In this lively and compelling biography, Harlow Giles Unger reveals the dominant political figure of a generation. A fierce fighter in four critical Revolutionary War battles and a courageous survivor of Valley Forge and a near-fatal wound at the Battle of Trenton, James Monroe (1751 - 1831) went on to become America's first full-time politician, dedicating his life to securing America's national and international durability.
Decorated by George Washington for his exploits as a soldier, Monroe became a congressman, a senator, U.S. minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war, and finally America's fifth president.
The country embraced Monroe's dreams of empire and elected him to two terms, the second time unanimously. Mentored by each of Americas first four presidents, Monroe was unquestionably the best prepared president in our history.
Like David McCullough's John Adams and Jon Meacham's recent book on Andrew Jackson, this new biography of Monroe is both a solid listen and a stellar scholarship history in the grand tradition.
It's a good bio.
“The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and A Nations Call to Greatness” was published in 2009. The author is a Yale grad who’s worked as a journalist and professor in Europe and North America. The grandiose title of the book made me approach it with suspicion, but it turns out to be a very good bio of a President whose name is well-known but whose life isn’t.
The book is accessible, almost a little simplistic at times, and Unger does a good job of setting the stage for Monroes story, that is - he doesn’t assume the reader knows all there is to know about life and issues in late 18th and early 19th century America. The portrait of Monroe is well-rounded and covers both the personal and public spheres of his life. Monroe was a man who turned out to be a better President than anyone ever thought he would . He was a man who outgrew, and in many ways, surpassed his mentors - Jefferson and Madison.
The book is a great introduction to this old President and understanding him and his thinking in the context of his times is a great way to develop a mature and informed perspective on the politics of today.
I definitely recommend it.