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James Madison and the Making of America

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    A Deeply Significant Founding Father

    Ask average persons on the street who is the most revered founding father and they'll likely say "Washington" or "Jefferson". Fair enough: Washington for his guiding example of leadership (more for what he could have done but didn't) and Jefferson for his lofty political ideals. But, if you want to appreciate the practical founding architect of our political model you must know Madison. Gutzman's gives us a very close look at Madison's brilliant work toward the establishment of the nation. We have lost our awareness of how improbable was the outcome the constitution sought to create. How unlikely it was that a loose conglomeration of states with their own political cultures, conflicting economic interests and deep suspicion of centralized power could form a unified national government with substantive power to govern. Thanks to Madison's detailed recordings of the constitutional convention's proceedings (and this while he was actively participating in the debates) we get deep insights into how difficult the issues were to resolve. Gutzman gives us the deliberations of the delegates from a nearly daily perspective.

    The difficulty of reaching compromise points to the complexity of finding the right balance of power between the states and the national government, between the branches of the national government, between the power of the majority v. protecting minorities and the struggle to balance the role of the "democracy" v. "republicianism" governed by the elite. We are also reminded through Gutzman's history of the convention and the advocacy for its adoption that followed that the thorny issues were not completely resolved. The relationship between the powers of the national government and the states is still at issue as is the balance between individual liberty and collective power of government. Madison's worry about the destructive impact of "factions" is as pertinent today as it was in the late 1700's -- just turn on the nightly news!

    Gutzman's book is well worth the read. It is not a psychological, personality oriented portrait of Madison, but it does provide an invaluable guide to the conceptual framework and deep challenges of forming and sustaining a lasting political compact.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2012

    James Madison comes through in Dr. Gutzman's account as the esse

    James Madison comes through in Dr. Gutzman's account as the essential participant in creating the American tradition of constitutional government. Gutzman's clear writing, great wit, and thorough research make this the best Madison book. I loved it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2013

    A fun book to read. My only issue with the book was the author's

    A fun book to read. My only issue with the book was the author's decisions to dubiously link more current events with history. For example, at one point the author says, "Clearly, Madison anticipated a far more restrained judicial ethic than the judiciary has come to display."
    This, however, is not clear. The Supreme court might refuse to hear a case or kicks it back down to lower courts. Often there is no resolve through legislation. Perhaps Congress should be more judicious in its writing and revising of laws so that the judicial branch doesn't have to intervene in order to protect the rights of the minority that the majority is trampling upon (clearly, one of Madison's overriding concerns :) I recommend the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2013

    Easy to put down

    I find the writer's style difficult to follow. Admittedly, all of the facts regarding Madison are accurate. But, presented without any reflection on Madison's personal journey. A hard read for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

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    Posted January 16, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

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