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.
©2009 Harlow Giles Unger; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"[A] cogent reexamination of a relatively neglected American icon...Unger makes a solid and cohesive argument for Monroe's importance in the early years of the United States....A worthy attempt to rescue Monroe from obscurity for a mainstream audience." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[A] well-written biography...Unger presents the fifth president as a man of independence and initiative rather than merely a disciple of Jefferson, Madison, and John Quincy Adams...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." (Library Journal)
I am not a historian, but after having listened to several books about revolutionary era history and politics I found it difficult to listen to this one. Unger's Monroe almost never makes an error in judgement, is single-handedly responsible for America's post-Madison economic boom, and is heroic to all of his time. Even George Washington doesn't get this kind of hero worship - at least not in Chernow's "Washington, A Life".
That said, as a work of hero worship it is engaging and well written, and well performed by McConnohie. If historical perspective and balance is not your goal you will likely enjoy listening to it.
At the time I read it it was the only biography of Monroe on Audible so I can't suggest you to listen to a different one. However, if you're going to read it keep your skepticism on guard.
James Monroe was an important and interesting character. Unger makes him uninteresting and a saint. There are an excessive number of factual errors to add to the mix. There are several good biographies of Monroe. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. The reading is overly dramatic but it does fit the author's intent quite well.
Most of us know him merely as a name in the list of Presidents. This enlightening book shows him as so much more. He brought real change to America and set our nation on a course toward greatness. He was devoted to his family and to his country.
This book is very well written and the audio version is very entertaining as well as informative. This is one of the few books that I plan to listen to again
The prologue to Unger's book had me worried by the number of superlatives he used to describe Monroe. As I got further into the book, I realized Unger's Monroe was a saint, practically perfect in every way. I found this book to be a one-dimensional portrait of a man, not Unger's saint, whose main legacy, largely ignored by Unger, was bitter party politics (witness the election of 1824) and a refusal to address in any meaningful way the festering sore of slavery.
In this biography Harlow Giles Unger brings us a portrait of a man who few know much about today. Born in colonial Virginia Monroe was orphaned at a young age. He took on the responsibility of raising his younger siblings. When the American Revolution broke out Monroe joined up. He became an officer, was wounded at the Battle of Trenton, was decorated by Washington. He served as a Congressman, a Senator, as Governor of Virginia, and as Ambassador to the French Republic. Later he would serve as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under James Madison. He would then succeed Madison as President.
This book has its good and bad points. It is well written and should be easy for the general reader. It is quite informative and gives a good portrait of Monroe. On the downside the author tries a little to hard to build up Monroe by pulling down others around him. Monroe was a firm supporter of the French Revolution and, like Jefferson and Madison, cheered on the slaughter of the former ruling class. This is played down considerably in this book. The author also finds it necessary to try and pull down the character of both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Since the younger Adams was the Secretary of State during Monroe's presidency much credit is given to him for the success of the United States in that era. Unger tries to argue that Monroe was the better diplomat. The only reason that he gives is that Monroe was ambassador to France and Adams was not. He ignores the fact that Adams had been involved in Foreign service for most of his life, including a stint as the secretary and interpreter to the first US ambassador to Russia when he was a young teenager. Adams had served as Ambassador to Prussia and Russia. He had helped to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent. To dismiss his many accomplishments with a single backhanded comment was quite uncalled for.
It is a good book and is well worth reading.
According to Unger, Monroe almost single handily saved America during the War of 1812 and ushered in a post-partisan era of good-feelings. Unger describes pre-cotton slavery as a 'paternalistic' institution (with no hint of sarcasm) and provides an extremely lopsided account of US, native American wars - describing the atrocities that Native Americans committed but not those of the US.
Yet despite Unger's (very) skewed narrative, I found the book fun to listen to. He makes early America come to life in a way that more reflective biographies often fail to.
A timely reminder of a great, self made patriot and world stateman. It brings into focus the courage of a young nation to defend the cause of the freedom of nations and individuals.
I'm sure James Monroe was a great guy and one of our best Presidents, but this book makes him out to be flawless. Every part of his life or legacy that could be seen as potentially negative is blamed on someone else. Other great men of the era are belittled in the attempt to make James Monroe seem to be the greatest person to have ever walked the planet. James Madison in particular is portrayed as incompetent, weak, and completely dependent on the mighty Monroe. History has judged the two friends and Presidents to be basically equal. The Monroe worship doesn't really start until the last third of the book. Overall it is a good depiction of the life of the 5th President, but I wold have liked it more if Monroe were depicted without the halo.
I usually can stand hagiography. I take it with a grain of salt. But this one is so over the top that I'm bailing after an hour. I think it might go down a little better in print. The melodramatic reading puts it beyond my ability to continue past the first hour.
I'd like to know more about James Monroe. But surely there's a better biography out there somewhere.
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