Jacki: James Monroe

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness, by Harlow Giles Unger

Alright, there are a lot of little things that I want to talk about that have absolutely no relation to one another so bulleted list it is!

  • Harlow Giles Unger is maybe the best historian name I’ve ever heard of.  Andcheck him out.  He even looks the part.  I love it.
  • I don’t know why it never occurred to me before starting this challenge, but I keep being surprised at how much overlap there is in these biographies.  I know that these first five guys were major parts of each other’s lives, but I really didn’t know that before I got started and I think it’s fun that I’ve already been introduced (several times) to the next few presidents I’ll be reading about.  It could make the reading a bit monotonous, except I sort of like hearing the different takes on the same events.
  • After I got done reading this, I sent Shaun and IM that said, “I think James Monroe is my second favorite founding father.”  Seriously. Ha.
  • Here’s the thing: I know that the author probably skipped over the sketchy parts of Monroe’s character and focused more on the good he did, but I’d rather that than a complete focus on his faults like in the Jefferson biography I read.  I’m not a historian though, so this honestly didn’t bother me one bit.
  • So Monroe pretty much doubled the size of our country for just a few bucks.  Way impressive and influential.
  • After I finish with my presidential challenge, I think I’m going to want to go back and read about Alexander Hamilton.  He is the villain in just about every one of these biographies.  And? Killed in a duel? Wild. I’m intrigued.
  • I loved the “family  man” side of James Monroe.  I think it is sweet how his wife and daughter traveled everywhere with him and they refused to be apart for long periods of time.  That is exactly the kind of first lady I would be.
  • Am I the only one who didn’t know that the guy standing by Washington in the picture of him crossing the Delaware is James Monroe?  Well it is.  Now you know.
  • I pretty much loved this book.  I thought that it was engaging and compelling and painted a crisp picture not only of James Monroe but the place/times that he lived in.  If you are doing the presidential challenge, I recommend this without reservation.

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Jessica: William Henry Harrsion

Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy,  by Robert Owens

If you want to read a book to know more about William Henry Harrison’s lifetime, this is not the book for you. The book really is all about the Origins of the American Indian Policy. It centers mainly around Harrison’s time as govenor of the territory of Illinois and his dealings with the local Indians and trying to buy all the land he could from them.

I understand that most presidential biographies will be written in a scholarly tone, and this one surely is. I would have liked to get more information on Harrison’s upbringing and personal life which I think would give the reader a more familiar feeling for a president that so little is known about, but the author also stated that he wanted to write an impartial biography. Maybe the author felt that if he delved into the more personal aspects of Harrison’s life, it would be difficult to remain impartial.

I read this biography as part of my personal presidential challange and I would encourage anyone else out there doing a presidential challange of their own to pick up a different biography on William Henry Harrison if you want to know more about the man himself.

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