31 st Annual James Monroe Lecture
Dirty, Nasty Politics in James Monroe’s America
Dr. Joanne B. Freeman,
Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University
Thursday, November 8, 7:00 PM
Monroe Hall Room 116, University of Mary Washington
At different times and in different ways, American politics has been particularly dirty, rotten, and nasty. This was certainly true in the 1790s, during the nation's first decade under its new Constitution, as the young republic went through the trials and tribulations of discovering precisely what a democratic republic was going to be. This lecture explores the gritty realities of nasty politics during that eventful decade, and what that nastiness suggests about America's founding -- and American politics.
 
Dr. Joanne B. Freeman specializes in the politics and political culture of the Revolutionary and Early National periods of American History. After receiving a BA in English from Pomona College, she earned an MA and a Ph.D. in history at the University of Virginia. Her 2001 book, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (Yale University Press), won the Best Book award from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, and her edited volume, Alexander Hamilton: Writings (Library of America) was one of the Atlantic Monthly’s “best books” of 2001. Her latest book, The Field of Blood: Congressional Violence in Antebellum America , explores physical violence in the U.S. Congress between 1830 and the Civil War, and what it suggests about the institution of Congress, the nature of American sectionalism, the challenges of a young nation’s developing democracy, and the longstanding roots of the Civil War.
 
A fellow of the Society of American Historians, Freeman has won fellowships from, among others, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Dirksen Congressional Research Center, the American Historical Association, and the Library of Congress. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and was rated one of the nation’s “Top Young Historians” in 2005.
 
Freeman’s articles have appeared in a wide range of academic journals including William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of Policy History, and Yale Law Journal, among others. She has written op-ed pieces for the New York Times and has appeared in a host of documentaries on PBS and the History Channel, and radio programs for NPR and the BBC. She has done extensive work in the realm of public history, including co-curating museum exhibitions, acting as a historical consultant for documentary filmmakers, and giving frequent public lectures at venues such as the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the National Gallery of Art, and Colonial Williamsburg, among other places. She has also worked extensively with high school history teachers and students in workshops, lectures, and symposia around the nation. In the last two years, she has worked as a historical consultant for the National Park Service in the reconstruction of the Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
 
The Museum gratefully acknowledges support for this year’s James Monroe Lecture from the following: Fredericksburg Savings Charitable Foundation; Friends of The James Monroe Museum; H. Stewart Jones Charitable Trust; Paul and Jane Jones Trust; University of Mary Washington Department of History and American Studies.
 
[Adapted from Dr. Freeman’s biography at the Yale University Department of History website.]
What's In Store?
With the 31 st Annual James Monroe Lecture quickly approaching (November 8, 7:00 PM, Monroe Hall Room 116 at UMW), you may want to become more familiar with the writing of Dr. Joanne Freeman. A professor of history at Yale University, Freeman discusses the rowdy and rough politics of the Early American Republic in the lecture: " Dirty, Nasty Politics in James Monroe’s America ." The James Monroe Museum Store stocks two of Freeman’s most recent titles, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War ($28.00) and Affairs of Honor ($19.99).  
In The Field of Blood , Dr. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was full of turmoil in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions turned into quarrels, scuffles, and even fist-fights! The Booklist review of The Field of Blood says: "A finely researched and well-written examination of the often overlooked legislative breakdown that preceded the Civil War."
 
Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic shows a major reconsideration of early American politics. It offers a profoundly human look at the anxieties and political realities of leaders struggling to define themselves and their role in the new nation. Freeman’s Affairs of Honor won the Best Book award from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic.

Both books will be available for purchase at the lecture.
 
Remember, there is never an admission charge to visit the Museum Store. We are open from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday, and 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM on Sunday. As always, Friends of The James Monroe Museum receive a 20% discount on all merchandise. Not yet a member? Visit our website for information.
 
