James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government

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"In the first study that combines an in-depth examination of James Madison's National Gazette essays of 1791-92 with a study of The Federalist, Colleen A. Sheehan traces the evolution of Madison's conception of the politics of communication and public opinion throughout the Founding period, demonstrating how "the sovereign public" would form and rule in America." Contrary to those scholars who claim that Madison dispensed with the need to form an active and virtuous citizenry, Sheehan argues that Madison's vision for the new nation was informed by the idea of republican self-government, whose manifestation he sought to bring about in the spirit and way of life of the American people.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"the overall analysis is brilliant, and merits careful reading by anyone seriously interested in the ideas of our greatest political thinker." -Jack Rakove

“This book constitutes the most important contribution to the scholarship on James Madison produced in recent memory. In it, Colleen Sheehan demonstrates that Madison’s ruminations on politics in the early 1790s and thereafter, and his activity as a politician in the early republic, need to be reinterpreted in light of his Auseinandersetzung with a group of late eighteenth-century French writers—including Mably, Moreau, Necker, Turgot, Condorcet, Chastellux, Dupont de Nemours, Le Trosne, Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le Mercier de la Rivière, Volney, Mirabeau, Brissot de Warville, Barthélemy, and the like—who debated the significance of what Montesquieu had, in his Spirit of Laws, called communication, and who wrestled with the importance of a powerful phenomenon, more or less unknown in France until the second half of the eighteenth century, which they termed ‘public opinion.’” -Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College

“Sheehan’s insightful and incisive analysis of the thought of James Madison once again confirms for us his greatness as a political thinker and his importance as a proponent of popular republican government.” -Gordon Wood, Brown University

"Colleen Sheehan's bold new book provides a corrective to the many myths of the Founding. It portrays James Madison, the father of the Constitution, as a man deeply concerned with the ideas of civic virtue, citizen character, and common purpose, albeit in the service of the truly republican principles of the Declaration of Independence." -National Review

"....give us a handsome and worthwhile down payment on the more sustained analysis she promises. " -Dr. Michael Zuckert

“Colleen Sheehan's Madison is driven by an overarching concern: What would it take for this American population to become--and remain--a self-governing people? More was at stake than survival and prosperity. For Madison the new national community could flourish only if the people had good reasons for respecting themselves. Sheehan's engaging account of America's beginnings enlarges our understanding of the hopes and fears, successes and failures, not only of a notable man but of a generation of founders.” -Ralph Lerner, University of Chicago

In her excellent new study, Colleen A. Sheehan argues that James Madison is preeminent among the Founders in his insistence on the civic cultivation of public opinion." -Richard M. Reinsch, The City Journal

"This well-written and engaging book situates James Madison as a spirited defender of popular government." -George Thomas, Review of Politics

"...Sheehan’s book is a rich, well-written, and well-argued text on adison that any serious scholar of Madison and the founding of the United States must read." -Richard K. Matthews, Journal of American History

"...Sheehan's book is a rich, well-written, and well-argued text on adison that any serious scholar of Madison and the founding of the United States must read." -Richard K. Matthews, Journal of American History

"...James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government is an informed and intriguing addition to the literature on the American founders. The book will appeal to fans of Madison and to scholars of American political thought and the American founding."
Canadian Journal of Political Science Graham G. Dodds, Concordia University

"This is a wonderfully provocative and morally engaged argument...the overall analysis is brilliant and merits careful reading by anyone seriously interested in the ideas of our greatest political thinker."
Political Science Quarterly, Jack Rakove, Stanford University

"This well-written and engaging book situates James Madison as a spirited defender of popular government...Sheehan has elegantly and artfully recaptured neglected and forgotten elements of Madison's thinking that all serious scholars of Madison will need to confront."
The Review of Politics, George Thomas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521898744
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/12/2009
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Colleen A. Sheehan is Associate Professor of Political Science at Villanova University and has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She is the co-editor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists 1787–1788 and author of numerous articles on the American Founding and eighteenth-century political and moral thought; these have appeared in journals such the William and Mary Quarterly, American Political Science Review, Review of Politics, and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Madison's Legacy 1

1 Republican Opposition 15

2 The Federalist Agenda 31

3 Madison and the French Enlightenment 57

4 The Commerce of Ideas 84

5 The Politics of Public Opinion 107

6 Madison and Jefferson: An Appeal to the People 124

7 The Spirit of Republican Government 156

Epilogue: The Philosopher's Stone and the Poet's Reprise 176

Bibliography 185

Index 197

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