On the Road with President James Monroe: Review of The Papers of James Monroe, Volume 1: A Documentary History of the Presidential Tours of James Monroe, 1817, 1818, 1819. Edited by Dan Preston and Marlena C. DeLong.
Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 4, Winter 2003. ISSN 0196-7134
The first volume of the long-awaited Papers of James Monroe uses mostly ·1 newspaper accounts, supplemented with correspondence and a few memoirs, to record President Monroe's tour of the northern states in 1817, his short tour of the Chesapeake Bay region in 1818, and his tour of the southern and western states in 1819. According to the introduction, these tours were particularly important because they became political events that "allowed the president to take his ideas directly to the people" (xxvii) and thus contributed, somewhat contrary to Monroe's desire to unify the nation, to the emerging shift of American politics toward more participatory democracy. Even so, one wonders whether it was wise to pull the tours out of the normal progression of Monroe's papers for special attention. Although a traveling president may have been something special, the sort of activities that surrounded his travels-the repetitive routine of welcoming speeches, dinners, and toasts-will be familiar to students of other nineteenth-century politicians, and the concentration in this volume becomes somewhat tiresome. The handsomely produced book runs to over eight hundred oversized pages of text-a heavy volume of near coffee table size. The 1817 tour alone takes more than five hundred pages. The editors should have exercised more selectivity-calendaring or putting more material in footnotes and the publishers might have done better to give up some of the white space and reduce design elements to produce a more reasonably sized volume.