“The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness” is one of the most recent of author Harlow Unger‘s nearly two dozen books. He is a former journalist, broadcaster and professor and has written biographies of John Quincy Adams, Patrick Henry, Lafayette and George Washington, among many others.
Unger’s biography of Monroe is, on a basic level, extremely readable and entertaining, but excessively opinionated and needlessly provocative. In contrast to Harry Ammon’s “James Monroe” (where the author seems reluctant to stray from the facts and offer his own opinions) Unger’s praise is consistent and one-sided. The reader almost begins to wonder if Monroe himself has been reincarnated as Harlow Unger.
To its credit “The Last Founding Father: James Monroe” manages to animate the fifth president in a way that Ammon was unable in his lengthier biography. And in many ways, Unger describes what seems the classic American success story: a person born into modest circumstances and without the benefit of…
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