The Amazing True Story of the Election That Saved the Constitution
In 1789, James Madison and James Monroe ran against each other for Congress—the only time that two future presidents have contested a congressional seat.
But what was at stake, as author Chris DeRose reveals in Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation, was more than personal ambition. This was a race that determined the future of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the very definition of the United States of America.
Friends and political allies for most of their lives, Madison was the Constitution’s principal author, Monroe one of its leading opponents. Monroe thought the Constitution gave the federal government too much power and failed to guarantee fundamental rights. Madison believed that without the Constitution, the United States would not survive.
It was the most important congressional race in American history, more important than all but a few presidential elections, and yet it is one that historians have virtually ignored. In Founding Rivals, DeRose, himself a political strategist who has fought campaigns in Madison and Monroe’s district, relives the campaign, retraces the candidates’ footsteps, and offers the first insightful, comprehensive history of this high-stakes political battle.
- How Madison’s election ensured the passage of a Bill of Rights—and how
Monroe’s election would have ensured its failure
- How Madison came from behind to win a narrow victory (by a margin of only 336 votes) in a district gerrymandered against him
- How the Bill of Rights emerged as a campaign promise to Virginia’s evangelical Christians
- Why Madison’s defeat might have led to a new Constitutional Convention—and the breakup of the United States
Founding Rivals tells the extraordinary, neglected story of two of America’s most important Founding Fathers. Brought to life by unparalleled research, it is one of the most provocative books of American political history you will read this year.
About the Author
Chris DeRose is an attorney and also serves as a political strategist for candidates for state and federal office. For the past fifteen years, he has been involved in campaigns at every level in five different states. DeRose lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Opening Days ix
Chapter 1 The Last Days of the Colony of Virginia 1
Chapter 2 The Soldier and the Statesman 17
Chapter 3 The World Turned Upside Down 39
Chapter 4 The In-between Days 55
Chapter 5 The Tedious Sessions 71
Chapter 6 Madison and Monroe 89
Chapter 7 A Prayer for America 109
Chapter 8 The Annapolis Disaster and the Road to Philadelphia 121
Chapter 9 Great Expectations 135
Chapter 10 A Rising or a Setting Sun? 151
Chapter 11 The Battle of Shockhoe Hill 167
Chapter 12 The Race for Ninth 187
Chapter 13 The Terrible Session 203
Chapter 14 The First Election 219
Chapter 15 The Federalist Endgame 241
Chapter 16 The "First Man" of the House: Passing the Bill of Rights 251
Epilogue: The Fourth of July 265
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
DeRose captures the essence of this vital yet forgotten scene in American history. Founding Rivals tells a great story of two political titans of early America, who fought for a seat in the US Congress, while the fate of the Constitution hung in the balance. The author tells the life stories of Madison and Monroe, their early friendship, and their political rivalry that changed the course of American history. The author also does a magnificent job of pointing out the fissures in the electorate in 1789, especially between religious groups. "Founding Rivals" is one of the best and most unique books about the Revolutionary era. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to future works by the author.
I found the book to be disappointing. I found the book to resemble a high school students version of a book report or something akin to Cliff Notes. 267 pages long to describe or layout a "rivalry" between two great patriots? You are a third of the way through the book before the two even correspond. There is just nothing new here. I found the writing style very mediocre and simple. There are too many other books worthy of your time.
So often we hear that an upcoming election will be one of the most important elections of our time. While they may not have known it at the time, residents of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in 1789 participated in one of the most important elections of their time. As Chris DeRose powerfully details in Founding Rivals, the race between James Madison and James Monroe changed the course of history by putting America on a path toward saving the Constitution and adopting a Bill of Rights. DeRose chronicles the lives of these men from the early days of the Revolutionary War to their epic battle for Congress. He presents this time in history as they would have seen it and details their journeys toward becoming statesmen. Well researched and engagingly written, Founding Rivals offers a unique glimpse into the early days of our nation.
Difficult to put down.
A wonderful review of a period in our history that is not covered in the usual history classes. Very well done.
The author goes back and forth with equal treatment of each man's significance to the establishment of our constitution without being wordy. One was pro and other happy with the articles of confederation which is all I'll say. What puzzled me is Monroe's love life and subsequent marriage was discussed several times yet no mention was made of Dolly Madison.
This was a great read, well written and packed a great deal of information in a readable length book. Everyone shoudl read it to better understand how the American political system has worked in the past as well as how it can work today! Barrie Tilghman