Jennie: James Monroe

The Last Founding Father, by Harlow Giles Unger

This book focuses primarily on James Monroe’s pre-Presidential political life, which I found good and bad. I loved that I learned so much about his work as a Founding Father, and his life abroad because these both deeply impact his Presidential views and decision making. However, I would have like a bit more on his actual time during the Presidency as well. I am learning with each passing biography I read as part of this challenge that I want more – longer books and more details. I have a feeling I will be picking the longer books for the next wave of biographies I order.

After reading this biography, Monroe sticks out in my mind as one of the last “George Washington” type Presidents. He fought in the Revolution – including being wounded and almost dying and he then later lead the country from the Presidential roost. He stayed in politics even when it was by far a monetarily losing career, much like Washington. This is such a powerful image for me. He put his life on the line atop a horse fighting in battle after battle but then also putting his family’s well-being and prosperity on the line for years in order to fight for his country with words in the early government and then using his presence in working on treaties with foreign countries.

One of the big issues in Monroe’s mind was connecting the citizens and communities that had sprung out of the massive growth as the US purchased lands in the continent. He focused a lot of his time, resources and money as a President towards building better roads and canals. I found it fascinating to imagine a country without such now common means of travel.

I love that these biographies are providing insight into my country’s history in ways that extend past the actual Presidents. Pages 249 in this book included a brief history of The Star-Spangled Banner – it was originally called Defense of Fort McHenry as a poem and then set to music in 1815. The song it was set to was a then-popular drinking song. I loved this!

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