Monroe’s Huntsville Visit-Article from the Alabama Republican, June 5th, 1819
Posted May 30, 2019
Six months before the Alabama Territory was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state, President James Monroe made an unexpected visit to Huntsville. Locals organized a banquet to honor the nation's fifth Commander-in-Chief. The Alabama Republican, a Huntsville-based newspaper, reported on the president's arrival and resulting festivities. In anticipation of this weekend's exciting historical reenactment, we decided to include the local newspaper's coverage of this event for your enjoyment:
Arrival of the President
On Tuesday last the President of the United States with Mr. Governeur his private secretary and Lieut. Monroe of the Army, very unexpectedly arrived in Huntsville, and put up at the Inn. No intimation of his intention to visit our town had been received by any individual in it: but the citizens solicitous to shew [sic.] their respect to the Chief Magistrate of the Union, appointed a committee to wait upon his Excellency and invite him to a public dinner on which occasion C. C. Clay Esqr. addressed him nearly in the following words:
In behalf of the citizens of Huntsville, we have the honor to wait upon your excellency, and to communicate the joy with which we hail the arrival of the chief magistrate of the nation in our remote and humble village. Be assured, sir, we duly appreciate the motives which have prompted you to a repetition of the labours, we have already seen you perform in the north, by your visit to the southern portion of the United States. We are sensible of the great advantage of adding practical observation to that extensive information, which we have before seen so happily illustrated.
Permit us to congratulate you on the general tranquility and prosperity which have prevailed, and on the valuable acquisition of territory which has been made, in our vicinity, under your enlightened administration. We assure you, that we contemplate with feelings of national pride the happy result of a policy founded in principle, and which has for its sole subject the exaltation of our country. If sir, your time and convenience will permit, we should be happy to give you some feeble testimony of our respect and affection, and to have the honor of your Excellency’s company, at a public dinner, on to-morrow.
To which the President answered in substance, that, he had undertaken the task of visiting different portions of the U. States, more particularly with a view of examining the situation of the fortifications and of selecting suitable sites to be put in a state of defence against foreign aggression, in the event of a future war, which he was happy to say, there was no immediate prospect of that he conceived it the duty of the chief magistrate of the Union to acquaint himself with a knowledge of the interior country over which he presided, and as far as was practicable to ascertain the state of society, and of improvement in agriculture, manufactures & c and also to enquire into the conditions of the Indian tribes which are dispersed through the western portion of the Union. In pursuance of these views he had made his former tour & now intended to continue as far west as his other official engagements would permit. He stated it was necessary for him to return to Washington by the 15th of July, when it was probably the Spanish treaty ceeding [sic.] the Floridas to the U.S. would be received at which time his presence at the seat of Government would be indispensable. He congratulated the committee, on the acquisition of the Floridas which he deemed so essential to the future security of this territory...and concluded by accepting the invitation to dinner.
On Wednesday at 4 o’clock, the President and suit together with more than one hundred of the most respectable Citizens of Madison County sat down to a sumptuous entertainment prepared by Capt. Irby Jones, at which Col. LeRoy Pope acted as President assisted by C. C. Clay and Henry Minor Esqrs as Vice-Presidents. After the cloth was removed the following sentiments were drank accompanied by the discharge of cannon, and appropriate songs.
The company rose from the table about sun set, highly delighted with the entertainment they had received and the opportunity they had enjoyed of demonstrating their great regard and affection for Mr. Monroe, who now appeared to them more like a plain citizen than the Chief Magistrate of a great nation. The unostentatious [sic.] manners of this truly great man are eminently calculated to endear him to every body, and more particularly to those who had associated ideas of reverential fear, with human exaltation.
The President left this on the ensuing day 3d inst. for Nashville, and was escorted by a number of respectable citizens several miles on his way: the whole company being on horseback he conversed freely with those who were nearest him, and after exchanging the most cordial expressions of respect and good will separated from them, with but a faint prospect of ever meeting many of them again.
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