the nice thing about james monroe is that he's a dude. really tall, bulky, soldier, war hero. he and madison were jefferson's two closest friends, but while jefferson and madison corresponded about philosophy, science, and classic literature, they only wrote to monroe about politics.
monroe was our first non-genius president (that washington was a genius at leadership will do for our purposes). ketcham's biography of madison serves pretty well as a seminar in revolutionary politics, because madison shaped so much of revolutionary politics. monroe wasn't an original thinker - as ammon puts it he "had no talent for abstract thought" - but he worked hard, and he was influential because reportedly he was the nicest guy in virginia. monroe would pick sides and then "dedicate himself" to the debate.
he a talented politician, while his 4 predecessors were men of talent who got involved in politics. it's a fascinating transition to watch, because it seems to have been a permanent one. after all, when's the last time we had a president you would call a genius?