- 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: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (Signature Series)
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"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).
Top customer reviews
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Ammon really had to be a good writer to make this book work. Transitions are smooth, paragraphs are clearly laid out, and the chapters are divided well. The book has a couple weaknesses. Ammon assumes the reader has a fairly thorough background to begin with. Names are sometimes brought into the text without an explanation of prior context. Another weakness is that Ammon gives short shrift to the role of slavery in Monroe’s personal life. Given the limited personal information available on Monroe, this book is primarily a political biography and in that context Ammon spends quite a bit of time explaining the politics of slavery and Monroe’s place in that debate. That is covered in some detail. But I wish the book had at least a portion of a chapter on just how much slavery was a personal factor in Monroe’s life. Given how Monroe tried to make a living, it had to have been huge. In a few instances Ammon mentions that slaves and slavery factored into Monroe’s financial problems with his farm and other holdings. It is hard to tell if Ammon had much more available to work with in the specific instance of Monroe. In any case, the reader has to be content with the politics of slavery.
Aside from these issues, Ammon’s biography of Monroe will give the reader enormous amounts of information about war and politics in Monroe’s lifetime. The book is a tour de force on this president. Monroe did not have the mind of Jefferson or Madison, but he was reflective and careful in all his decisions. Ammon spells this out well. I recommend the book for anyone interested in this period of American history and who has the time to read this dense but well-written book. It is a detailed picture of the world as Monroe saw and experienced it.
Another strength of the book is how well Ammon covers the careers of the contenders for the presidency in 1825 (JQ Adams, Crawford, Clay, and Jackson). Most authors tend to be biased in their writings on these polarizing figures, but Ammon is fair in his judgments. He also goes beyond JQA's diary as a source for Crawford, which is a big plus since JQA loathed (probably with good reason) Crawford.
The writing is more scholarly than memorable, so it can be tough slogging at points. Also, the book is sparse on analysis and interpretation. It is subtitled "Quest for National Identity," but I don't see that Ammon makes the case for how Monroe was involved in the creation of the American identity. He is actually much more interested in Monroe's relations with the dying Federalist Party and how the four-way presidential election of 1825 affected Monroe's second term than he is with the formation of a national identity.
Overall, the book is well worth reading, but it's not an easy read and Ammon could have done better at relating the significance of Monroe.
I would consider Monroe the Eisenhower of the 1800s. He did a lot and doesn't seem to get a lot of credit for it. I don't think credit was what Monroe was after.
He played a key role in both the military and political history of the country and the author did a great job in depicting both. I especially liked the authors discussion of Monroe's role in reaching agreements with G.B., France, Spain, Russia, Portugal, etc.
Obviously we all know about the Monroe Doctrine, but the author went into great detail in other key areas and detailed his relationships with other important men from his era.
It may be longer than most would want to read, but if you want to read a really great book on a great President that is well constructed, flows well and is detailed enough to highlight the key and not so key aspects of a Presidency. This is the book on Monroe you should read.
It is a very thorough review of our fifth president's entire life. I found that it did well to not focus on the Monroe Doctrine, showing him for who he was, not as history remembers him to be, as simply the author of the Doctrine.
This book portrays James Monroe as a hard working member of the Republican Party, who gradually rose through the ranks to become the evident choice as the successor to his friend and fellow Virginian, James Madison. Not because he was charismatic or a genius, but simply because he was a good man who served his party well, and would not cause infighting amongst other members of the party.
If you're looking to learn more about our early presidents, by all means, pick up this book. But if you're looking for a book about a charismatic hero of the revolutionary era, it certainly isn't going to be about James Monroe.