Just over a year ago I decided to read at least one biography about each U.S. President. So far I have read the following.
His Excellency George Washington by Joseph-Ellis
- John Adams by David McCullough
- Thomas Jefferson by R.B. Bernstein
- James Madison a Biography by Ralph Ketcham
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
On my recent road trip I finished reading James Monroe – The Quest for National Identity by Harry Ammon. Monroe served in the revolutionary war, participated in the formation of the United States, was an ambassador to France, a senator, secretary of state and served from 1817 to 1825 as President of the United States. Reading this book I gained an enormous admiration for Monroe's dedication, his hard work, his intelligence and his leadership.
According to Ammon, Monroe lived in an "age of reticence (and of much prudery as well)…. in Monroe's day it was customary for political figures to destroy papers of a personal character. Only one letter from Monroe to his wife survives, and the only specimens of her hand are in the form of signatures on legal documents…………..Therefore, a biography of Monroe must be essentially political in nature"
It is disappointing that nothing can really be written about Monroe's personal life. But I still liked this book. It is a political history of the U.S. during Monroe's life. It is a credit to Ammon that he can make politics so readable.