The papers of James Monroe document the career of this antislavery orator, minister, professor, state legislator, U.S. congressman, and U.S. Consul to Rio de Janeiro. The collection richly illustrates the life of a second-rank national figure who personified the Oberlin ethos. The papers are organized into seven distinct series which parallel Monroes career phases: 1. Correspondence (Indexed and Calendared); 2. Files Relating to U.S. Consulate, Rio de Janeiro; 3. Files Relating to Political Service; 4. Files Relating to Ministerial Career; 5. Talks, Speeches, and Addresses; 6. Teaching Materials; and 7. Miscellaneous Files.
The correspondence series contains over 5,000 letters received by Monroe covering the period from 1841 to 1898. Some 175 letters sent by Monroe (outgoing) are also filed in this indexed and calendared records series. A number of the comparatively small proportion dating from the 1840s and 1850s deal with the antislavery movement. The major portion of the correspondence is political, relating to Monroes service in the Ohio state legislature, 1856-62, U.S Consul to Rio de Janeiro, 1863-69, and as a U.S. Congressman, 1871-81. Significant correspondents include the following: Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873); John R. Commons (1862-1945, A.B. 1888, A.M. 1890, Hon. LL.D. 1915); Jacob Dolson Cox (1828-1900, A.B. 1851, A.M. 1854); James H. Fairchild (1817-1902, A.B. 1838, B.D. 1841); Cyrus W. Field (1819-1892); Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875); James A. Garfield (1831-1881); Joshua R. Giddings (1795-1864); Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893); Frances Parkman (1823-1893); A.I. Root (1839-1923); Giles W. Shurtleff (1831-1904, A.B. 1859); and James Watson Webb (1802-1884). There is at least one letter each from Frederick Douglass (1817?-1895); William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879); Carl Schurz (1829-1906); William H. Seward (1801-1872) and Frances E. Willard (1839-1898). A twelve page supplement of letters covering the years 1872-74 has been added to the index and calendar.
Files relating to Monroes service as U.S. Consul to Rio de Janeiro provide fertile material for the study of Brazilian-American relations, particularly during the American Civil War. Much of the Civil War era documentation relates to claims arising from the capture of shipping in Brazilian waters by Confederate cruisers. Monroes efforts to assist in the relief of destitute American emigrants to Brazil are also chronicled in these records. Four ledgers, 1861-69, list in column form the date, name of ship, services performed by the consulate, and charges for the services. An account ledger (cash book) notes fees received by the consular office and an explanation of how that money was expended. These ledgers were microfilmed by the Oberlin College Archives in 1971. Other miscellaneous papers add to the understanding of Monroes duties and activities.
Records of the political career of James Monroe are best understood when viewed in conjunction with the correspondence series and his speeches and addresses. Documentation covers subjects such as civil service reform, temperance, free silver, and Republican platforms. Monroes political records primarily center upon his tenure as a U.S. Congressman from 1871 to 1881. There is scant material on his period as a member of the Ohio state legislature from 1856 to 1862. Records of Monroe as a U.S. Congressman include copies of bills in both manuscript and printed form, petitions (mainly regarding post offices in Ohio and elsewhere) and documents from the Committee on Education and Labor. Records used in canvasses from 1874 to 1884 include newspapers, speeches and other printed material used to gauge the outcome of elections. Monroe remained active in the Ohio Republican party which accounts for post-1881 records.
Although Monroe held only one full-time pastorate (Sandusky, Ohio, 1849) he was a frequent visitor to the pulpit as evident in the manuscript sermons. Records of his ministerial career contain sermons on specific Biblical texts as well as on general themes and topics. Many of his sermons were delivered in several different cities which have been annotated on the manuscripts. Several early sermons, dating from 1849, also have the order of service outlined on the manuscript. Marriage licenses, c.1848-61 and Bible Class papers, 1884-92 also attest to his continued devotion to the ministry.
The numerous talks, speeches and addresses delivered by Monroe attest to the diversity of his interests and activities. His public presentations run the gamut from abolition to diplomacy and international law, dating from 1840 to 1898. Of particular interest is a manuscript copy of Monroes 1846 Commencement address on abolition entitled, Moral Heroism. Many of the addresses and speeches are political, explaining the Republican platform or rebuking the opposing partys claims. Frequently the manuscripts contain the dates and places where the addresses were given. Monroes speeches exist in both manuscript draft and printed form, although the bulk of his printed addresses relate to various issues arising from his term in Congress. A series of his addresses were compiled and published as Oberlin Thursday Lectures: Addresses and Essays (Oberlin, 1897). Drafts and typescript versions of these published lectures are present in this series and have been segregated from the other manuscript and printed addresses.
Monroes career as a professor which began in the mid-1840s and ended in 1896 is only partially documented here. The majority of his lectures and teaching materials date from the mid-1880s. Included are lectures in political economy, modern history, and rhetoric.
The final series is comprised mainly of miscellany associated with Monroe. The Oberlin College diploma of his first wife (Elizabeth Maxwell) is recorded here as are three of his diplomas. Several certificates are found among the miscellany, including the 1862 document naming Monroe as U.S. Consul to Rio de Janeiro which is signed by both Abraham Lincoln and William Seward. The 1819 marriage license of his parents accounts for the earliest span date in his papers. A brief autobiographical account begun around 1840 provides a yearly account of his activities beginning retrospectively in 1821 and ending in 1869.
A large assortment of receipts from 1852 to 1893 provides a rare glimpse into expenditures for a late 19th century household. Receipts include grocery and hardware purchases. Several account and subscription books attest to Monroes success as a fundraiser. Of special interest are two subscription books listing donors to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue defense fund in 1859, and an account book of subscribers to temperance fund drives.