A biographical-historical study of Madison's final years, when he had outlived most of his contemporaries and saw the Constitution he had helped to draft being reinterpreted as American society underwent far-reaching transformations. Much has been written about Madison's roles as a Founding Father of the Constitution, contributor to the Federalist papers, and President of the US for two terms (18091817). McCoy (History/Harvard; The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America, 1980) here deals primarily with the period after Madison left the presidency and retired to his plantation in Virginia. The reason for this focus is that between 1817 and 1836, the year of Madison's death at age 85, the US was developing rapidly from a popular republic into an aggressively democratic society. Madison's views on great issues of the day--such as the Missouri Compromise, federal tariff legislation and the consequent nullification crisis, and the burning question of slavery--provide McCoy with a means of contrasting the ideas and intentions of a founder of the Constitution with the often dramatically different interpretations being brought to bear on government by a later generation in American politics. Along the way, the author sketches a portrait of the private character and personality of Madison, who remained alert and keenly interested in politics all his life. An intriguing and authoritative discussion, though the chapters sometimes read more like separate essays than parts of a unified book. Still, there's a wholeness that's achieved through McCoy's thorough understanding of the complex details--as well as the implications of the issues he views from Madison's unique perspective.