Friday, February 21, 2020

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

My book for February was The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness by by Harlow Giles Unger. Drew give me the book for Christmas. It fits into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents.

Monroe led a remarkable life. This resume includes:
  • 5th President of the United States;
  • 8th United States Secretary of War;
  • 7th United States Secretary of State;
  • 12th and 16th Governor of Virginia;
  • 4th United States Minister to the United Kingdom;
  • 5th United States Minister to France;
  • United States Senator;
  • Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation from Virginia, and;
  • Served in the Continental Army.
While he was the ambassador to France, Monroe as involved in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase. As President, he established the Monroe doctrine. Monroe also signed the Missouri Compromise during his second term as President essentially kicking the slavery debate fifty years down the road.

I found three other fascinating stories in the book. First, the collapse of the Federalists left Monroe with no organized opposition at the end of his first term. He ran for reelection unopposed. Without an additional organized political party, a lot different groups, including states, were nominating people in a very chaotic fashion. I hadn't through about what would happen without the political parties. Second, with a number of people jockeying to be president next during his second term and no organized parties to keep everyone focused, Monroe became a lame duck president; he struggled to move anything forward. Third, Monroe and Hamilton also challenged each other to a duel.

Although the author is probably a little too enthusiastic about James Monroe and his place in history, I enjoyed the book. Over the years, I have come to view all biographies with a certain amount of skepticism...

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