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The Last Founding Father


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About the Author

A former Distinguished Visiting Fellow in American History at Mount Vernon, Harlow Giles Unger is the author of sixteen books, including six biographies of America's Founding Fathers. He lives in New York.


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 Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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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