Madison was succeeded, in 1817, by President James Monroe, who took his oath on the ruins of the Capitol. As he gazed at the foundations, which were quite unharmed, he said that they reminded him of the Union, which was as firm as ever, in spite of all that had happened.
The war being over, a period of peace and prosperity set in for our country. Instead of fighting, people devoted all their energies to tilling the soil, working in the new manufactories, and building towns and roads. War having ceased in Europe also, people in America no longer sided for or against the French or the British, and all quarrels on that subject were so entirely forgotten that this period of time has been called the “era of good feeling.”
Monroe did not have nearly so many cares as the Presidents who came before him, and had leisure to travel. He therefore decided to make a tour of the Eastern and Northern states, so as to inspect forts and harbors, and see how the people were thriving in different parts of the country. As he had taken part in the Revolutionary War, still wore his uniform, and was a general favorite, he was warmly received everywhere, and the signs of industry and prosperity which he saw on all sides greatly pleased him.
The United States, having been cut off from commerce with Europe for some time, had learned to depend more upon itself. Cotton and woolen mills had been built, discoveries of coal had given a new start to the iron trade, and American wits were hard at work over many new inventions. Among other things, matches now took the place of flint and steel, and when people wanted to light a fire in a hurry, they no longer needed to run into a neighbor’s house for hot coals.
Monroe was so good a man that Jefferson once said in speaking of him: “If his soul were turned inside out, not a spot would be found on it.” Still, you must not imagine that he was a weak man. Before his time as President was ended, he had to show that, while he was gentle and genial, he could also be very firm.