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James Madison
     

James Madison

3.6 12
by Richard Brookhiser
 

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James Madison led one of the most influential and prolific lives in American history, and his story—although all too often overshadowed by his more celebrated contemporaries—is integral to that of the nation. Madison helped to shape our country as perhaps no other Founder: collaborating on the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights, resisting

Overview


James Madison led one of the most influential and prolific lives in American history, and his story—although all too often overshadowed by his more celebrated contemporaries—is integral to that of the nation. Madison helped to shape our country as perhaps no other Founder: collaborating on the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights, resisting government overreach by assembling one of the nation's first political parties (the Republicans, who became today's Democrats), and taking to the battlefield during the War of 1812, becoming the last president to lead troops in combat.

In this penetrating biography, eminent historian Richard Brookhiser presents a vivid portrait of the “Father of the Constitution,” an accomplished yet humble statesman who nourished Americans' fledgling liberty and vigorously defended the laws that have preserved it to this day.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review
“[Brookhiser's] sprightly narrative will serve as an entertaining introduction for those who are making their first acquaintance with Madison.... As an avid observer of the hyperpartisan political environment of our own age, Brookhiser uses Madison's often tumultuous career to remind us that day-to-day politics have never been very pretty. Anyone involved in the political wars as long and as relentlessly as Madison was surely bound to make a few missteps, and a few enemies, along the way. But Brookhiser effectively argues that Madison, by melding his knowledge of political theory with shrewd political instincts, deserves a place close to the top of the list of America's most successful politicians.”

The New Yorker
“In this congenial biography, the fourth President does indeed shine....[Brookhiser's] descriptions of Madison's friendships combine sentiment and anecdote in irresistible proportion.”

Thomas S. Kidd, Books & Culture
“Richard Brookhiser's James Madison...is a welcome addition to the literature on Madison. His lively biography helps us understand Madison's political brilliance and its lessons for today.... [Brookhiser] is the rare author who grasps the complexities both of history and of contemporary politics.”

Publishers Weekly
“An astute, witty biography.... [Brookhiser's] concise account deserves high marks.”

Library Journal
“Having previously examined the ‘Holy Trinity' of the Federalist Party (Washington, Hamilton, and Adams), Brookhiser turns his relaxed and accessible writing style to the oracle of American constitutionalism and ‘father of modern politics'.... He has produced an exceptional synopsis of the essential founder's political life.... Brookhiser gives fans of the Revolutionary generation and those interested in the origins of American politics an engaging and succinct narrative.”

National Review online
“If you want to read an engaging account of the life of the Father of the Constitution, this is the book for you.... The prose is clear and reader-friendly.”

Booklist
“An opportune and cogent estimation of the life and times of the physically small but politically sizable Madison.... A worthy addition for early-republic American history collections.”

Washington Times
“[Brookhiser's] prose is concise and readable.... Mr. Brookhiser's James Madison captures the delicate, complex and important ideas Madison formed and the lengths he went to to see to fruition the events that have contributed to the success of the experiment of a republic.”

Roanoke Times
“Brookhiser's prose is so entertaining that it is likely that a reader with no interest in Madison would enjoy this book.... Brookhiser is able to present a concise portrait of the studious (today we might call him ‘nerdy') Madison with all his warts and still have us understand him not as the demigod who helped establish our laws and build a dynasty of Virginia-born presidents, nor as an evil political manipulator, but as a flawed human who set the ship of state on a course that we follow today long after that captain went over the side.”
 
NPR.org
“While some books about the founding fathers tend toward hagiography, Brookhiser's portrait of Madison is fair-minded but sometimes critical.... Brookhiser is a remarkable biographer – there are no wasted words in this slim volume, but plenty of fascinating insights into the patriot who ‘glimpsed our world before it existed.'”
 

The Oklahoman
“The father of the U.S. Constitution and fourth president of this nation deserves all the praise given him by Richard Brookhiser in a perceptive new book, James Madison.... To those who love history coupled with politics, here is a chance to become wiser while enjoying doing so. Thank you, Richard Brookhiser, for bringing Madison alive on the printed page.”

American History
“[A] smart, stylishly written portrait…. Balanced and persuasive.”

The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
“Brookhiser's new book, simply titled, James Madison, makes the case that Madison should be remembered, too. That's a timely message as a presidential election year approaches, and voters sort through the qualities they deem most effective for the nation's commander-in-chief.... [Madison] would probably look at the ongoing presidential campaign season and find a world not unlike his own. Whether he would find that development worthy of regret or celebration is anybody's guess.”
 
San Francisco Book Review
“[A] brilliant book on our nation's fourth president and the main individual responsible for the Bill of Rights.”
 

