James Madison is remembered primarily as a systematic political theorist, but this bookish and unassuming man was also a practical politician who strove for balance in an age of revolution. In this biography, Jeff Broadwater focuses on Madison's role in the battle for religious freedom in Virginia, his contributions to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, his place in the evolution of the party system, his relationship with Dolley Madison, his performance as a wartime commander in chief, and ...
James Madison is remembered primarily as a systematic political theorist, but this bookish and unassuming man was also a practical politician who strove for balance in an age of revolution. In this biography, Jeff Broadwater focuses on Madison's role in the battle for religious freedom in Virginia, his contributions to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, his place in the evolution of the party system, his relationship with Dolley Madison, his performance as a wartime commander in chief, and his views on slavery. From Broadwater's perspective, no single figure can tell us more about the origins of the American republic than our fourth president.
In these pages, Madison emerges as a remarkably resilient politician, an unlikely wartime leader who survived repeated setbacks in the War of 1812 with his popularity intact. Yet Broadwater shows that despite his keen intelligence, the more Madison thought about one issue, race, the more muddled his thinking became, and his conviction that white prejudices were intractable prevented him from fully grappling with the dilemma of American slavery.
Barton College history professor Broadwater's (George Mason, Forgotten Founder) biography of James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S. and widely considered "The Father of the Constitution," is meticulously researched and surprisingly readable. Given the myriad biographies of the Founding Fathers—and in an attempt to correct the notion that, in Joseph Ellis's words, Madison "seemed to lack a personal agenda because he seemed to lack a personality," Broadwater specifically provides readers with a detailed account of Madison's attempts to secure religious freedom in his native Virginia, his relationship with his charismatic wife Dolley Madison (sometimes referred to as "Lady Presidentess"), and his ongoing struggle with his ideas about slavery. In addition, the author discusses Madison's enormous impact on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the party system, which Madison considered—in Broadwater's words—"at best a necessary evil," hoping instead that an "elaborate system of checks and balances would mitigate their unwholesome tendencies." Though Madison retired after his two terms as president to become a gentleman farmer, matters of politics and the intellect never left him—he wrestled with the issue of slavery till the end of his days. Though the enormous amount of detail will likely put off casual readers, history buffs and early-America aficionados will find Broadwater's work indispensable. Illus. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Broadwater has done an excellent job of discussing and analyzing the major issues, events, and people with whom Madison had to deal. His book is a welcome addition to the literature on Madison's remarkable career."—Virginia Magazine
"A comprehensive and fascinating view of the nations, personalities, economic issues and events that led to the War of 1812."—Rocky Mount Telegram
Broadwater (history, Barton Coll.; George Mason, Forgotten Founder) recognizes James Madison's role in safeguarding religious freedom in Virginia, as does Gutzman (below). Broadwater also shows Madison to have been not only an intellect but a successful, practical politician, an adapter with an aristocratic bent who was caught up in the contradictions, which Broadwater underlines, that race-based slavery presented to white Southerners in a revolutionary age. In an engagingly formulated work of synthesis, Broadwater offers a compelling view of the essential Madison by mindfully drawing upon the works of previous historians (e.g., Jack N. Rakove, Lance Banning, and Drew R. McCoy) without being derivative. The author assists the reader by gleaning choice phrases from Madison's contributions to the Federalist Papers and leavens the story of Madison's career with much information about Dolley Madison, a notable political and personal asset to her husband. Both Madisons preserved James Madison's meticulously composed papers, she by rescuing them from the burning White House in 1814 and he later by selling them to interested parties to provide for her financially. VERDICT Broadwater's clear writing style and contextual explanations make this work especially appealing to incipient scholars and general readers.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress
A workmanlike study of the checks-and-balances Founding Father from Virginia. Broadwater (History/Barton Coll.; George Mason, Forgotten Founder, 2006, etc.) asserts the need for another appraisal of James Madison (1751–1836) as more than a "disembodied brain" who wrote many of the Federalist Papers and pushed hard for the adoption of the Constitution. After the succession of excellent Madison biographers Drew McCoy, Ralph Ketcham, Lance Banning and Jack Rakove, Broadwater organizes his more "modest" effort by facets dear to his subject, such as religious freedom and the party system. The first of 12 children born to a wealthy plantation owner, Madison became a religious scholar at Princeton, suffering a delicate constitution (however living to a very old age). As an elected delegate, he was enlisted to help draft the provision on religious freedom for the prototypical Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. Cementing an important relationship with governor Thomas Jefferson, Madison was 29 years old when he was first elected to Congress, sent to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of the Confederation at a tumultuous time in the young nation's history. Madison recognized the need for Constitutional reform early on, ordering in 1786 a "library cargo" of political history of the Greeks, Swiss, Dutch and Germans for model confederacies. The process of hammering out compromises in Philadelphia drew out his concerns about checks and balances in protecting minority rights, about which he elaborated famously in the Federalist Papers. Once the Constitution was ratified, he decided to support a Bill of Rights after all, and won Congressional election against James Monroe. Madison helped forge the Republican Party and remained an implacable foe of Great Britain, which led to the War of 1812, dominating his two-term presidency. His wife Dolley Payne, a lively widow he married in his middle age, defined the role of First Lady. An essential American philosopher and president gains a substantive treatment.