James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights

  • by Richard Labunski
  • Narrated by Richard Poe
  • 11 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 James Madison. Here is a vividly written account of not one, but several major political struggles that 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.
The “Pivotal Moments in American History” series seeks to unite the old and the new history, combining the insights and techniques of recent historiography with the power of traditional narrative. Each title has a strong narrative arc with drama, irony, suspense, and – most importantly – great characters who embody the human dimension of historical events. The general editors of “Pivotal Moments” are not just historians; they are popular writers themselves, and, in two cases, Pulitzer Prize winners: David Hackett Fischer, James M. McPherson, and David Greenberg. We hope you like your American History served up with verve, wit, and an eye for the telling detail!


What the Critics Say

"Engaging....A lively look at the rickety early republic and Madison's great balancing act." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

American History is All of a Sudden Interesting!

I've never been a big fan of American history, especially having to read through it. The author, Richard Labunski writes in a style that takes us on an interesting journey through the early formation days of the United States of America. He makes the various characters interesting and compelling. You can almost picture yourself right in the midst of all the goings-on, and that always makes for a good read.

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- James


The struggle for the Bill of Rights should be a fascinating history. What ideas drove the men who argued for and against the Bill of Rights? The book claims that much of the disagreement was just about process--e.g., whether we should get a Constitution with a Bill of Rights or first a Constitution and then a Bill of Rights. Oh really? Process may have been an argument, but surely wasn't the foundation of disagreement. Puzzling facts get mentioned, but but never get explored--such as, why was New Jersey so quick to approve the Constitution without a Bill of Rights? The author doesn't pause to consider such questions. A great opportunity missed.
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- Adam Smith

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-14-2006
  • Publisher: Recorded Books