The Last Founding Father by Harlow Giles Unger
Published: 2009 | Pages: 347
Unger is so admiring of his subject as to border on the laughable. The good news is that it’s a relatively short and quite readable book. The bad news is that in trying to rescue Monroe from the bowels of history, Unger goes too far the other way and paints an unrealistically rosy picture.
Though the author desperately tries, Monroe’s accomplishments just can’t be compared to those of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, etc. Our fifth president was a good soldier during the Revolution and led the nation for eight years during the so-called “Era of Good Feelings,” which included running unopposed for his 1820 re-election. But darker omens lurked beneath the surface (see: Missouri Compromise of 1820). Basically everything in Pre-Emancipation America was determined by who could get more slaves and keep the ones they already had.
The bummer is that Monroe indeed has a story worth knowing about. Though I’ve not yet read it, I have some hope that the new James Monroe by Tim McGrath is a worthy replacement as the modern go-to.