Tim McGrath has written two award-winning winning books about the early history of the United States Navy: Give Me a Fast Ship and John Barry. For his third book, he switched gears to tackle an oft-overlooked soldier, lawyer, politician, and president: James Monroe. In what will likely be the definitive Monroe biography, McGrath tackles the entirety of our fifth president’s life. Born in 1758, Monroe joined the American army in the Revolution’s early days until he was sidelined with a serious wound at Trenton.
As McGrath tells it, the story of Monroe’s early life was a constant search for a mentor and sponsor, which eventually landed him on William “Lord Stirling” Alexander’s staff. It was enough to bring him the attention and lukewarm friendship or support of many of the army’s leading lights and the country’s future leaders, but not enough to really launch his career. Eventually, he landed a legal apprenticeship with Virginia’s Governor Thomas Jefferson. It changed Monroe’s life, giving him a path forward professionally, politically, and intellectually.
Continue reading “Review: James Monroe: A Life by Tim McGrath (New York: Dutton, 2020)”