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on December 9, 2017
I liked the book, told a compelling story about a great founding father. The problem with the book is the not unusual tendancy of the author to becoming a cheering section for the subject of their work, rather than a chronicler, to the point of attempting to deminish other significant persons (I presume thinking it elevates their subject) rather than just telling the story of their subject, i.e., editorializing. I guess this falls in the category of historians tend to shape history to their own view of history rather than just telling the story. Now the author may say that if I don't like the telling then I can write my own book. Fair enough, but in my view this author didn't need to be quite so one sided regarding at least one relationship, and if one that I could see, where their other incorrect representations that I knew less about that I was misguided about. Enough of the generalizations ... The specific issue I found was the author's complete dismissal of the significance of the presidency of James Madison; if fact more than just dismissal but derision of it. Madison was not there subject of the book, the rude treatment of Madison did nothing to promote Monroe, just, without sufficient explanation, dismissed Madison's presidency and accomplishments. (Long rant, but a pet peeve on histories/biography writers; much prefer more evenhanded treatment).

On other elements of the book thought the beginning a little thin (and maybe there just isn't sufficient information available to flesh out the story) but by the time the story moved into Monroe's national service years was well written and informative. The rating maybe should be a 3.5 but that's not an option, maybe even a 4 but not higher. I have much preferred McCullough or Chernow's works; any of their books).
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on October 8, 2017
Fifth president. Two terms. Served as an officer in the Revolutionary War under Washington. Became governor of Virginia and ambassador to France, Spain and England. Negotiated the Louisiana Purchase between the United States and Napoleon, thereby doubling the size of our country. Secretary of state under Madison and became acting secretary of war during the War of 1812 against the British. As president, he worked closely with his secretary of state John Quincy Adams and general Andrew Jackson to wrest control of Florida and the Oregon Territory from Spain, thereby establishing territorial security for the nation. His most lasting achievement was delivering the Monroe Doctrine during his seventh annual address to congress, which declared the entire Western Hemisphere off limits to future colonization by European countries.

As presidential biographies go, I found "The Last Founding Father" by Unger to be well written and easy to read, complete with maps. It was a bit skimpy in parts, but I feel it hit all the main points.
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on March 22, 2012
Mr. Unger sets the bar high for his subject when on the Acknowledgments and Dedication page he describes; "...James Monroe as the most significant Founding Father after George Washington".

He goes on to produce a very thorough ~400-page biography of our fifth President - full of things we may have known, but now detailed and well retold, as well as many things we (the average reader) did not know about the man, his remarkable career and his family. The author's observation (page 2) that, "Washington's three successors - John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison - were mere caretaker presidents who left the nation bankrupt, its people deeply divided, its borders under attack, its capital city in ashes" - rouses the reader's interest, establishes the tone and encourages the read to come.

What does come - despite the rhetoric - is delivered in a very even-handed and professional manner. I did not find the unfairness or bias detected by other reviewers here. The style and conclusions at times can be zealous, but certainly not unsupported, or implausible. By example, Mr. Unger offers a full spectrum of possibilities in his explanation for the rift between Monroe and his colleagues Madison and Jefferson (page 199) through the presentation of a number of historian's conclusions. In the end Mr. Unger suggests human foibles and pride as the cause for the breakup.

Despite the author's high-admiration for his subject - the reader is often left wondering whether or not pure happenstance is as much a factor as heroics in many of the enormous events of the era. Was the Louisiana Purchase the legitimate "catch" of Mr. Monroe, or Mr. Livingston... or would Napoleon Bonapart have virtually "handed" the prize to any American envoy that President Jefferson might have sent? Mr. Unger suggests Mr. Monroe - but does not convince. Other matters of character or judgement are left quietly unexplored. For example, the damning Reynolds Dossier - a packet of proofs that ultimately destroy Alexander Hamilton are left for safekeeping with Mr. Jefferson, by Mr. Monroe. The dossier is subsequently shown to the press. Mr. Unger clearly believes Monroe above duplicity, but leaves the issue unexplored, except of course for the obvious deception of Mr. Jefferson. Could Mr. Monroe really have been "above" politics even at that most partisan of times?

In the end, a number of events akin to the examples above make the reader feel that the author has set the bar too high for his subject, but no-matter Mr. Unger's research and skill with the written word make the book a very worthwhile and enlightening read.

-----kindle edition-----

Generally well done with the expected hyperlinks. There are numerous portraits and maps that are worthwhile to the read. The maps especially are somewhat tortured by the resolution of the kindle. The book does have hardbound page number locations which are displayed (page bottom) from the menu & toolbars display (tap page top). The index - which can be a very valuable tool in a biography - is worthless. It contains neither page number nor hyperlink - merely a shell of what should have been, despite the full price extracted for an e-book by the publisher, Da Capo Press. e-Book publication quality, ★★☆☆☆.
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on November 2, 2013
Exellently written, based on thorough, sound research and an abundance of source material without loosing sight of the grander intrnational historic setting. The author has optimally combined the personal aspects, reflecting on Monroe's character, the personal material circumstances and his family life with the multidude of problems besetting a young, vulnerable nation experimenting with democracy; a nation still very much influenced by its colonial past.
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on November 12, 2017
This book was very good. I know I will be reading it again.
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on July 15, 2014
An excellent work for those of us who love history but aren't historians. I love in depth books but I also have a lot of interests as it pertains to history so I would rather not read an epic about any single individual. This work was the perfect fit. Very well written and keeps the reader interested with a good mix of personal and professional life. My only complaint is that I would have preferred a little bit more information regarding President Monroe's role in establishing Monrovia in Africa... since his stance on slavery is the one horrible blemish on his record.
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on August 1, 2017
Very good and informative biography
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on September 27, 2017
A great read. Smooth and quick. Unger does good!
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on December 19, 2014
The book by one of our nations illustrious historian has done justice to a great and very far sighted president. It was President Monroe's genius and his doctrine that has kept our country safe in many ways and on the path of progress and development. The region and this hemisphere owes a lot to him..
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on February 9, 2010
James Monroe, as the last founding father to serve in the White House truly does close an era of history. Unfortunatley both he and Elizabeth Monroe have been largely overlooked by history to our detriment since there is much to learn from this family.

As a young man Monroe joined the revolutionary cause and fought bravely for this country, surviving a life threatening wound. Following in Washington's footsteps he didn't accept payment for his service. This would set the stage for a lifetime of financial sacrifice in his country's service.

His political career included serving as a foreign diplomat, senator, and as a governor that forever changed the role of Governor of Virginia, and finally Preisdent of the United States.

Unger portrays Monroe as an affable man who knew how to nurture relationships, queit until pushed by passion to act boldly even disregarding the Constitution at times, politically astute, a true unifer as he destroyed the two party political system for a time, and a visionary who successfully increased the land mass of the country and set forth the famous Monroe Doctrine.

Elizabeth Monroe is portrayed as a fascinating, beautiful, highly educated and courageous woman. Thier marriage and dedication to each other rival John and Abigail Adams.

Unger does an incredible job of completely telling the story of James Monroe and providing important details where they belong. For those who find biographies fraught with too much detail that will not be an issue here. Those who want a complete understanding of the subject will find it with Unger.
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