larger, more lively parties hosted by some of Monroe’s predecessors. Private and stately did not come cheap, however, and Monroe was forced to lobby Congress for money to refurbish the barely livable White House, which had been badly damaged in the War of 1812. After leaving office, Monroe tried to get Congress to reimburse him for additional personal funds he had spent on furniture for the White House. Partly as a consequence of funding White House furnishings with his own money, Monroe fell heavily into debt, and was forced to sell his Virginia estate and move in with his daughter, who lived in New York City. He died in 1831. 1789 Mutiny on the HMS Bounty Three weeks into a journey from Tahiti to the West Indies, the HMS Bounty is seized in a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate. Captain William Bligh and 18 of his loyal supporters were set adrift in a small, open boat, and the Bounty set course for Tubuai south of Tahiti. In December 1787, the Bounty left England for Tahiti in the South Pacific, where it was to collect a cargo of breadfruit saplings to transport to the West Indies. There, the breadfruit would serve as food for slaves. After a 10-month journey, the Bounty arrived in Tahiti in October 1788 and remained there for more than five months. On Tahiti, the crew enjoyed an idyllic life, reveling in the comfortable climate, lush surroundings, and the famous hospitality of the Tahitians. Fletcher Christian fell in love with a Tahitian woman named Mauatua. On April 4, 1789, the Bounty departed Tahiti with its store of breadfruit saplings. On April 28, near the island of Tonga, Christian and 25 petty officers and seamen seized the ship. Bligh, who eventually would fall prey to a total of three mutinies in his career, was an oppressive commander and insulted those under him. By setting him adrift in an overcrowded 23-foot-long boat in the middle of the Pacific, Christian and his conspirators had apparently handed him a death sentence. By remarkable seamanship, however, Bligh and his men reached Timor in the East Indies on June 14, 1789, after a voyage of about 3,600 miles. Bligh returned to England and soon sailed again to Tahiti, from where he successfully transported breadfruit trees to the West Indies. Meanwhile, Christian and his men attempted to establish themselves on the island of Tubuai. Unsuccessful in their colonizing effort, the Bounty sailed north to Tahiti, and 16 crewmen decided to stay there, despite the risk of capture by British authorities. Christian and eight others, together with six Tahitian men, a dozen Tahitian women, and a child, decided to search the South Pacific for a safe haven. In January 1790, the Bounty settled on Pitcairn Island, an isolated and uninhabited volcanic island more than 1,000 miles east of Tahiti. The mutineers who remained on Tahiti were captured and taken back to England where three were hanged. A British ship searched for Christian and the others but did not find them. In 1808, an American whaling vessel was drawn to Pitcairn by smoke from a cooking fire. The Americans discovered a community of children and women led by John Adams, the sole survivor of the original nine mutineers. According to Adams, after settling on Pitcairn the colonists had stripped and burned the Bounty, and internal strife and sickness had led to the death of Fletcher and all the men but him. In 1825, a British ship arrived and formally granted Adams amnesty, and he served as patriarch of the Pitcairn community until his death in 1829. In 1831, the Pitcairn islanders were resettled on Tahiti, but unsatisfied with life there they soon returned to their native island. In 1838, the Pitcairn Islands, which includes three nearby uninhabited islands, was incorporated into the British Empire. By 1855, Pitcairn’s population had grown to nearly 200, and the two-square-mile island could not sustain its residents. In 1856, the islanders were removed to Norfolk Island, a former penal colony nearly 4,000 miles to the west. However, less than two years later, 17 of the islanders returned to Pitcairn, followed by more families in 1864. Today, around 40 people live on Pitcairn Island, and all but a handful are descendants of the Bounty mutineers. About a thousand residents of Norfolk Island (half its population) trace their lineage from Fletcher Christian and the eight other Englishmen.