Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic

By Kaminski, John P. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, October 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic


Kaminski, John P., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Founding Friendship. George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic. By STUART LEIBIGER. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1999. xii, 284 pp. $35.00.

THROUGHOUT the 1780s James Madison was the most important political figure in the United States. Beyond his wellrecognized capacity to cut right to the core of any topic under discussion, Madison's greatest strengths were his ability to work with others, to communicate his ideas effectively, and to obtain results. He figured prominently in the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the Virginia House of Delegates, the Annapolis Convention, the Constitutional Convention, the Virginia ratifying convention, and the first House of Representatives.

Madison collaborated with several colleagues on a variety of causes. His work with Thomas Jefferson has long been well documented. Other collaborations occurred with James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, Rufus King, and Edmund Randolph. Most importantly, Madison developed an intimate collaboration with George Washington. It is this latter partnership between America's most charismatic leader and the country's most effective legislative manager and constitutional philosopher that Stuart Leibiger examines in this outstanding book.

Leibiger sees Washington and Madison as having shared a hope for a strong, efficient, and republican central government empowered to raise revenue and field an army and navy, regulate commerce, defend federal authority against inroads from the states, and protect minority (usually creditors') rights at times of severe economic crisis. Only after the two men succeeded and the new Constitution was implemented did their views diverge on matters of policy. While President Washington feared that the republic was endangered by the dissenting political factions in the states, Madison believed that the fiscal policies of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton would lead to the concentration of political and economic power in the North and the empowerment of an aristocracy of wealth destructive to republicanism. Although these differences led to their estrangement, Leibiger maintains that Madison and Washington were never really that far apart-the former never joined the most hostile Republican forces and the latter refused to position himself in the most extreme nationalist camp.

The Washington-Madison partnership lasted from about 1784 to 1792. Before and after these dates their cooperation was more coincidental. Their first collaboration resulted in the chartering of private companies to undertake internal improvements, especially the construction of canals and roads aimed at connecting the West with the states of the Atlantic seaboard. The two men eventually joined in supporting the calling of a constitutional convention, in which they played crucial roles. …

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