We hope to see you soon at The James Monroe Museum Store!
In Memoriam
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Monroe Tyler Gatchell, fifth-great-grandson of President James Monroe. Mr. Gatchell took great pride in his family relationship to James and Elizabeth Monroe. We had the pleasure of welcoming him and his family to the Museum in April of 2018 for a reunion of Monroe descendants as we celebrated the 260 th anniversary of James Monroe’s birth. We extend deepest sympathy to the Gatchell family with wishes for peace and comfort.
Food Drive
The James Monroe Museum is participating in the University of Mary Washington Staff Advisory Council Thanksgiving Food Drive to benefit the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank. Visit the Museum on Saturday, November 3 or Sunday, November 4 and receive one admission per person, per canned food item or non-perishable boxed food item (no glass jars please). Learn more about our fifth president, and help those in need in our community.

Please help us spread the word!
Upcoming Programs
Friday, November 30, 6:00-8:00 PM
A Monroe Christmas Holiday Open House
Location: James Monroe Museum

Celebrate the holidays at our annual Open House featuring President James Monroe, seasonal music played on the harp, Elizabeth Monroe at the Monroe family’s Astor pianoforte, and a reception with hot chocolate, hot cider, and cookies. While you’re here be sure to check out the Museum Store holiday specials!

Saturday, December 1, 9:30 AM-Noon
Deck the Halls
Location: Hurley Convergence Center, Digital Auditorium, University of Mary Washington

Join us for our beloved annual event Deck the Halls with Fredericksburg’s own Jan Williams! Jan will demonstrate how to craft beautiful holiday arrangements from local evergreens and flora. Refreshments are served, and all attendees are entered to win the decorations created during the presentation!

Advance registration is required. Tickets are $30/person or $25/person for Friends of The James Monroe Museum. Please contact our Public Programs Coordinator Lynda Allen to purchase tickets, or print the registration form and mail it with payment to JMM at 908 Charles St. Fredericksburg, VA 22401.

Please note the new location for the event this year. A map and directions are available here.


If you were unable to attend one of our lectures or special presentations, like Gabriel's Conspiracy in History and Memory by Dr. Douglas Egerton, you can still enjoy them on our YouTube channel!




Curator's Corner
This month’s featured artifact (actually, two artifacts) is a circa 1815 pair of flintlock pistols. Constructed of forged iron and wood and featuring intricate nickel silver inlay, the origin of these decorative firearms is a tale of family folklore, South American history, and modern science. 
 
The pistols were donated by the Museum’s founding director and great-great-grandson of James Monroe, Laurence Gouverneur Hoes. According to Mr. Hoes, family tradition held that the pistols were a gift to Monroe from the government of Argentina, and that they were of unusual origin. In a 1962 letter Hoes wrote: 
 
“The story always passed down in my family in that the pistols were made in Argentina and the iron and steel was made from some special and unusual ore.”

Here is where the story takes an interesting turn. In the summer of 1962, Mr. Hoes received a phone call from the National Archives informing him of an 1816 presentation of pistols to President James Madison by General José Ignacio Álvarez Thomas, Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata (a region that later produced the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay). The general, who clearly desired to establish friendly relations with the United States and tout the industrial progress in his fledgling republic, seemed to imply that the pistols were made from a large meteoric iron deposit in Argentina known as the “Campo del Cielo.” 
 
Palace of the Government in Buenos Ayres, the 9th. of February 1816
 
Most Excellent Sir,
 
If in the exercise of the powers with which, I am invested, as Supreme Chief of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata, a suitable occasion should present itself of proving to you my high respect for your person, I would eagerly avail myself of it, confident as I am of the great desire of my fellow-Citizens to form a closer connexion with the United States. Permit me therefore, to present to Your Excellency, by the hands of the National Colonel, Don Martin Tompson, a Specimen of the first Essays of the Manufacture of Arms established, in the Provinces of Buenos-Ayres and Tucuman under the auspices of a free Government, as an homage due to the chief Magistrate of the United States of North America. I flatter myself that Your Excellency, on considering the frankness of this proceeding, will give to its sentiment, that value which is intrinsically wanting in a present, whose only merit consists in exhibiting the State of our Arts, and the Material of which it is composed. What appertains to the Mineral Kingdom, is peculiar to this Country, which is at length beginning to breathe, on being freed from the bondage and fetters of the Spanish Government. The Tract which I have the honour to transmit, herewith to Your Excy:, will make you acquainted with the New Discovery in this Class, made in the Territory of my Government. May an opportunity soon present itself for renewing to Your Excellency the assurance of my highest Consideration, and the becoming expressions of the sentiments of a People, who admidst the struggle in which they are engaged to secure their Rights, reflect on the natural relations which are one day, to unite them with that People over whom you so worthily preside. God preserve You many Years!
 
