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James Monroe: The American Presidents Series: The 5th President, 1817-1825 (American Presidents (Times)) Hardcover – September 15, 2005

3.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Hardcover, September 15, 2005
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Neither as literary as Josiah Bunting III's Ulysses S. Grant (2004) nor as utterly revelatory as Charles W. Calhoun's Benjamin Harrison (2005), Hart's presentation of the first genuinely forgotten president is just as absorbingly eye-opening. Now known only for the "doctrine" bearing his name, Monroe (1758-1831) was a career soldier, diplomat, and politician. A Jefferson-Madison protege, he differed with them on two crucial matters: a standing military and a national bank. He shared their enthusiasm for westward expansion but realized that a permanent military was needed to defend development against major imperial powers, and he eventually budgeted to build it. To prevent government bankruptcy from real crises, such as the War of 1812 (in which he participated in the battle for Baltimore), he advocated a national bank. So doing, he increased central government authority and in the Monroe Doctrine flexed its muscles. Moreover, although he was a southerner, he signed the Missouri Compromise that staved off secession for 40 years. He was arguably a greater president than either of his mentors. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Gary Hart represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 1975 to 1987. He is the author of fourteen books, and has taught at Yale, the University of California, and Oxford University, where he earned a doctor of philosophy degree in politics. He was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century
and is currently senior counsel to the multinational law firm Coudert Brothers. He resides with his family in Kittredge, Colorado.


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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidents (Times)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (October 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ric Haupt on March 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I don't often write reviews, but I thought this book deserves one. Having read over 10 of the books from the American President Series, this is the weak link. I was skeptical by a book authored by Gary Hart, but I trusted the series since all the other books were solid works. Hart quotes Henry Ammon so much that you may as well read Ammon's book on James Monroe, published only 15 years prior to this. Hart also repeats himself often. Although this is a minor complaint, the chapters could use some subdivisions. Again, if you are looking for a good biography on James Monroe, you'll probably want to read Henry Ammon's version.
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Format: Hardcover
The uneven quality of the the America Presidents Series makes it difficult to unequivocally recommend the whole series. Some are fascinating and engaging, some are more difficult to read because of the writers' style. But all that I have read are helpful in understanding American history and American presidents.
Senator Hart's addition to these works, James Monroe, is one of those that requires more effort on the reader's part to remain engaged. Periodic repetition of specific statements within a chapter makes readers wonder if they have accidentally moved back a page or two.
However, there is a detailed and interesting overview of the Monroe Doctrine contained in this book. That chapter concludes with an important comparison of Monroe's doctrine and the current administration's policy related to involvement in international affairs. This thought provoking portion of the book alone is worth the purchase price.
As the title indicates the text primarily covers Monroe's presidency. But it does detail Monroe's diplomatic experience leading up to his two terms. It also covers enough of his relationship with John Quincy Adams to spark interest in more reading about the next president. In all, the book was informative and worth the effort to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Having Gary Hart write about James Monroe is one of the more inspired ideas this series has conjured up. Hart understandably frames Monroe's career around the idea of him as the nation's first national security president, and most of the book deals with the Monroe Doctrine.

This is good, but it does so to the deteriment of virtually every other issue during the Monroe Administration, including a very cursory mention of the Missouri Compromise. This is one of the book's weaknesses.

Hart also can't resist a cheap shot at the Bush Administration, taking it to task for projecting the Monroe Doctrine worldwide via the War on Terror/Iraq. A very cogent argument, except that the Monroe Doctrine was never mentioned as justification for Bush's military moves, and Hart earlier in the book says that Monroe believed in vigorous projection of American power in the service of democratic ideals. One senses Hart's discomfort would not be shared by Monroe.

This series continues to be very enjoyable, and this is a worthy addition.
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Format: Hardcover
letting his own political bias show through at the end. This is a well written, concise, very readable biography of the first "national security" president. Monroe is one of the most underrated and under appreciated presidents in our nation's history. Hart's book should help assuage that injustice. I have only two criticisms. Hart seemed to take the easy way out by utilizing previous research rather than conducting his own in the use of innumerable quotes from other biographers/historians. This in no way detracted from the book. It just seems to say, "Why do my own research when I can use what others have done before me?" My second criticism is that Hart injected a totally superfluous and politically biased conclusion to his discussion of the Monroe Doctrine by slamming the Bush administration and attempting to advance his own political agenda. Viewing Hart as a politician, I respect his right to do that. Viewing Hart as a biographer/historian, I lament the fact that he felt compelled to prostitute his otherwise commendable book for the sake of partisan politics.
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Format: Hardcover
JAMES MONROE by Gary Hart is a short (150 pages) biography of our fifth president in a series (The American Presidents edited by Arthur M. chlesinger, Jr.) of such biographies by notable biographers. Other works in the series include Theodore Roosevelt by Louis Auchincloss, William Howard Taft by Lewis H. Lapham and James Madison by Garry Wills.

This is certainly not an exhaustive work, but it was a good introduction to the presidency of a man I wasn't very familiar with. Hart focuses primarily on Monroe's pursuit of national security, and the book is organized around this thesis. It is lighter on personal details about Monroe, and pays more attention not even to just Monroe's career, but to his career's dedication to the safety and security of the new nation.

Hart compellingly illustrates Monroe's career by writing about his relationships with others, and this is instructive. Hart writes of Washintong's mentorship of Monroe, as well as of Jefferson's grooming of Monroe for his political career (Monroe is the final of the Revolutionary War presidents) and Madison's friendship, competition and also leadership in Monroe's life. Hart makes a case that while Monroe benefited from these relationships, he was not merely a follower of these other men. He held steady to his own opinions, even when he disagreed with any of these powerful mentors. Monroe was not as intellectual as Madison or Jefferson -- he was more on the soldier side of that continuum -- but he wasn't led by them, either.

The book also demonstrates something I was unaware of: the strong relationship between Monroe and John Quincy Adams (next on my list!). In fact, Hart addresses the hypothesis many have that JQA was the one primarily responsible for the Monroe Doctrine. I found this fascinating.
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