Wall Street Journal
“Madison is remembered today as one of the key framers of the Constitution and the drafter of the Bill of Rights; as the husband of the vivacious Dolley Madison; and as the president who barely escaped capture by the British punitive expedition that raided Washington during the War of 1812. But he deserves to be remembered for a great deal more. Richard Brookhiser, in the latest in his series of concise and highly readable books about the Founding Fathers, conveys the man in full and files a strong paternity suit pointing to Madison as the father of American politics.”
 
The American Spectator
“It is a challenging and important task to recognize and understand the founder's faults without losing sight of their greatness while illuminating their enduring significance along the way. No historian does this better than Richard Brookhiser.... James Madison is a small, unvarnished monument to its diminutive namesake. Drawing from and explicating Madison's own public and personal writings, Brookhiser, employing equal doses of his customary acumen and wit, walks readers through the man's eight decades in little more than 200 pages. It is an honest and at times unflattering rendering, but one that reaffirms Madison's genius, and proves authoritatively that his fingerprints remain all over our institutions.”

Karl Rove
“Richard Brookhiser has written a lively, deeply informed, and penetrating look at the small man who played such a big role in America's founding.  Father of the Constitution, prime mover behind approval of the Bill of Rights, trusted advisor and confidant to the young nation's first president, and its fourth chief executive himself, James Madison is also our country's first practical politician. He founded not just the first American political party, but also the American system of party politics itself. For James Madison had come—after long study and extended practical experience—to believe deeply in majority rule, public opinion, and a government of, by and for the people.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
“Though he came of age under the influence and tutelage of luminaries like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Brookhiser's portrayal of Madison grounds him in the backbiting, often inglorious machinations of his contemporary political system; this approach is both significant and refreshing in presenting Madison as a flawed man, rather than a godlike ‘founding father'.... A useful introduction to a man who is often out shone by his presidential predecessors but who nevertheless was instrumental in creating our modern political system.”

Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
“James Madison was among the most secretive of the Founding Fathers; Brookhiser's engaging biography gives readers a deeper understanding of who he was and what he thought.”
 
Jack Rakove, The New Republic
“Brookhiser is absolutely right to portray Madison as a politician whose leading ideas were driven by events, who did his best thinking precisely because he was responding to events, decisions, personalities, and elections.... Brookhiser brings an admirable appreciation of the political realities in which Madison operated to every chapter, and that appreciation in turn reflects his own incisive grasp of Madison's significance.”
 
The New Criterion
“Whether by design or luck, Brookhiser picked a good time to revisit Madison. In this year of stalemate between a contemptible Congress and a feckless executive, Brookhiser's typically swift pacing, conversational style, and judicious choice of sources do more than restore Madison's place in the story of American politics.... There can never be too many books that treat our founders with the respect due to statesmen, while avoiding the reverence fitting only for gods. James Madison is a welcome addition to this honorable genre.”

Joseph J. Ellis, author of First Family: Abigail and John Adams
“Brookhiser brings his succinct style to bear on the only founder more elusive than Jefferson.  The result is a distinctive portrait of Madison as America's original man for all seasons.”

Akhil Reed Amar, author of America's Constitution: A Biography
“Exactly what one would expect from Rick Brookhiser: another witty, wise, and elegant account of another American icon. The most vivid portrait of Madison to date, with a keen eye for the Virginian's achievements as a politico and a frank assessment of the slavery question—a topic on which previous Madison biographers have disappointed almost as much as did Madison himself.”
 

History Wire
“Brookhiser presents a prodigiously researched, warts-and-all study of Madison, as he interacted not only with the ‘Virginia dynasty' but with such major players as Albert Gallatin, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton.”
 
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Richard Brookhiser's new biography of Madison shares [John] Adams's deeper insight into Madison's achievements. It is a short, readable account of Madison's remarkable political career from a good and perceptive writer.”
 
Newark Star-Ledger
“[Brookhiser] offers a new perspective on Madison as the father of American politics, an often overlooked part of his legacy. Brookhiser's Madison is more than just constitutional scribe and protectorate of liberty. He's the alchemist behind, if not the inventor of, the sometimes ugly business of politics.”
 

National Review
“When walking the halls of the Revolutionary and early Federal periods, Brookhiser is a writer of the Plutarchan stamp, capable of reducing his subjects to their essence without resort to the gross simplifications of the reductionist. He tells us what we should know, not – exhaustively – what we might know. His books have a light touch, and the characters who emerge from his pages take on the reality they deserve. They don't gather dust; they cast shadows.... Brookhiser simply shines pinpoints of light, penetratingly, into the more obscure corners of Madison's life and work, raises his achievements into higher relief, and elevates this founder to a proper, merited place among his brethren. And that is much.”
 

