The Spirit of ’76: How James Monroe and a Few Brave Men Turned the Tide


As we celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s essential to acknowledge the pivotal role a small group of individuals played in shaping the course of American history. One such individual was the final president of the founding generation, whose legacy is forever tied to this iconic date.

By December 1776, the American Revolution was on the brink of collapse. General George Washington commanded a mere 3,500 troops, while the British had 20,000 well-trained soldiers, plus thousands of mercenaries. To make matters worse, Washington’s men were ill-equipped, ill-fed, and ill-trained, with enlistments set to expire on December 31. They fought for a populace that had largely given up on the revolution, with many redeclared their loyalty to the British monarch.

Facing these dire circumstances, Washington led 2,400 troops in a daring attack on a British-Hessian outpost at Trenton, New Jersey, after midnight on December 26. The subsequent crossing of the Delaware River and 9-mile march through a snowstorm were nothing short of breathtakingly dangerous. Despite the odds, the element of surprise allowed them to gain an early advantage, but the Hessians regrouped and prepared to fire a cannon on King Street.

If the cannon had succeeded in turning the tide, the revolution would have likely been lost. Instead, six Americans rushed the cannon, taking control of the weapon and halting the Hessian counterattack. The Hessians were routed, and the revolution was reinvigorated.

One of those six Americans was 18-year-old James Monroe, who would go on to serve for half a century in various roles, including writing the Northwest Ordinance, securing the Louisiana Purchase, and leading the country through the War of 1812.

Elected president in 1816, Monroe navigated the complex politics of the day, earning his era the nickname “The Era of Good Feelings.” He secured Florida from Spain, gained joint occupation of the Oregon Territory, and proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine, declaring the Western Hemisphere off-limits to foreign colonization.

Just over a year after leaving office, Monroe followed the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two main authors of the Declaration of Independence, on the document’s 50th anniversary in 1826. In his final presidential message to Congress, Monroe reflected on the Spirit of ’76, praising the struggle for independence and liberty.

As we mark 200 years since Monroe’s last presidential message, we’re reminded of the importance of preserving our liberties and passing them down to future generations. The struggle for independence may have been won, but our task remains to seize and neutralize the “cannon” of challenges that face our nation today.

Happy Independence Day.

Truth Voices
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