The Presidency of James Madison

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Overview


Henry Adams portrayed James Madison as a weak president who lacked both decisiveness and administrative skills. For a century, most historians accepted Adams's assessment.

In this new study of the fourth presidency, distinguished historian Robert Allen Rutland paints a more complicated portrait. Rutland, former editor-in-chief of the Madison Papers, sees Madison as a bookish, practical statesman who worked furiously to avoid conflicts in his cabinet and in Congress. When he finally realized England would not be swayed by economic pressure, he boldly led the nation into a second war for independence that allowed the United States to emerge with a renewed sense of dignity and purpose.

Madison made some serious errors in judgment, according to Rutland. In time, though, he filled his cabinet with competent men, and, by some unexpected vetoes, renewed his commitment to republican ideals within a constitutional framework. During his last years in office Madison helped fashion a government that would luxuriate during the Era of Good Feeling and withstand the hard knocks of Andrew Jackson's democratic surge.

Rutland's lively narrative covers all major events of the Madison administration, including the War of 1812 and the push for national expansion. It provides a fresh interpretation not only of the contribution of Madison's presidency, but also of the "master builder of the Constitution" himself. Madison emerges neither as the weakling painted by Henry Adams nor as a demigod, but rather as a man who attempted to be the president envisioned at the Constitutional Convention and who achieved his highest priority, to strengthen the Union.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
Written in a lively and vivid style that humanizes Madison through the skillful use of vignettes drawn from scenes of private life.
Library Journal
This is a fine addition to the publisher's valuable ``American Presidency'' series. Rutland, who has written four other books on Madison and edited his papers, knows the whole man better than any other scholar. His assessment of Madison's performance is judicious. He places the War of 1812 in the context of Madison's entire public career, and asserts that the nation emerged the better for waging it: One dark day--August 24, 1814, when the British burned Washington and Madison fled to Virginia--does not diminish the real accomplishments of the man or the country he helped to found. Madison emerges as a constitutional republican, determined to preserve the separate powers of government under the gravest threat America had yet faced. Despite intense political difficulties, he succeeded. This is an excellent, succinct account of Madison's perseverance in diplomacy and war.-- Harry W. Fritz, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Booknews
On the development of a modern presidency and the identification of executive power. Rutland American history, U. of Tulsa; former editor-in-chief, The Papers of James Madison covers all major events of the Madison administration, including the War of 1812 and the push for national expansion. He revises the standard historical assessment of Madison as a weak president who lacked both decisiveness and administrative skills. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700604654
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 5/28/1990
  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents


Foreword

Preface

1. Prologue

2. Storm Signals from the Senate

3. The Virginia Dynasty Continues

4. More "Splendid Misery"

5. A Time to Heal, a Time to Wound

6. The Dogs of War Unleashed

7. The Fuse of War Sputters

8. A Capital's Not for Burning

9. Dawn of an Era, Twilight of a Party

Bibliographical Essay

Index

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