"This book benefits from the hitherto widely scattered and unavailable contemporary manuscripot and printed documents recently published in documentary histories....This portrait in ten essays is learned, succint, and judicious."Paul K. Longmore, The Journal of Southern History
"Watch the wig powder fly as James Madison and Patrick Henry slug it out over the constitutional freedoms we take for granted today."Atlantic Monthly
"This is a hair-raising book. It shows how, at stage after stage, the fight to draft and ratify the Constitution, to draft and pass the Bill of Rights, could have failed. It proves again that the tiny Madison was a giant."Garry Wills, Professor of History Emeritus, Northwestern University
"Worth checking out for those of you who are interested in all things legal....A good book about how the Bill of Rights came to be and perhaps what those first ten amendments to the Constitution may mean in this age of terrorism. This is the sort of book that ends up being cited by politicians on one side of the argument or the other so if you want to be ahead of that game, read it yourself."Washington Post
"A virtue of Labunski's account is the generous attention he gives to Anti-Federalist luminaries like Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Richard Henry Leefigures too often overlooked in our reverential regard for the founding. For those used to thinking of the Bill of Rights as carved in stone, it is also instructive to see just how large a role accident played in its creation."Gary Rosen, The New York Times Book Review
"This engaging study views the Bill of Rights as the crowning achievement of America's constitutional architect....An interesting story, full of sonorous oratory and colorful details of 18th-century politicking. The result is a lively look at the rickety early republic and Madison's great balancing act."Publishers Weekly
"Carefully and lucidly examines how Madison and his political supporters and opponents (mostly Anti-Federalists) shaped the initial parameters of the Constitution and then further expressed their constitutional philosophies in the amendments that followed....A highly recommended analysis that will be useful for public and academic libraries."Library Journal (starred review)
"Richard Labunski's skillfully researched and highly readable historical narrative dramatizes the critical events surrounding the ratification of the Constitution and the subsequent adoption of the Bill of Rights. James Madison quickly emerges as the nation's most profound governmental scholar and the central figure in the critical debates that divided the country and threatened its very existence. With intricate detail and historical precision, Labunski shows that Madison was the indispensable man, the person most responsible for the nation's political survival, as crucial as George Washington had been to its independence. A truly outstanding book and a must read."Philip Bigler, Director, The James Madison Center, James Madison University
"Richard Labunski's account of James Madison's pivotal role in drafting the new federal constitution and the ratification of the Bill of Rights is an important addition to Oxford University Press's Pivotal Moments in American History series. Beautifully written, the book effectively recounts the drama of a critical moment in American history, one that is not fully understood by most Americans. Scholars and general readers alike will enjoy Labunski's well-crafted narrative. I have no doubt that his fresh interpretation of the ratification saga will influence the thinking of future scholars of the period."Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and CEO, Virginia Historical Society
"A clear, dramatic, and accessible account of the long and tortuous process by which the U.S. Constitution was framed, ratified, and amended to provide the essential protections of individual freedom that Americans enjoy today. Labunski's focus on James Madison's central role in this process is apt, since it was his hard work in Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York that provided the impetus at critical points to achieve that result. Without Madison there would very likely be no Bill of Rights. Written with verve and charm, Labunski brings arguments over the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation and the debates over the Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention to life through vivid descriptions of the passions and idiosyncrasies of the Founding generation."David B. Mattern, Senior Associate Editor, James Madison Papers, University of Virginia
A virtue of Labunski's account is the generous attention he gives to Anti-Federalist luminaries like Henry, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee - figures too often overlooked in our reverential regard for the founding. For those used to thinking of the Bill of Rights as carved in stone, it is also instructive to see just how large a role accident played in its creation. The 10 amendments familiar to us started off as 17 in the House and were reduced to 12 by the Senate. The first two of these - on the size of the House and Congressional pay - didn't pass muster in the states, and so the third recommended amendment became, as if by fate, our famous First.
The New York Times
It will come as little surprise to learn that Poe is a veteran Broadway performer: in reading Labunski's chronicle of James Madison's efforts to ratify the Constitution and pass the Bill of Rights, his voice echoes with effortless assurance, carrying into the virtual back row of any room. Thankfully, Poe mostly avoids the vocal equivalent of theatrical preening and posing. His reading is careful, unassuming and avoids wholly unnecessary showboating. Labunski's narrative revolves around Madison's struggle with fellow Virginian Patrick Henry over ratification, and Poe does a fine job of conveying the steadily ratcheting tension of their battle. Poe colors Labunski's tale with an appropriate array of significant pauses, emphases and hushed mock-whispers, bringing his book to life without resorting to overworked theatrical tricks. He may be a stage veteran, but Poe's reading is anything but stagy. Simultaneous release with the Oxford hardcover (Reviews, May 8). (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
James Madison played an important role in both the development of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of its first ten amendments, i.e., the Bill of Rights. Relying on primary sources, Labunski (Sch. of Journalism & Telecommunications, Univ. of Kentucky: The Second Constitutional Convention: How the American People Can Take Back Their Government) carefully and lucidly examines how Madison and his political supporters and opponents (mostly Anti-Federalists) shaped the initial parameters of the Constitution and then further expressed their constitutional philosophies in the amendments that followed. Seven of the ten chapters focus on activities prior to the introduction of the Bill of Rights. In his thorough coverage of the activities of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Labunski offers intriguing discussions of constitutional debates and provides an understanding of the political and social context of the early constitutional polity. He finds that Madison and other Federalists used strategies that would ensure adoption of constitutional ideas in both Virginia and other parts of the nation. He then goes on to examine Madison's transformation from opponent of amendments to the Constitution to a central advocate in the U.S. House of Representatives for passage of what would become the Bill of Rights. A highly recommended analysis that will be useful for public and academic libraries. Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.