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James Madison /
Garry Wills.
1st ed.
New York : Times Books, 2002.
xx, 184 p. ; 22 cm.
0805069054 (hb)
More Details
New York : Times Books, 2002.
0805069054 (hb)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [173]-174) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Garry Wills, adjunct professor of history at Northwestern University, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Lincoln at Gettysburg. He is also the author of Saint Augustine and Papal Sin Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is the preeminent political historian of our time. The recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Humanities Medal, he published the first volume of his autobiography, A Life in the Twentieth Century, in 2000
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2002-02-18:
It's tough to write a compelling biography of Madison: though a great politician, he was also a provincial, cerebral and slightly dull man; any account of his life must contain the kinds of dry legislation the Non-Intercourse Act, Macon's Bill Number 2, for example that have driven generations of history students to distraction. But Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Wills does as good a job as possible in this brief volume, the latest addition to a series on the nation's presidents edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. With prior studies of Washington, Jefferson and other Framers (including Madison) under his belt, Wills is well acquainted with his subject and balanced in his assessments. Madison, "this unimpressive little man with libraries in his brain," was the "Father of the Constitution" and the nation's fourth president. But during an extraordinary four-decade public career, Madison also guided Washington and Jefferson in their presidencies; steered the pioneering Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom through that state's legislature in 1786 and the Bill of Rights through Congress; and helped Jefferson found the Democratic Party. But for all Madison's greatness, Wills nevertheless (and justifiably) judges him nave, inconsistent, occasionally dishonest, prone to sniff conspiracy in any opposition, and, like so many Southerners of the time, deaf to and finally paralyzed by slavery. Moreover, although he was a first-class committeeman, he lacked executive talent. His presidency was a near disaster and he narrowly averted defeat in the War of 1812. To Madison's credit, unlike other wartime presidents, he didn't stretch the Constitution or invade civil liberties. Madison had "the strength of his weaknesses," concludes Wills in this fine, short biography of one of the nation's greatest public servants. (Apr. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2002-06-01:
In this work one of the first in a new series being published under the general editorship of Schlesinger Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Wills (e.g., Lincoln at Gettysburg, 1992) does not attempt to offer a complete biography of Madison. Rather, he sets out to solve a mystery: how could Madison have been such a spectacularly important Founding Father and later just a slightly above average President? Wills provides a thoroughly satisfying answer. He maintains that Madison possessed qualities that served him well early in his career but proved to be a handicap during his Presidency. For example, his superior skills as a legislator were not what he needed to face the crises of his presidential years, when personal charisma, social charms, and a wider vision would have been more useful. Moreover, Madison's parochialism (reflected in his aversion to traveling outside his beloved Virginia) made him greatly misjudge Britain in the War of 1812. Written with flair, this clear and balanced account is based on a sure handling of the material. It should appeal to general readers as well as specialists. Highly recommended for all libraries. T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, February 2002
Publishers Weekly, February 2002
Booklist, March 2002
Wall Street Journal, March 2002
Booklist, April 2002
Library Journal, June 2002
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Main Description
A bestselling historian examines the life of a Founding Father. Renowned historian and social commentator Garry Wills takes a fresh look at the life of James Madison, from his rise to prominence in the colonies through his role in the creation of the Articles of Confederation and the first Constitutional Congress. Madison oversaw the first foreign war under the constitution, and was forced to adjust some expectations he had formed while drafting that document. Not temperamentally suited to be a wartime President, Madison nonetheless confronted issues such as public morale, internal security, relations with Congress, and the independence of the military. Wills traces Madison's later life during which, like many recent Presidents, he enjoyed greater popularity than while in office.
Table of Contents
Editor's Notep. xv
Key to Brief Citationsp. xix
Introduction: The Problemp. 1
Pre-presidential Years (1751-1809)p. 9
Before the Constitution (1751-1785)p. 11
The Constitution (1786-1788)p. 24
Three Administrations (1789-1809)p. 38
The Presidency: First Term (1809-1813)p. 57
Policy and Personnel (1809)p. 59
Domestic Affairs: The Partisans (1809-1816)p. 68
Foreign Affairs: Suckered Twice (1809-1810)p. 80
Maneuvering into War (1811-1812)p. 89
To Conquer Canada (1812)p. 97
Frigates and a Fresh Start (1812)p. 106
The Presidency: Second Term (1813-1817)p. 119
Peace Overtures and Professionalism (1813-1814)p. 121
Washington and Baltimore (1814)p. 132
Maneuvering Out of War (1814-1815)p. 142
Assessing the Presidency (1815-1817)p. 153
Epilogue: The Legacyp. 161
Notesp. 165
Milestonesp. 171
Selected Bibliographyp. 173
Indexp. 175
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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