Early in the summer of 1817, as a conciliatory gesture toward the Federalists who had opposed the War of 1812, President James Monroe embarked on a goodwill tour through the Northeast and what is now the Midwest. Everywhere Monroe went, citizens held parades and banquets in his honor. In Federalist Boston, a crowd of 40,000 welcomed the Republican president. A Federalist newspaper called the times "the era of good feelings."
James Monroe (1758-1831) was the popular symbol of the era of good feelings. His life embodied much of the history of the young republic. He had joined the Revolutionary army in 1776 and spent the terrible winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. He had been a member of the Confederation Congress and performed double duty as Secretary of State and of War during the War of 1812.
The last President to don the fashions of the eighteenth century, Monroe wore his hair in a powdered wig and favored knee breeches, long white stockings, and buckled shoes. His political values, too, were those of an earlier day. Like George Washington, he hoped for a country without political parties, governed by leaders chosen on their merits. So great was his popularity that he won a second presidential term by an electoral college vote of 231 to 1.
Here, Monroe replies to an address of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of surviving Revolutionary war officers.
No approbation can be more dear to me than that of those with whom I had the honour to share the common toils and perils of the war for our independence. We were embarked in the same sacred cause of liberty, and we have lived to enjoy the reward of our common labors. Many of our companions-in-arms fell in the field before our Independence was achieved, and many less fortunate than ourselves lived not to witness the perfect fulfillment of their hopes in the prosperity and happiness of our country. You do but justice to yourselves in claiming the confidence of your country, that you can never desert the standard of freedom. You fought to obtain it in times when men's hearts & principles were severely tried, and your public sacrifices and honorable actions are the best pledges of your sincere and devoted attachment to our excellent Constitution. May your children never forget the sacred duties devolved on them, to preserve the inheritance so gallantly acquired by their fathers. May they cultivate the same manly patriotism, the same disinterested friendship, and the same political integrity which has distinguished you, and thus united in perpetuating that social concord and public virtue on which the future prosperity of our country must so essentially depend. I feel most deeply the truth of the melancholy suggestion, that we shall probably meet no more. While, however, we remain in life, I shall continue to hope for your countenance and support, so far as my public conduct may entitle me to your confidence; and in bidding you farewell, I pray a kind Providence long to preserve your valuable lives for the honour and benefit of our country.