The Last Founding Father: James Monroe

I just finished reading "The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness."

I remember spotting the book at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore a few months ago and wondering why Monroe never seems to get as much attention as other Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Interested in learning more about the last of the quartet of presidents who made up the so-called Virginia dynasty (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe), I purchased the book.

I learned a great deal about Monroe. For example, did you know he's the only person ever to have held the positions of Secretary of State and Secretary of War at the same time? Or that Monrovia, the first permanent Black American settlement in Africa, is named after said president? Or that Monroe nearly dueled with Alexander Hamilton had it not been for Aaron Burr, who himself would go on to kill Hamilton in a duel.

Monroe fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War and later presided as president over one of the longest periods of prosperity in American History -- the "Era of Good Feelings." One of his main goals was to eliminate political parties for good in the hope that Americans could enjoy unbridled harmony and unity for generations to come.

He also engineered the Monroe Doctrine, a policy stating that further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in North/South America would be viewed as acts of aggression that call for U.S. intervention.

The only thing I don't like about the book is that the author seems awfully effusive in his praise of Monroe and his family. (Numerous Amazon reviews about the book can corroborate this.)

Many historians get a bad rep for glorifying the Founding Fathers, and this author, Harlow Giles Unger, is no exception. He makes Monroe out to be a flawless human being who deserves no blame whenever something goes awry. He also paints Monroe's wife as being the most beautiful and charming woman you'd ever meet in their day.

Biases aside, the book still succeeds at giving you a sense of what James Monroe's life -- both personal and while in public office -- was really like. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this somewhat obscure Founding Father.


Priscilla King said...

Nice review; thanks for sharing.

How to Understand People said...

My pleasure, Priscilla!

How to Understand People said...
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