James Madison: The Founding Father

James Madison: The Founding Father

James Madison: The Founding Father

James Madison: The Founding Father

Synopsis

Available for the first time in paperback, James Madison: The Founding Father is a lively portrait of the man who essentially fathered our constitutional guarantees of civil and religious liberty. Focusing on the role Madison played at the Continental Congress and in each stage of the formation of the American Republic, Robert Allen Rutland also covers Madison's relationship with his beloved wife, Dolley, his fifty-year friendship with Thomas Jefferson, and his years as a respected elder statesman after serving as secretary of state and fourth president of the United States.

Excerpt

As an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma I picked up the bad habit of skipping prefaces when reading books. Fortunately, a wise professor of English sternly warned our class in Elizabethan literature that a serious reader cannot skip prefaces; and I have remained in his debt. A preface can be a quick review of a book, the kind Dumas Malone placed in his Jefferson in His Times; or a preface can explain what the author’s intentions were when he wrote the first draft of the book in hand. (I had to rewrite a little biography of George Mason six times, and the only sensible thing to do was to allow Mr. Malone to write an introduction to the book and be done with it.)

In this book my goals were to write a book that would appeal to the reader who does not want to face Irving Brant’s six-volume biography and who has no easy access to the recent works by Ralph Ketchan and Harold S. Schultz. All are excellent, all are out of print, and only Schultz’s is brief enough for the general reader. I also wanted to remind our generation that Madison was a man of character, an American who was committed to the ancient idea of “virtue” in a public man. He placed his country ahead of his own personal requirements and throughout his life eschewed any chance to make a dime from information, gained through public business, that he might have turned to profit. He shared this sense of “disinterestedness’ (the opposite of the excesses of Crédit Mobilier or Teapot Dome) with his peers. Madison as well as Jefferson and Monroe died either land-rich or dollar-poor, or both. Given their code of conduct and the economics of the day, the situation could not have been otherwise.

Another purpose of writing the book was to make some corrections in our public conception of this Founding Father. Madison was short and he was shy, and his closest friend was tall Thomas Jefferson. Madison was best in small groups; both he and Jefferson disliked crowds. This shyness has translated into the myth that Dolley Madison was a marvelous hostess who overcompensated for her “withered little apple-john.” And in Henry Adams’s history of the Jefferson and Madison administrations . . .

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