(Signed) Ignto: Alvarez

[Ignacio Alvarez Thomas to James Madison, 9 February 1816, Rotunda online archive, University of Virginia Press, https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/default.xqy?keys=FOEA-print-02-01-02-4935 ]
 
Knowing the family history of the Museum’s pistols - a gift from the government of Argentina and made from unusual ore - Mr. Hoes postulated that they were the same ones presented to Madison by General Alvarez, and that Madison later gifted them to Monroe. Given the evidence at the time this seemed a reasonable conclusion and the story of the pistols remained as such . . . until 2006.
In that year the Museum sent the pistols to the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in Oxfordshire, UK, a center for research in the physical and life sciences, where they were compared to known samples from the Campo del Cielo meteor deposit. Tests proved conclusively that the pistols were not made from meteoric iron. Further, the tests also showed that the inlay was not silver as previously thought, but a less costly nickel silver alloy (possibly of Southeast Asian origin!). This raises several intriguing questions.
 
Could the pistols have been manufactured by an armory in Buenos Aires or Tucuman as General Alvarez claimed, just not from meteoric iron? During some 200 years as a Spanish colony, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata had evolved virtually no manufacturing infrastructure. If arms were being produced locally in 1816, the Museum staff have found no indication of it in the historical record.
 
Why would the leader of a newly-independent country give President Madison pistols with inlay of cheap nickel silver alloy rather than genuine silver, especially if he sought to garner favor with the United States? Was Alvarez purposely misleading Madison? Could the pistols have originated in Spain or elsewhere, only to be presented as products of South America? Was the reference to a mineral “peculiar to this country” an enticement to American trade and investment?
 
Notwithstanding these questions, the pistols were indeed passed down through the Monroe family, and they very likely belonged to James Monroe. Whether they were the pistols gifted to James Madison, and whether he in turn gifted them to James Monroe, the saga of these artifacts remains an intriguing and yet-unsolved mystery.
 
For more on the scientific detective work involving the Madison/Monroe pistols, see this 2008 story from BBC News.

We look forward to seeing you at the Museum!
The Papers of James Monroe
We are happy to share the news that the exhibit "James Monroe: The Library of a President," designed and created by Heidi Stello, Editorial Assistant at the Papers of James Monroe and Guide at the James Monroe Museum, is installed at the University of Mary Washington Libraries Simpson Library. Heidi was assisted by Claire Dwyer, a UMW student who has been working with the staff at the Papers of James Monroe. The exhibit will be at Simpson Library through the end of 2018, and then will be installed at The James Monroe Museum on January 7, 2019. Keep an eye out for additional information regarding a presentation about Monroe's library by Ms. Stello on January 10 at JMM.
Kimberly Eastridge has joined the staff of The Papers of James Monroe as a student employee, transcribing nineteenth-century manuscripts into digital typescripts. Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Eastridge is a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington majoring in history and minoring in museum studies. She comes to The Papers of James Monroe with experience in historical transcription.While an intern at the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum this past summer, Eastridge transcribed a collection of early property deeds as part of her research project, “People of Fairfax Village.” Welcome, Kimberly!
Friends of the
James Monroe Museum

Members of the Friends of The James Monroe Museum help make it possible for us to conserve the artifacts in our collection, create new exhibits for their display, and plan and implement public programming that provides opportunities to share the life and legacy of James Monroe with our community.

View the information about the benefits of membership, and learn how to become a Friend of The James Monroe Museum today!

Museum Hours

Bring along a lunch when you're visiting The James Monroe Museum and enjoy it in a tranquil setting! The Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, and Sundays 1:00-5:00 PM. We look forward to seeing you soon!



The James Monroe Museum
908 Charles St.
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
540-654-1043