James Monroe mp3s

I see that one of the cuts from the forthcoming 3-disc set “Of Great and Mortal Men,” is now widely available in mp3 format. Although this is a good introduction to the overall flavor of the record, I would urge listeners to obtain the full-quality version of this song and others once the compilation is released in September. On the song itself… 


Of course any song on the Monroe administration, to me at least, would be remiss not to discuss the Monroe doctrine, one of the most important foreign policy dictates in the history of the United States. In this cut, which is brilliantly sung by Marla Hansen, the refrain basically paraphrases the doctrine. As with most of my songs on the record, there were a few lines of ideas and lyrics that ultimately did not make it into the song. When we were furiously writing these songs in that fateful February, I found myself enjoying two- to four-minute songs that sketched out a presidency, imagined or real psychological storylines, mostly contextual interpretation of that presidency, and then left plenty of room for imagination to fill in the blanks. This song is not that much different. A sub-plot of my lyrical content for this record is strongly evident in this piece, as well as tunes on HW Bush, Van Buren, and others. I have become fascinated with the translation of specific national policies tailored to the narrow short-term economic interest into rhetorical statements with broad and nationalistic moral content. Also as with my song for this project about Van Buren, FDR, Kennedy, TDRoosevelt, and other of my presidents; with, “the Last Cocked Hat,” the character of the executive in the political-economy of the day becomes escribed to the president himself, a tangible emodiment of the historic place of the nation.


Throughout US history, treaties and other less formal arrangements between nation states have revolved around a negotiated distribution of natural resources. The Monroe doctrine was no different – the particular angle of this US geopolitical offer being an agreement with other hegemonic or colonial powers of the time regarding their subject nations. Basically, the US, in the Monroe doctrine, established that the Americas could no longer be colonized by European nations. The New World was basically off-limits to the Europeans. In turn, the US would not interfere in European wars or internal affairs. It was expected that European nations would not interfere in the interstate relations of the US.


The Monroe doctrine – this early translation of economic interest into rhetoric on liberty – is strikingly honest and eloquent, of course, compared to the clumsy, jingoistic, asymmetric, patronizing justifications often provided for today’s foreign and domestic policy. I imagine a trend where, at first, the full rationale for political-economic stance becomes, over time, simplified. A parallel set of justifications is created – one for the public, created defensively, having little to do with the situation at hand, crafted of principles only an unpatriotic person would question. The second set being the actual strategic analysis and decision making by the administration in power – never to see the light of day.

The refrains of this song are intended to illustrate these parallel versions of the same set of actions – with language both inspirational and cynical.

Published in: on June 22, 2008 at 5:59 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Given your last 2 paragraphs above, it’s interesting to me that the Federalist Papers were widely disseminated and (one assumes) discussed in public circles. Not so much these days, although at least we have folks like John Stewart mediating between jingoistic rhetoric and the “common man” (whatever that means). Take that as high irony or, like I do, just give a big guffaw. Who know foreign policy and political gaffs could be so damn funny?

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