The fifth U.S. President is recalled for two features of his eight year pair of administrations. It was considered (after the turmoil of the Adams and Jefferson administrations, and the War of 1812, an "Era of Good Feelings". It was also in 1823 that the "Monroe Doctrine" regarding American relations with our hemispheric neighbors was articulated. Actually while a pretty good President, Monroe's two terms were marred by diplomatic problems with Britain and Spain about Florida, and by a major depression in 1819. As for the Doctrine, Monroe's Secretary of State John Quincy Adams created it, and it really should be called the "Adams Doctrine".
Monroe had a varied career in politics, including stints as Secretary of State and Secretary of War in the cabinet of his predecessor James Madison, and involvement in the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. But Monroe was also our minister to France in the 1790s. This Hallmark Hall of Fame play (with actor Wesley Addy as Monroe) deals with one of the more ticklish situations of his ministry there.
Monroe (who was a supporter of Thomas Jefferson and his Democrat-Republican Party) was appointed Minister to replace arch-Federalist Gouveneur Morris (Harry Mehaffey) by Jefferson (Washington's Secretary of State). Morris had been a good minister, and enjoyed the life style of Paris, but he was an intense critic of the increasingly bloody path the French Revolution was taking. When he left France he would be advising an anti-French foreign policy on President Washington.* But Jefferson and his associates tried to be more friendly to the attempts of the French to make a successful Republic.
(*Morris left a fascinating and useful diary and papers about his years in Paris, still used by historians. He did have one major use for the Jacobins that backfired - the American, Tom Paine, was arrested by the Jacobins and imprisoned facing treason charges. Paine had been elected to the National Assembly, so he was technically a French citizen at the time. Morris, who disliked Paine, hinted broadly to Maximillian Robespierre (among others) that it would not be amiss with the U.S. if Paine ended on the guillotine. Robespierre, for a change, acted with clemency here - he did not want to do any dirty work for Morris!)
The problem was that French goals and American goals were not quite in sync with each other. While both seemingly wanted government by the people, but French Revolutionaries were not afraid of spilling blood, and many felt the U.S. were not radical enough (of course the Americans felt the French too radical).
There had already been an attempt by the French to belittle the U.S. government when an idiot, Edmund Genet, was sent as their Minister to the U.S., and proceeded to act as an agent for his country in hiring men and ships to attack the British. Genet's antics finally got under the skin of both Washington and Jefferson, and they forced his recall (in actuality, Genet - a Girondist - learned his party and it's leadership was destroyed by the rival Jacobins, and he became the first notable immigrant to this country to beg for admittance because of personal danger from political enemies if he returned to his "home").
So Monroe's new job was not a simple one. He had to trod a fine line here. And soon he found a matter that forced him to be as careful as possible. It was the safety of the family of the Marquis de Lafayette's family.
Lafayette had been head of the National Guard from 1789 to 1792. He had done his work well, but after the death of Mirabeau had found it harder and harder to work with the increasingly radical leaders of the Revolution. In 1792 the battle of Valmy had ended the threat of intervention into France of the armies of Prussia, Austria, and Russia. But the General in charge, Dumouriez, saw himself as a man of destiny. He tried to make contact with the enemies, and this was discovered. Dumouriez fled to the safety of German lines. All the military commanders of aristocratic background were suddenly suspect. Lafayette saw the handwriting on the wall, and fled too. But while Dumouriez was wined and dined, Lafayette was seen as an abettor to the Revolution, and imprisoned in an Austrian prison.
Monroe was approached by the Marquis' wife (Margaret Allworthy) to try to help. Monroe did but realized that his actions antagonized the Jacobins who wanted Lafayette to stand trial for treason. Presumably this play followed his difficulties trying to get the Marquis released from the prison. In the end Lafayette did get released, but it was not until after the Jacobins and Robespierre had fallen from power.
Monroe would stay at his post until 1797, his final activities being to try to assist Wolfe Tone in planning the ill-fated 1798 uprising in Ireland. Then he returned to the U.S.
The production here also had Sarah Churchill as Eliza Monroe (James' London born wife), and Jonathan Harris. It sounds like it was an interesting production, but I never actually saw it. So I won't rate it. Perhaps one day it can be shown again.
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