Richard Beeman
…[Brook­hiser's] sprightly narrative will serve as an entertaining introduction for those who are making their first acquaintance with Madison. Moreover, Brookhiser's book is a useful corrective to some of the recent works in the fields of political science and law that place excessive emphasis on Madison the theorist…Brookhiser effectively argues that Madison, by melding his knowledge of political theory with shrewd political instincts, deserves a place close to the top of the list of America's most successful politicians.
—The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Having once remarked that "if men were angels, no government would be necessary," James Madison lived a life dedicated to establishing a government that would both check the passions of the public and usher in the "rule of law." Much more than a minion of Jefferson, he was a true politico who understood the value of enlightened public opinion, the utility of an effective partisan press, and the necessity of political compromise. Having previously examined the "Holy Trinity" of the Federalist Party (Washington, Hamilton, and Adams), Brookhiser (senior editor, National Review; Alexander Hamilton, American) turns his relaxed and accessible writing style to the oracle of American constitutionalism and "father of modern politics." VERDICT While Brookhiser underestimates Madison's more radical ideas in an effort to claim him as a prize for modern conservatives, he has produced an exceptional synopsis of the essential founder's political life. Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg's recent, outstanding Madison and Jefferson provides a much more in-depth biographical account, but Brookhiser gives fans of the Revolutionary generation and those interested in the origins of American politics an engaging and succinct narrative.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL
Kirkus Reviews

Brookhiser (Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement, 2009, etc.) explores America's tangled two-party political system and the man instrumental in creating it, James Madison (1751–1836).

The author investigates Madison's transition from ideological framer of the Constitution to a fervent party man who fought against the Federalist party for decades and led his Republican party during its first military foray, the War of 1812. Though he came of age under the influence and tutelage of luminaries like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Brookhiser's portrayal of Madison grounds him in the backbiting, often inglorious machinations of his contemporary political system; this approach is both significant and refreshing in presenting Madison as a flawed man, rather than a godlike "founding father." The author focuses exclusively on Madison the politician, and thereby exposes some of Madison's less respectablemotivesfor tackling his political enemies—one favored strategy was to enlist vocal, if not always reliable, journalists to spearhead political attacks in the rough-and-tumble world of early American periodicals. This practice, coupled with Madison's lifelong faith in the power of public opinion and his commitment to protect the freedom of the presses, opens an interesting avenue into this early usage of public opinion and blustering journalism to shape public policy. This is a slim volume, noticeably so in a biography of an instrumental man like Madison; as such, there are episodes of both personal and political moment that would greatly benefit from additional context and analysis. How, for example, could two such close allies, Madison and the fiery Alexander Hamilton, find themselves at opposite ends of a bitter political feud over the role of central government? What was at stake, other than a rather parochial land lust, for Madison and Jefferson as they pursued western expansion? How did Dolley Madison, historically recognized as the first "political wife," contribute to his politics and his personal life?

A useful introduction to a man who is often outshone by his presidential predecessors but who nevertheless was instrumental in creating our modern political system.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465063802
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
05/28/2013
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
223,372
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A useful introduction to a man who is often outshone by his presidential predecessors but who nevertheless was instrumental in creating our modern political system." —-Kirkus

Meet the Author


Richard Brookhiser is Senior Editor of the National Review and the author of nine books, including Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington; Alexander Hamilton, American; America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735–1918; and Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution. Brookhiser also wrote and hosted the PBS documentary Rediscovering George Washington. He lives in New York City.

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James Madison 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished the book yet, but so far it is what I like in a biography. I like to get to know the person not just his or her accomplishments. It is easy to read. Sometimes when there is too much quoting in 19th century language I lose interest. Mr. Brookhiser takes most of the quotes and interprets them making the language easier to understand and read.
ZachWilliams More than 1 year ago
A brief but insightful biography. An enjoyable & worthwhile read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good adaptation of a sometimes forgotten founder.
Iluvwords More than 1 year ago
This biography describes a man who was a genius and a visionary and yet he was honest about the flaws of our system of government and of large and unsolved issues of this time. He, as did the rest of the founding fathers, recognized the greatest problem and contradiction in the reality and the dream and yet they could not bring themselves to solve a problem that would persist for another 50 years and require a great and terrible civil war. I would like to have gotten more insight into the relationship between James and Dolley but i enjoyed what was offered. The author showed, I think the Madison as he was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a sketch of the man and moves fast. It is nominally held together by an interesting theme: that Madison is the father of modern politics. Unfortunately, the theme seems to disappear for significant stretches, and it is not convincing in other parts. Still, in this election season, the political machinations of the founding generation provide timely perspective on the "divisive partisanship" of our time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very poorly written and there is no sign the did any research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did I did a biography on him!!!!!