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James Monroe (American Presidents (Times)) [Hardcover]

Gary Hart
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (5 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069600
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.6 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 760,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Gary Hart's contribution to the Times' series of presidential biographies, an overview of the life and presidency of James Monroe, feels uneven and disjointed.

It is clear that Hart has a view of Monroe that he is passionate about and that he articulates well; he considers Monroe to be America's first `national security president'. It is a bold take on a president often considered the inferior of those who came before him and the chapter devoted to the Monroe doctrine is by far the most interesting in the book.

Unfortunately this chapter and analysis is focused at the rear of the book and to get to them you have to persevere through a plodding, unenthusiastic account of Monroe's life and relationships with other politicians of the era. This part of the book is bland and lifeless, lacking the infectious enthusiasm of the later parts of the biography. All too frequently his style is awkward and simplistic, resembling an undergraduate essay more than a biography for a popular audience.

The problem is that there is a mismatch of individual style and intention with that of the Times' range. Hart clearly has an excellent book in him about the Monroe doctrine and its implications for American foreign policy. However, saddled with the need to write a more general overview of his presidency, the focus here is split and the change of style between the first two thirds and the last is jarring.

The result is a book that neither works as an introduction to Monroe, nor as a focused examination of an aspect of his policy. Given the high standard of many of the books in this series, unfortunately this volume simply disappoints.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a Doctrine! 17 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this short Bio of the 5th President.

As a Republican which at the time meant you did not want a Central Bank or a Standing Military he stood in favour of these things with a view to the national security of the country and it was from this that we eventually get to the Munroe Doctrine....basically a hands off North and South American territories from European colonial powers...as well as the reverse that the USA would have no part in colonial powers disputes with each other.

Described in one of the best quotes in the book, thus...

"i know only two things about the Munro Doctrine, one is that no American i have met knows what it is, the other is that no American i have met will consent to its being tampered with.....i conclude that the Munro Doctrine is not a doctrine but a dogma,... not one dogma but two, to wit:the dogma of the infallibility of the American President and the dogma of the immaculate conception of American foreign policy"

So if this sounds like the USA of today also perhaps a read of the motivations of the Man that came up with it would be worth understanding
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars rchaupt 28 Mar 2006
By Ric Haupt - Published on Amazon.com
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.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction 28 Sep 2005
By Buck Leonard - Published on Amazon.com
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars James Monroe : [The American Presidents Series] 11 Mar 2006
By Roger Friesen - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Bad Hart Couldn't Resist.... 13 Jan 2006
By joham - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Look at Our Fifth President 3 Jun 2008
By Stacey M Jones - Published on Amazon.com
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.

I was gratified to understand more fully the ramifications of Monroe's policy decisions and statements -- this is not just a past-tense work. As a contemporary politico, Hart can add and interpret his subject matter in a particularly cogent way.

Hart's thesis is stated very well, and it's what makes this book an interesting and fairly quick read (though it's not long, it's not really material for "skimming" -- I had to slow down and pay close attention): Hart states that Monroe was "claiming a new ground" for republicanism in America when he became president, and this shift was what made him innovative. It also may have mitigated the strength of his long-term reputation because he forged new territory beyond what his mentor Jefferson and his predecessor, Madison, had done.

I enjoyed this book and will look to this series in the future for biographies of the presidents of the United States.
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