A workmanlike study of the checks-and-balances Founding Father from Virginia.
Broadwater (History/Barton Coll.; George Mason, Forgotten Founder, 2006, etc.) asserts the need for another appraisal of James Madison (1751–1836) as more than a “disembodied brain” who wrote many of the Federalist Papers and pushed hard for the adoption of the Constitution. After the succession of excellent Madison biographers Drew McCoy, Ralph Ketcham, Lance Banning and Jack Rakove, Broadwater organizes his more “modest” effort by facets dear to his subject, such as religious freedom and the party system. The first of 12 children born to a wealthy plantation owner, Madison became a religious scholar at Princeton, suffering a delicate constitution (however living to a very old age). As an elected delegate, he was enlisted to help draft the provision on religious freedom for the prototypical Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. Cementing an important relationship with governor Thomas Jefferson, Madison was 29 years old when he was first elected to Congress, sent to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of the Confederation at a tumultuous time in the young nation’s history. Madison recognized the need for Constitutional reform early on, ordering in 1786 a “library cargo” of political history of the Greeks, Swiss, Dutch and Germans for model confederacies. The process of hammering out compromises in Philadelphia drew out his concerns about checks and balances in protecting minority rights, about which he elaborated famously in the Federalist Papers. Once the Constitution was ratified, he decided to support a Bill of Rights after all, and won Congressional election against James Monroe. Madison helped forge the Republican Party and remained an implacable foe of Great Britain, which led to the War of 1812, dominating his two-term presidency. His wife Dolley Payne, a lively widow he married in his middle age, defined the role of First Lady.
An essential American philosopher and president gains a substantive treatment.