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James Madison
Cover of James Madison
James Madison
A Life Reconsidered
A major new biography of the fourth president of the United States by New York Times bestselling author Lynne Cheney

Lin-Manuel Miranda's play "Hamilton" has reignited interest in the founding fathers; it features James Madison among its vibrant cast of characters. This majestic new biography of James Madison explores the astonishing story of a man of vaunted modesty who audaciously changed the world. Among the Founding Fathers, Madison was a true genius of the early republic.

Outwardly reserved, Madison was the intellectual driving force behind the Constitution and crucial to its ratification. His visionary political philosophy and rationale for the union of states—so eloquently presented in The Federalist papers—helped shape the country Americans live in today.

Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison would found the first political party in the country's history—the Democratic Republicans. As Jefferson's secretary of state, he managed the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States. As president, Madison led the country in its first war under the Constitution, the War of 1812. Without precedent to guide him, he would demonstrate that a republic could defend its honor and independence—and remain a republic still.
From the Hardcover edition.
A major new biography of the fourth president of the United States by New York Times bestselling author Lynne Cheney

Lin-Manuel Miranda's play "Hamilton" has reignited interest in the founding fathers; it features James Madison among its vibrant cast of characters. This majestic new biography of James Madison explores the astonishing story of a man of vaunted modesty who audaciously changed the world. Among the Founding Fathers, Madison was a true genius of the early republic.

Outwardly reserved, Madison was the intellectual driving force behind the Constitution and crucial to its ratification. His visionary political philosophy and rationale for the union of states—so eloquently presented in The Federalist papers—helped shape the country Americans live in today.

Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison would found the first political party in the country's history—the Democratic Republicans. As Jefferson's secretary of state, he managed the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States. As president, Madison led the country in its first war under the Constitution, the War of 1812. Without precedent to guide him, he would demonstrate that a republic could defend its honor and independence—and remain a republic still.
From the Hardcover edition.
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    PROLOGUE

    PHILADELPHIA, MAY 5, 1787

    He hurried along Market Street, his high-crowned hat offering scant protection against the rain. Had he passed this way earlier in the day, shoppers would have slowed his pace, drawn by the covered market that stretched for blocks down the center of the street. Now, with the afternoon wearing on and a thunderstorm over the city, only a few bargain hunters remained. Farmers who had brought produce in from the Pennsylvania countryside were scrambling into their wagons for what promised to be a muddy trek home.1

    Visitors to Philadelphia found the market a wonder, but the residents of Market Street were not fond of it. They repeatedly—and futilely—tried to halt its expansion, arguing that the crowds did real estate values no good. Better to have the more peaceful setting enjoyed by residents farther west, the direction that the hurrying figure was headed. He crossed Fifth Street, its wet cobblestones glistening underfoot, then with springing step went up the stairs and entered the door of the ample brick building on the corner. It was the comfortable residence of Mary House, an elderly widow who lived there with her son, Samuel, her daughter, Eliza Trist, and Mrs. Trist's son, Hore Browse. It was also one of Philadelphia's most highly regarded boardinghouses, a home away from home for many of America's political notables.2

    Thirty-six-year-old James Madison, shaking off rain inside the front door, was one of Mrs. House's regulars. He had begun staying with her in 1780, when he first became a member of the Continental Congress, and now, after a day-and-a-half ride by stagecoach from New York, he was at her lodgings again, this time to attend a convention scheduled for the second Monday in May. Over the past seven years, Madison had spent more time at Mrs. House's than at his Virginia home, and he had come to regard her family as his family. He was particularly fond of Mrs. Trist, a woman of spirit and wit. In 1784 she had traveled by flatboat down the Mississippi to Louisiana to be with her husband, Nicholas, a former British officer. She recorded flora and fauna along the way for Thomas Jefferson, another Virginian who stayed at the Market Street lodgings, unaware as she was taking notes that she had become a widow. Between the last letter she received from Nicholas and the beginning of her trip downriver, he had died. Jefferson and Madison, learning of Nicholas's fate, wrote to each other of their concern for Mrs. Trist. With the Spanish having closed the Mississippi to American navigation, how would she get back to Philadelphia? But she found a way, sailing first to Jamaica and from there back home.3

    At no more than five feet six inches tall, Madison was not physically imposing in the way Jefferson was, or the great Washington, whom Mrs. Trist and her mother were expecting to arrive in little over a week. But he was fit and well proportioned, and as he gazed out at the world from deep-set light blue eyes, he had a presence about him, "a habit of self-possession," Jefferson called it, "which placed at ready command the rich resources of his luminous and discriminating mind."4

