Library Journal Review
James Madison (1751-1836) was instrumental in framing the constitutional government that serves the American people today, with his efforts at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Madison ended the "Genius" phase of his political life, as Feldman (law, Harvard Univ.; Cool War) labels it, by successfully persuading his fellow Virginians to ratify the new form of government at a critical point in the process. The politician was prepared to retire until he saw his concept of republican government threatened; he entered the second phase of his political life as a partisan, representing a Virginia district in the First Congress. Here, he became increasingly adept at practicing politics while becoming political enemies with Alexander Hamilton, a former partner in ratifying the U.S. Constitution. Madison viewed Hamilton's political ideas as threats to true republican government. It led him, along with Thomas Jefferson, to form the first political party (Democratic-Republican). In his third political life, as Jefferson's secretary of state and later as president, Madison tried to remain faithful to his ideals. -VERDICT Based on primary and secondary sources, this is an insightful examination on how theories and ideals are applied and changed by real-life circumstances. [See Prepub Alert, 4/17/17.]-Glen Edward Taul, formerly with Campbellsville Univ., KY © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Richly detailed and propelled by clear, thoughtful analysis, this comprehensive biography by Harvard constitutional-law scholar Feldman (Cool War) traces the arc of Madison's career from his early influence on the Constitution through his role as cofounder of the Democratic-Republican Party to his tenure as America's fourth president. In addressing each of Madison's distinct "public lives," Feldman situates his subject within a particular historical moment, while also attending to his complex relationships with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and other key thinkers of the early republic. Madison emerges as an intense, introverted figure: his social awkwardness hardly endeared him to the public and his strongly held political beliefs often pushed him into conflict with former allies. Yet as Feldman shows, Madison's deep concern for liberty and the potential danger of faction also enabled him to change his mind on crucial issues, including the power of a centralized government. In addition to his well-developed portrait of Madison, Feldman offers lucid readings of founding documents such as The Federalist papers, reinterpreting these texts with a fresh perspective informed by close attention to language and the law. With its lively prose and political acumen, this biography will be of interest to general-history readers and scholars alike. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
James Madison and his ideas about individual liberty and republican government are Feldman's topics in this intellectual biography. Feldman opens with Madison's first political appearance, as a 25-year-old member of Virginia's 1776 convention to draft a state constitution. Making an impression as erudite and rational, Madison persuaded the body to disentangle religion from the state. His subsequent study of historical confederations made Madison one of the best prepared members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Relying on Madison's record of the proceeding, Feldman outlines the extent to which Madison's political principles were embodied in the new federal constitution. On to the 1790s, when Madison and Thomas Jefferson formed a party to battle Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. Triumphant in 1800, the political duo's dilemmas between their constitutional conscientiousness and the exigencies of exercising power animate Feldman's discussions of their presidencies. Not neglecting the discord between Madison's political theories and his actuality as a slave owner, Feldman identifies Madison's lasting legacies in this important contribution to the history of the early republic.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2017 Booklist