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.
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.
...[a] dense, painstaking biography ... McGrath makes a convincing case for Monroe’s pivotal role in American history, but occasionally grinds the narrative to a halt with accounts of endless partisan debates, political bickering, and diplomatic maneuvers. This exhaustive deep-dive corrects the record on one of America’s most overlooked founding fathers.