A Presidential Legacy: The Monroe Collection at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

By Batson, Barbara C. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

A Presidential Legacy: The Monroe Collection at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library


Batson, Barbara C., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


A Presidential Legacy.- The Monroe Collection at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. By LEE LANGSTONHARRISON et al. CAROL HAYES, Photographer and Art Editor. Preface by BE-rry C. MONKMAN. Fredericksburg, Va.: The James Monroe Museum, 1997. xiii, 328 pp. Paper.

A Presidential Legacy is intended to provide visitors to the James Monroe Museum "with a concise and easy-to-read resource on Monroe's life" and the museum's collections (p. ii). The museum, a property of the Commonwealth of Virginia administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Mary Washington College, owes its existence to the efforts of Rose de Chine Gouverneur Hoes, Monroe's great-granddaughter, who, in 1927, purchased the buildings that occupied the lot in Fredericksburg owned originally by Monroe. Hoes's sons, Gouverneur Hoes and Laurence Gouverneur Hoes, added to the collection and guided the museum's early years.

Lee Langston-Harrison has arranged the book around eleven chapters that provide a brief biography of the fifth president. Betty C. Monkman's preface discusses Monroe's furnishings, particularly those from France, for the White House, into which he moved as president in December 1817. Each chapter is followed by illustrations and information about items in the museum's collections that relate to that period in Monroe's life. Research for the individual entries was conducted by more than seventy student interns at Mary Washington College over several years. Although no individual author is identified for any entry, the variable writing styles suggest that entries were written by students.

A Presidential Legacy would have benefited from more rigorous editing. There are discrepancies in life dates, such as for Lawrence Kortright, Monroe's father-inlaw, who is noted to have died in February 1794 and in 1799 (pp. 42, 44). The brief discussion of Gabriel's Rebellion (pp. 10910) contains inaccuracies that would have been easily corrected by a familiarity with Douglas R. Egerton's analysis of the 1800 and 1802 slave conspiracies (Douglas R. Egerton, Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 [Chapel Hill and London, 1993]). George Hay prosecuted Aaron Burr for treason in Richmond in 1807, not 1801 (p. 230).

A number of inaccurate dates, terms, and mistakes render the catalog suspect. For example, the author of the entry on the miniature of Frederick Benton by Joseph Cloreviere (p. 35) is uncertain whether Cloreviere the artist and Cloreviere the French 6migr6 are the same person. …

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