    Madison did not leap forward to meet strangers or try to dominate in conversation. He was naturally reserved and perhaps also influenced by a lesson of his youth. From the Spectator, a London periodical that he favored in his early years, he had learned that modesty becomes a man. Famed Spectator author Joseph Addison described it as "a guard to virtue" and noted that it "sets off every great talent which a man can be possessed of."5

    By now Madison also understood that reticence had its political...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 17, 2014
    In a meticulously researched, richly detailed look at the life and times of Madison, former Second Lady Cheney (We the People) fleshes out the achievements and struggles of this American Founding Father. As much a biography of the statesman, intellectual, and politician who rose to become President as a history of the country’s tumultuous post-Revolutionary War growth, the work covers a lot of ground. Authoritative, conversational, certainly confident in its analysis, the book paints Madison as a man of great accomplishments; one who struggled against setbacks, political opponents, and health problems. Cheney does veer uncomfortably close to hero worship: “Madison’s time of extraordinary achievement came after years of intense focus, deep concentration, and nearly obsessive effort, behavior that describes most lives of genius, from Sir Isaac Newton’s to Mozart’s to Einstein’s.” However, she does show his impressive influence in helping to forge a nation out of chaos through constant debate and begrudging compromise. Cheney conclusively demonstrates through the historical record that Madison, in word and deed, was a primary figure in shaping early American development and successfully establishes “a deeper understanding of the man who did more than any other to conceive and establish the nation we know.” Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2014
    A Founding Father gets a respectful reappraisal. Author and former second lady Cheney (We the People: The Story of Our Constitution, 2008, etc.) puts another feather in her patriotic hat with this life of James Madison (1751-1836), fourth president, forger of the Constitution and friend of Thomas Jefferson. While he never studied the law or pursued the military, mostly due to his ill health, which was perceived then as epilepsy, Madison was a doer, translating his passionate defense of the Baptists' right to worship in Virginia into activism in the patriotic cause of the Virginia Convention. Working with Jefferson in fashioning the Virginia constitution, Madison was drafting the blueprint that would become the U.S. Constitution, including the important early tenet for religious liberty. A diligent member of the Continental Congress, he, along with Alexander Hamilton, proposed a states' revenue to pay the new country's debts and promoted Jefferson as peace negotiator in Paris. Drawing from his deep readings in Enlightenment philosophers, Madison was taking notes during every moment in the Philadelphia debates concerning the overhaul of the Articles of the Confederation, as the delegates wrangled over every aspect of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. He suspected that the approved Constitution failed to rein in the "unwise and wicked proceedings" of the states. The threat of New York's failure to ratify prompted Madison, Hamilton and John Jay to anonymously pen the Federalist Papers. Madison's most famous was Federalist 10, which warned of "factions" in causing government failure. Beating James Monroe for representative to the First Congress from Virginia, Madison helped George Washington revise his inaugural address, and he shaped the Bill of Rights. As president, he weathered the British storm of 1812 and kept the union intact. Cheney duly covers her subject's life in a thorough yet somewhat bland narrative. A proficiently argued account for Madison's greatness, but it lacks the political thrusts of Garry Wills, Richard Brookhiser and other historians.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2014
    Cheney ("We the People: The Story of Our Constitution"), an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow and former second lady of the United States, looks anew at a foundational figure of the early American republic in an analysis of James Madison's life, beliefs, character, and influences. Although notable biographies of Madison (1751-1836) appeared in 2013 (Kevin R.C. Gutzman's "James Madison and the Making of America"; Jeff Broadwater's "James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation"), Cheney, in a primary-sourced, sprightly, and innovative study, emphasizes how this theorist and practical politician successfully utilized what might have been impediments in other statesmen. Madison's relative reserve allowed him to work with varying personality types; his occasional indispositions, identified here as consistent with epilepsy, fostered his understanding of others. Despite his ideological rivalry with Alexander Hamilton regarding the proper role of federal government, the nonconfrontational Madison was deftly able to advise George Washington, who often supported Hamilton's positions. While he has a reputation as the Constitution's primary author, Madison helped to establish the party system, an entity not described in the founding documents. In this balanced account, Cheney portrays the man's interaction with his advisor and wife, Dolley, as well as with other political actors. VERDICT A nuanced study on its own and a thoughtful presentation by one of today's prominent public intellectuals. This title is useful and accessible on many levels, for its biographical revelations, particularly regarding Madison's health and the basis of his temperament, and as a cerebral encounter with a Founder with a lasting legacy.--Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Life Reconsidered
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