The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness

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by Harlow Giles Unger

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Award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger recounts the life of James Monroe, who dedicated himself to serving his country and building America’s future.See more details below


Award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger recounts the life of James Monroe, who dedicated himself to serving his country and building America’s future.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this well-written biography, Unger (Lafayette) presents the fifth president as a man of independence and initiative rather than merely a disciple of Jefferson, Madison, and John Quincy Adams. In this respect, he follows Harry Ammon's assessment in James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. Unger shows that as a diplomat, Monroe went beyond his ministerial instructions to negotiate treaties and the Louisiana Purchase, that as governor of Virginia he effectively used pronouncements to build public support for his policies, and that as President, he used his diplomatic, cabinet, and military experience to proclaim what became known as the Monroe Doctrine. The author's praise for Monroe should have been balanced by some questions about Monroe's ambition (and possible vanity). For example, during the War of 1812, how far did Monroe undermine Secretary of War John Armstrong so that he could take over the post himself? VERDICT Like Gary Hart's James Monroe, in the Times Books series of short presidential biographies, Unger's work will appeal to a more popular audience, especially those who enjoy presidential history or studying the Founding Fathers. Historians and history students should read as well but will still rely on Ammon.—Bryan Craig, MLS, Nellysford, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Cogent reexamination of a relatively neglected American icon. James Monroe (1758-1831) was a major guiding force in the territorial expansion of the country, argues historian Unger (America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation, 2007, etc.). Monroe was a key negotiator of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which effectively doubled the nation's territory overnight. More importantly, as the nation's fifth president he kept the country safe from outside attack via the Monroe Doctrine, an 1823 policy that warned European governments that colonization or interference with U.S. states would be viewed as an act of war. As a result, pioneers felt safe enough to trek westward and settle in faraway lands. Less prominent than some of the other Founding Fathers, he was nonetheless present at many major historical events in the revolutionary struggle. As a student in Virginia, he was inspired by Patrick Henry's "give me liberty, or give me death" speech at Richmond in 1775. A soldier under General Washington, he holds the flag in Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Monroe was also Secretary of State and Secretary of War during the War of 1812, the first true military challenge to the nascent United States. Unger ably explains how these experiences later informed Monroe's pragmatic and confident leadership style. The author's treatment of Monroe's relationship with wife Elizabeth is somewhat less interesting and invites unfavorable comparison to David McCullough's excellent John Adams (2001), which used John's correspondence with Abigail in effective and revelatory ways. Still, Unger makes a solid and cohesiveargument for Monroe's importance in the early years of the United States, even if he goes too far in his enthusiasm by calling predecessors Adams, Madison and Jefferson "mere caretaker presidents."A worthy attempt to rescue Monroe from obscurity for a mainstream audience. Regional author tour around Washington, D.C. Agent: Edward Knappman/New England Publishing Associates
From the Publisher
Dead Presidents website, 10/19/10
“What stands out most about Unger’s book is the clarity and ease of the author’s writing…I read a lot of books about Presidents that I already know a lot about, but this book taught me more about a single President than I have learned in years…James Monroe deserves his place amongst the giants of our Founding, and Harlow Giles Unger has forever ensured it.”, 1/27/11
“This book is so full of interesting connections and characters that it is impossible to do it justice in the space of a review…This book is a pleasure to read and the wonderful use of illustrations augments it.”

Journal of Southern History, May 2011
“Unger shows how the public and private commitments of early American diplomats were sometimes intertwined.”

The Waterline, 10/6/11
“Unger writes an excellent biography, and dissects the major events that would shape our young nation…A fine read.”

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Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

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