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Instead of an idealized portrait of Madison, Gutzman treats listeners to the flesh-and-blood story of a man who often performed his founding deeds in spite of himself: Madison's fame rests on his participation in the writing of The Federalist Papers and his role in drafting the Bill of Rights and Constitution.
Today, his contribution to those documents is largely misunderstood. Madison thought that the Bill of Rights was unnecessary and insisted that it not be included in the Constitution, a document he found entirely inadequate and predicted would soon fail. He helped to create the first American political party, the first party to call itself “Republican”, but only after he had argued that political parties, in general, were harmful. Madison served as Secretary of State and then as President during the early years of the United States and the War of 1812; however, the American foreign policy he implemented in 1801-1817 ultimately resulted in the British burning down the Capitol and the White House.
In so many ways, the contradictions both in Madison's thinking and in the way he governed foreshadowed the conflicted state of our Union now.
His greatest legacy - the disestablishment of Virginia's state church and adoption of the libertarian Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom - is often omitted from discussion of his career. Yet, understanding the way in which Madison saw the relationship between the church and state is key to understanding the real man.
Kevin Gutzman's James Madison and the Making of America promises to become the standard biography of our fourth President.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By David on 12-14-12
Not a traditional biography
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I would recommend this book with caveats as parts are quite slow going.
Would you be willing to try another book from Kevin R. C. Gutzman? Why or why not?
Sure, with careful attention to others' comments about the nature of the book.
Which character – as performed by Arthur Morey – was your favorite?
James Madison is the only one who stood out.
Was James Madison and the Making of America worth the listening time?
Yes, for a different perspective on the law-making processes of the time.
Any additional comments?
With all the detailed accounts of the 'ayes' and 'nays' in the law-making process, it is challenging at times to stay engaged.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful