President Monroe's Tour in 1817
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 25, 1911 [p. 8]
President Taft in his recent trip visited thirty states, traveling 14,000 mile in a private car. Nearly a hundred years ago, in 1817, James Monroe returned from his northern trip of three and a half months' duration, in which he used horse and coach mainly. Mr. Monroe's tour was made primarily because the President's house had not been fully restored after its burning by the British August 23, 1814. He had gone from his inauguration from the dwelling he occupied as Secretary of State, at No. 2017 I street, and from this place he started in the latter part of May, accompanied by his secretary, the son of Gen. John Mason, the family going to his home in Virginia.
His opponents, the federalists, were largely in a minority at this time. Only three of the nineteen states voted for his opponent. It was said that the object of his tour was to pacify the federalists, and if this be true he succeeded admirably, for when the next election came he received every electoral vote but one, and that was cast by a New Hampshire elector, who could not bear the placing of any other person on the same plane of unanimity as Washington. There was, however, some strong animosity, for a federalist editor in Baltimore boasted in his paper that he had not attended the reception given there, and a Washington editor remarked on this that he was reminded of a fly on the tip of a cow's horn, which apologized for his weight, saying if discommoded the cow he would get off.
Mr. Monroe, however, announced before leaving on his trip that his object was to inspect the defenses of the country on the coast and also the frontiers north and west. The Post Office Department having authorized the postmasters and contractors to arrange for his transportation, he saw what was needed for the betterment of the postal service in the way of roads and transportation by water, steam navigation being then in its infancy.
Gen. J.G. Swift, chief of the corps of army engineers, met the President in Baltimore, where he attended church Sunday, reviewed the troops Monday, and was much interested in the defenses of that city and in visiting the battlefield of North Point. He went to the Fountain Inn, where he received an address by the mayor and councils, to which he replied, and also held a public reception. Passing on to the Delaware he visited the works at Fort Mifflin and remained in Philadelphia and vicinity for several days. A number of places in New Jersey were visited on the way to New York. Gen. Brown, commander of the Northern Division, and Gen. Macomb, both of whom were afterward commanders in the army, joined him.
Before entering New York harbor, he spent some time with the Vice President, I. D. Thompkins, at his home on Staten Island. After visiting various public institutions, reviewing troops and defenses, he went to Connecticut, visiting New Haven, Durham and Middletown. At the last named place, he received a welcome from the mayor, to which he made this reply, "Aware of the great importance of the establishment of adequate works of territorial and maritime defense, it is my object to give full effect to the provisions made by the law for those purposes. Should my efforts obtain the approbation of my country and contribute in any degree to promote harmony of opinion among my fellow citizens, so necessary to their prosperity and happiness, I shall derive from their success the highest gratification."
He visited the factories of Middletown where rifles were being manufactured for the government and then on to Wetherfield, where he was met by the governor and escorted to Hartford, three companies of artillery saluting him en route. At Hartford, he was received by the governor's foot guards.
On the 24th of June he left Hartford and crossed the Massachusetts line, where he was met by sixty gentlemen on horseback and in carriages. They welcomed him with a salute from an artillery company, and he was presented with an address by a committee from Springfield. At Springfield he viewed the public works, the Springfield armory. On his return, over 400 children received him. From there he went to New London, where he visited the forts.
On the 27th he embarked on the sloop of war Enterprise, which proceeded out of the harbor, passing on the Newport and arrived at Providence on the evening of the 30th.
As soon as he reached the hotel, escorted by a procession, he was waited on by a number of the citizens. In he evening a levee was held. The next morning he rode on horseback through the principal streets and visited many of the public places, departing by carriage about 11 o'clock in the morning.
In Boston he was escorted to the Coffee House by a large procession, in which he appeared in a carriage, accompanied by Gen. Swift. During the march salutes were fired from several places. He was received at the exchange and presented with an address. Here the forty-first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was celebrated. A collation was served at the statehouse, in which 600 persons participated, and he made a suitable address. July 7 he visited Harvard University, where he was given the degree of L.L.D. After leaving Boston, he visited Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Concord, Portsmouth, and Newburyport. After visiting various cities in New York, he arrived in Detroit, and at that place the sword voted to Gen. Macomb by the legislature of New York was presented to him through Gen. Cass. The President arrived at Delaware, Ohio, August 23, receiving an address and passing Sunday at that place. On the 25th he arrived at Columbus. Then he passed through Zanesville. September 5 he was met a few miles from Pittsburgh and escorted to the house of William Wilkins. The following morning he was presented with an address of welcome.
President Monroe's speeches were to the point and brief, and in none was there a sentiment expressed which was not applauded by the masses.
In the west, Ohio and Indiana being the new country where travel was difficult, he roughed it with his escort on more than one occasion, sleeping in the woods with a saddle for a pillow. This, however, did not trouble him, but recalled his experience in the Continental army forty years before. Not the least enjoyable experience of his tour was meeting numbers of his fellow-patriots, whom he had known before.
Just as the sun was going down September 18 the President returned to Washington from his trip. On approaching the District of Columbia he was met by a large number of the citizens in carriages and on horseback, with a band of music. A salute was fired by the Georgetown artillery as he passed through this town. On entering the White House Gen. Van Ness made an address of welcome, to which the President replied, "I cannot express in sufficiently strong terms the gratification which I feel in returning to the seat of government, after the long and very interesting tour in which I have been engaged and I beg you to be assured that nothing can contribute more to dissipate the fatigue to which I have been exposed than the very cordial reception which has been given me by my fellow-citizens and neighbors of the city and District. I shall always look back to the important incidents of my late tour with peculiar satisfaction. I flatter myself that I have derived from it information which will be very useful in the discharge of the duties of the high trust confided in me, and in other respects it has afforded me the highest gratification. I rejoice to find the public building intended for the accommodation of the chief magistrate in a state to receive me, and to admit within it this friendly interview with you."