American Leaders


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). A Virginian active in revolutionary movements, governor during the war; wrote and styled the Declaration of Independence. Enlightenment philosopher, Francophile. Served in a number of high offices; third president. As part of a strategic effort to ensure national control of Mississippi valley, launched several military expeditions, the most important of which was that of Lewis and Clark. With James Madison guided the process which led to acquisition of Louisiana Territory.
graphic: painting of Jefferson by James Sharples
Rufus King (1755-1827). Important Massachusetts merchant-financier, served as minister to Court of St. James. Remarkable ability to acquire influential British friends, and a conduit of important intelligence information to reach the U.S. Served repeatedly as Senator from New York after relocating there for business reasons. His advice and information were crucial for Pres. Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison during the Louisiana acquisition.
graphic: painting of Rufus King by Charles Willson Peale

graphic: Robert Livingston by Charles Willson Peale

Robert Livingston (1746-1813). Scion of the largest landholding family in New York, he was baronial in appearance and in action. Member of committee drafting the Declaration of Independence, prevented from signing in order to hasten back to New York to help write the first revolutionary state constitution. He became Chancellor in the new state government and in that capacity administered the oath of office to President George Washington. He moved away from reigning Federalist party and was appointed minister to France in 1801 by President Jefferson. Bombarded Napoleon's court with papers arguing for American presence on Mississippi and, with Monroe, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. Known for his support of new agricultural and transportation technologies, including first steamboat on Hudson river.

graphic: painting of James Madison by Catherine Drinker

James Madison (1751-1836). Virginian, classics and theological scholar. Member of Committee of Public Safety during revolution, served as delegate to Confederation. Noted weakness of federated systems and worked successfully for Constitutional Convention. Influential voice in structure of government in the new constitution. Served as minister, appointed Secretary of State by Jefferson. President during war of 1812. His proven record of interest in freedom of navigation on Mississippi served the country well during the crisis preceding sale of territory to U.S.
James Monroe (1758-1831). Youngest of the Virginia westernizers, he served in revolutionary war, studied law with Thomas Jefferson and from early in his career identified with U.S. control of Mississippi valley. Expansionist advocate, he was sent to France to calm western fears that President Jefferson might not push hard enough for solution to Louisiana problem. His administration as the fifth president (1817-25) was called the Era of Good Feeling. In his presidential message of December 2, 1823, he set forth the Monroe Doctrine, which stated the Western Hemisphere was thenceforth strictly an American zone of influence: European colonizers and adventurers were no longer welcome.

graphic: painting of James Monroe by James Sharples