The 19th century’s early years may seem a long ways off. Two centuries ago, in fact, if you’re talking about the year President James Monroe was sworn into office.
But issues that concerned Monroe, once a Fredericksburg resident, still vex his countrymen. Then as now, education, an informed electorate and the power of party politics dominate discussions.
This Saturday at 11 a.m., those connections may grow more clear as the James Monroe Museum re-creates the fifth U.S. president’s inauguration, on the University of Mary Washington’s Fredericksburg campus.
The steps of UMW’s Monroe Hall will stand in for Washington’s Old Brick Capitol (now site of the U.S. Supreme Court), where the ceremony took place on March 4, 1817, ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings.” Monroe’s swearing-in was the first presidential inaugural to be held outdoors. The temporary D.C. structure housed Congress while the U.S. Capitol was being rebuilt after British troops torched it during the War of 1812.
The Historical Trumpets and Flutes of the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps will kick off the event with a half-hour concert featuring music of Monroe’s era, and also play two tunes during the inaugural ceremony.
The corps is part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), stationed at Fort Myer in Northern Virginia. Its musicians recall the days of the American Revolution, performing in uniforms patterned after those worn by the musicians of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army.
The presidential party—including President-elect Monroe, his wife Elizabeth Monroe, Chief Justice John Marshall, President James Madison and first lady Dolley Madison—will arrive by horse and carriage. An 1812-era color guard and historical interpreters from a variety of military companies will help create the scene as it happened. Marshall, a Virginian who was Monroe’s longtime friend and occasional political adversary, will administer the oath of office. Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and other local and state politicians will offer greetings.
The public is invited to Saturday’s free event, which UMW will livestream on the internet. A reception will follow.
Monroe Hall has a few parking spaces. For other on-campus parking, see umw.edu/visitors. Details? Call the museum at 540/654-1043.