The extraordinary life of James Monroe: soldier, senator, diplomat, and the last Founding Father to hold the presidency, a man who helped transform thirteen colonies into a vibrant and mighty republic.
Tim McGrath’s biography...shows how Monroe’s character and experiences over a long career shaped his doctrine: a worthy capstone of an interesting public life ... Mr. McGrath, an independent scholar whose specialty is the naval history of the American Revolution, writes enough lively phrases—the young Lafayette had 'a nearly unbearable exuberance'—to make the reader wish he had written more. Still, James Monroe: A Life capably tells the story of a man who missed greatness, but achieved competence—something not every president has done.
... the appearance of James Monroe: A Life by Tim McGrath marks the first 700-page popular narrative reassessment of the man in quite some time ... McGrath, author of two other terrific books on early America, neatly sums up some of the key fascinations of Monroe in the long view of history ... McGrath draws a convincingly complex portrait of this first of the post-Founder presidents, a figure who more than any other in his era gave preliminary shape to both the office and the nation on the world stage. All of Monroe’s successors would live in the framework of the presidency he erected. This, too, is an ambiguous legacy – and McGrath is cautiously aware of that fact.
McGrath, whose wide-ranging research is evident from the extensive list of primary sources, considers Monroe's legacy as 'put[ting] his country on the world stage, for better and worse, for all time.' It’s a sturdy, straightforward text that will appeal to fans of presidential biographies, if not general readers ... A proficient, readable life, though McGrath does not convincingly explain why a new biography on Monroe is necessary now.