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James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (Signature Series) Hardcover – June 30, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0945707219 ISBN-10: 0945707215

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Product Details

  • Series: Signature Series
  • Hardcover: 706 pages
  • Publisher: American Political Biography Press (June 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945707215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945707219
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This monumental survey of James Monroe's life and career is exhaustively researched and documented, a work of patient and perceptive scholarship that sheds a good deal of light on the politics and personalities of the early American Republic.

(Publishers Weekly )

"From Monroe's birth on the Virginia Tidewater, through his service in the revolutionary army, the Confederation Congress, the United States Senate, and as governor of Virginia, to his diplomatic missions, exertions in Madison's cabinet, and presidency, we now have a detailed authoritative recording of that remarkable career.. One feels sure that we now have, for a long time to come, the book on Monroe to which all will turn.

(Ralph Ketcham Virginia Magazine of History and Biography ) --Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

Harry Ammon is Professor Emeritus off History at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He is also the author of The Genet Mission (1973).

Customer Reviews

This book is an excellent biography of James Monroe.
Matt McBrien
Bauer does a workmanlike job detailing Taylor's life but he avoids a lot of the controversy by not making some pretty basic judgments into Taylor's character.
Thomas A. Wheeler
Ammon's writing style is refreshingly easy to read and the information is very well organized.
G. Zilly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 67 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on June 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
If it were not for the "Monroe Doctrine" the fifth president of the United States would likely be as unknown to the average American as Martin Van Buren or Millard Fillmore. Yet, in this distinguished biography by Harry Ammon, first published in 1971, James Monroe emerges from the shadows of his good friends and fellow early Virginian presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, to receive due credit for his significant contribution to the formation of the American republic.
Some historians have criticized James Monroe as a man of modest talent who provided the country with feckless leadership during the crucial international, economic and political crises of his times - the collapse of the Spanish empire in the Western Hemisphere, the Panic of 1819, and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, respectively. However, Ammon argues rather persuasively that these critiques are either unfair or overblown. Monroe's conduct in the White House was guided by his deeply held republican principles, which maintained that executive power was subject to strict limitations. To compare Monroe's leadership performance to that of 21st presidents is, in Ammon's opinion, supremely unjust.
But even taking such thoughts into consideration, the truth is James Monroe was not a great man - and Ammon doesn't claim that he was. He notes, for instance, that the correspondence between Jefferson and Madison covered a full range of intellectual topics, from philosophy and science to government and literature, whereas letters to Monroe kept strictly to practical political concerns.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on July 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Though published over thirty years ago, it is easy to see at a glance why Ammon has never been bettered. This is an exhaustive examination of the political life of our fifth president -- and an exhausting one. Ammon goes through Monroe's life with a thoroughness that makes this a book an excellent source of information about Monroe, but at the price of making it an excruciatingly dull read at times. If you want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about Monroe's political career or about diplomacy in the Federalist Era, then this is your book; otherwise, I would recommend either Noble Cunningham's The Presidency of James Monroe or the volume on Monroe in "The American Presidents" series.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Greg the Librarian on March 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I can't say that I agree with the previous reviewers. I too have been reading the biographies of each president in order, and I must say that Ammon's work is the least satisfying one I have read thus far. Unlike Flexner's work on Washington or Malone's work on Jefferson, Ammon's work gives a rather superficial portrait of Monroe the man, and his discussion of contemporary events isn't very detailed; Ammon presumes the general reader has a more detailed knowledge of 19th century history than may be warranted. Granted, after reading this book, I knew a little more about what James Monroe did (enough to answer some Trivial Pursuit questions), but I still don't feel as if I truly understood the man, his motivations, his character, his times and his impact.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
As an amateur historian, I have set out to read a biography of each U.S. President. Harry Ammon's book was among the best that I read. Ammon presents history as a great story, filled with larger than life characters. The book clearly explains the politics of the day and gives the reader a definite understanding of the often overlooked President Monroe. This book is a triumph and an unexpected page-turner.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A. Wheeler on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
James Monroe by Ammon

Over the last several years, I've read biographies of the first 40 presidents. I've usually used Amazon readers to guide my selections. At the end of this review is a rating of these biographies.

James Monroe was the last of the founding fathers to be president and he is one of most underrated statesmen and presidents. During the Revolutionary War he served with George Washington. Later he was minister to France and Secretary of State. Aside from Washington he is the only president to run for a second term without opposition. He was an excellent diplomat. His cabinet included John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun , and it can be argued this was the most effective cabinet and administration of the 19th century. Monroe is closely linked with fellow Virginians, Madison and Jefferson, and while he does not rank as a genius or philosopher with this pair, he was probably a better leader than either. Monroe's political style was to solve problems, be diplomatic, and develop consensus. Ammon's accounts of 12 hour cabinet meetings demonstrate this style of governance. Monroe also believed in a limited presidency . He consistently chose to respect the separation of powers, and at times limited his effectiveness out of respect for the Constitution.

Ammon's biography is better than serviceable. It shines during Monroe's early years and his presidency. The book often drags during the middle third. My sense is this is because Monroe was more of a peripheral figure during these years, and this biography tends towards a tangential sense of history during this section.
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