As if to underscore Alabama’s impending arrival on the national scene in the late spring of 1819, on June 1 Pres. James Monroe paid a surprise visit to the territory’s largest city, Huntsville. While Monroe’s arrival during a whirlwind tour of the southern states may have been unannounced, dumbstruck local officials managed to cobble together a proper banquet in his honor in short order. After leading lights paid their respects to the nation’s leader in a series of toasts given over a sumptuous meal, Monroe offered one of his own for the Alabama Territory that struck at the heart of what lay on everyone’s minds: “May her speedy admission into the Union advance her happiness, and augment the national strength and prosperity.” As the president spoke those words, the constitutional convention, which would frame the document to form the new state’s government and remove the final barrier between territory and statehood, lay only a month away.
Mike Bunn currently serves as director of operations at Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort, Alabama. This department of Alabama Heritage magazine is sponsored by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and the Alabama Tourism Department.