The Business Of May Next / Edition 1

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"Good fortune offered this nation an unusual chance at ideal nation-forming and...some honorable leaders seized that chance," writes William Lee Miller in The Business of May Next, and none among the founders made more of the opportunity than did James Madison, subject of this engaging work. Madison is depicted during the critical years between 178 and 1791, when he was so active in articulating the governmental aims of the fledgling nation that he sometimes found himself in official dialogue with himself. More than simply a historical and biographical account, the book traces Madison's political and theoretical development as a means of illuminating its larger theme, the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the American nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Reissue of the original (1992) about which we wrote: "A glance at the chapter titles--Beginning the World Anew, to a Certain Extent, and Was the United States founded on Selfishness?--gives a hint of the questions Miller grapples with as he leads the reader through the details of Madison's biography to his larger theme: the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the American nation." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813914909
  • Publisher: University of Virginia
  • Publication date: 11/1/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 1,562,519
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

William Lee Miller is White Burkette Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The First Liberty: Religion and the American Republic.

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Table of Contents

A Word to the Reader
Introduction Big House in Orange County 1
1 A Child of the Revolution Reads Some Books 7
2 "The People" Can Act Unjustly 22
3 Beginning the World Anew, to a Certain Extent 34
4 The Great Seminar in Print; or Founding Scribblers 43
5 The Business of May Next 61
6 The Inadvertent Origins of the American Presidency 78
7 Supreme Law; Unfinished Parts 93
8 Sundays Excepted 105
9 Other Persons 117
10 Many Hands 142
11 The Cloudy Medium of Words 153
12 The Peculiar Federalist Paper 171
13 Traveling toward the Constitution; or Never Turn the Hands Backward 185
14 Rocking Cradles in Virginia 194
15 Was the United States Founded on Selfishness? 217
16 No Just Government Should Refuse 235
17 As Sincerely Devoted to Liberty 244
18 Bulwarks and Palladiums 260
Acknowledgments 277
Notes 281
Sources 289
Index 293
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2004

    strong on intellectual and moral insights

    In The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding, William Lee Miller delivers to a broad-based readership a better understanding of the methods used during the establishment of the United States government, as well as the moral and intellectual foundations on which that government was based. To that dual purpose, Miller's mostly chronological narrative details the activities surrounding the Constitutional Convention, the various ratifying committees, and the subsequent Bill of Rights. Miller's presentation, as the sub-title suggests, is largely based on James Madison and two primary source collections of Madison's work, The Papers of James Madison and The Writings of James Madison. Such an unusually heavy reliance on one individual's coverage of events merits credibility, as Miller correctly points out, only because Madison has been recognized by scholars from his day to this as one of the most influential contributors to those events. Since the book is structured chronologically, Miller's three subjects of intellectualism, methods, and morality are spread throughout the book. The subject of intellectualism, although it occupies the least amount of space in the book, is brilliantly presented and provides a great resource for a vast range of scholars, from political theorists to intellectual historians; from philosophers to educators. Chapters 1, 4, and 11 ('Child of the Revolution Reads Some Books, 'The Great Seminar in Print,' and 'The Cloudy Medium of Words') deal largely with intellectualism. In these chapters, Miller identifies many of the political authors and theorists that the founders, especially Madison, examined. Plato, More, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Harrington, and Hume - most substantially Hume - are some of the names that often appear. Madison, in a style quite uncommon for revolutionaries of any era, studied these works not only to identify their successes, but even more so to analyze their flaws. Unlike many of his contemporaries, and perhaps all of his predecessors, Madison believed that a republican government could succeed in a continent-size territory. He believed that a less than consistently virtuous society could carry on democratic politics for the greater public good. He believed that political factions and social pluralism were not only acceptable but necessary to keep oppression and tyranny at bay. And with all his conviction, he believed that 'two governments?simultaneously acting upon the same individual'(20), where the republic of federations (states) was subservient to the central (federal) authority, was the only arrangement that would survive the centuries. By detailing the foundations of those beliefs, Miller presents a very stimulating synthesis of the intellectual contemplations of James Madison, and of the intellectual foundation of the United States' system of government. In a book of this subject matter, a discussion of the processes and methods by which the Constitution was developed, written, ratified, and amended, is certainly appropriate. However, Miller's presentation of this material is considerably less engaging than the other subjects, and at times gets painfully lengthy. Within chapters 5, 6, and 7 ('The Business of May Next,' 'The Inadvertent Origins of the American Presidency,' and 'Supreme Law; Unfinished Parts,' one can find the development of the two houses, the executive, and the judiciary branch. But the primary focus of these chapters is so much at the nitty-gritty level of the various conventions and speeches that the book completely looses its balance. Chapter 3, 'Beginning the World Anew, to a Certain Extent,' provides some interesting musings about the many masters who contributed to the Constitution, but it is an insignificant shadow to Chapter 10, 'Many Hands.' The later chapter is specific to participants and their contributions, and at the same time reflective of the very nature of a collaboration of many hands molding this grea

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