Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press
James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights

by Richard Labunski
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Today we hold the Constitution in such high regard that we can hardly imagine how hotly contested was its adoption. In fact, many of the thirteen states saw fierce debate over the document, and ratification was by no means certain. Virginia, the largest and most influential state, approved the Constitution by the barest of margins, and only after an epic political battle between James Madison and Patrick Henry. Now Richard Labunski offers a dramatic account of a time when the entire American experiment hung in the balance, only to be saved by the most unlikely of heroes—the diminutive and exceedingly shy Madison.
Here is a vividly written account of not one but several major political struggles which changed the course of American history. Labunski takes us inside the sweltering converted theater in Richmond, where for three grueling weeks, the soft-spoken Madison and the charismatic Patrick Henry fought over whether Virginia should ratify the Constitution. The stakes were enormous. If Virginia voted no, George Washington could not become president, New York might follow suit and reject the Constitution, and the young nation would be thrust into political chaos. But Madison won the day by a handful of votes, mollifying Anti-Federalist fears by promising to add a bill of rights to the Constitution. To do this, Madison would have to win a seat in the First Congress. Labunski shows how the vengeful Henry prevented Madison's appointment to the Senate and then used his political power to ensure that Madison would run against his good friend, Revolutionary War hero James Monroe, in a House district teeming with political enemies. Overcoming great odds, Madison won by a few hundred votes, allowing him to attend the First Congress and sponsor the Bill of Rights.
Packed with colorful details about life in early America, this compelling and important narrative is the first serious book about Madison written in many years. It will return this under-appreciated patriot to his rightful place among the Founding Fathers and shed new light on a key turning point in our nation's history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195341423
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 06/28/2008
Series: Pivotal Moments in American History Series
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,213,004
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard Labunski is a professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. The author of four other books, he previously taught at the University of Washington and Penn State and worked for ten years in radio and television news.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note
Ch. 1: The Philadelphia Convention
Ch. 2: The Reluctant Candidate
Ch. 3: The Road to Richmond
Ch. 4: The Virginia Ratifying Convention
Ch. 5: The Ratification Vote
Ch. 6: The Anti-Federalists Fight Back
Ch. 7: The Election
Ch. 8: Madison Introduces the Bill of Rights
Ch. 9: Congress Proposes the Bill of Rights
Ch. 11: Epilogue
Appendix I: James Madison's Proposed Amendments
Appendix II: Amendments Reported by the House
Appendix III: Amendments Passed by the House of Representatives
Appendix IV: Amendments Passed by the Senate
Appendix V: Amendments Proposed by Congress to the States
About the Author

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James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
buffalogr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A hard by page. Couldn't finish
jones120 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent review of Madison's early rejection of a Bill of Rights and later their adoption.
WarnerToddHuston on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lots of struggle, not much of what it was overFirst of all, I do want to say that author Richard Labunski did a fine job detailing the trials and travails of the road to the first Congress travelled by James Madison, one of our most indispensable Founders. Labunski reminds us that history was, while in the making, not nearly as foregone as it seems this far removed. Madison could have lost his election to the First session of the House of Representatives after the new government was formed causing the Constitution to perhaps lose the addition of the Bill of Rights and that would have been calamitous, indeed.I enjoyed the story of Madison's road as told by Labunski. Madison has been one of those founders who's position as a great Founder has been rocky. Up one decade and down another. Sometimes he has been considered a far lesser light than he deserves to be considered. Currently, he seems to be up which is fortunate. I think he should remain there. He is by far one of the most brilliant Founders we had and it is good that Labunski treats Madison with the respect he deserves.Here is where I feel the book was lacking, though. Why was the Bill of Rights so important? What were the philosophies, the influences, the reasons the amendments were fought over? Labunski does not take much time to delve further under the surface to ferret out those reasons. He briefly mentions things here and there as the book moves along those lines, but I think his book would have been more complete with a bit more of it.I found myself wondering what all the fuss was over far too much while reading the book and feel Labunski shorted the reader a fuller explanation.Still, I give the book a pretty good rating. It is a good tale that is not often told (which is why I think he should have gone deeper, by the way).It come recommended by me, anyway.
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M-Dugan More than 1 year ago
More proof that American politics hasn't changed a bit. Good ideas get both tossed out or modified in the name of compromise. For those who think that somehow America was pure at the beginning this book will enlighten the reader that political backstabbing, gossip and outright lies were and are the rule of the day. From gerrymandering the congressional districts in order to get a wanted result to writing newpaper articles to scare the voters it was all part of the program and yet semehow we got the first 10 ammendments. Although it took near 160 years before they became real for the average American, one can only imagine how this country might have developed had they not been ratified. James Madison, although not our finest President was an amazingly able behind the scenes facilitator and writer. Without his efforts and those of many others the Federal government would have had even more far reaching power than it already does. Considering the administration that just left office, one can only imagine the types of intrusions into our everyday lives that would have resulted had it not been for the Bill of Rights.