JEFFERSON & MADISON

THREE CONVERSATIONS FROM THE FOUNDING

Drawing on the celebrated correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison about the newly adopted Constitution, Banning listens in on ``three of many conversations that occurred between two founders on matters of continuing concern.'' (See p. TKTK, The Republic of Letters, for the collected correspondence.) As US minister to France, Jefferson was absent from the US during the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and during the prolonged struggle in 1788 to ratify and establish the Constitution. However, Madison, Jefferson's friend and fellow Virginian, played a significant role during the convention. Banning (History/Univ. of Kentucky; The Jeffersonian Persuasion, not reviewed) shows that Jefferson objected to the lack of a declaration of essential rights in the Constitution, fearing that the newly powerful central government could develop into a despotic monster. Madison initially opposed adoption of such a declaration, arguing that, since the new federal government was one of limited powers, it was unnecessary to limit it with a declaration of rights—and that a bill of rights could prove dangerous in that it could be used to justify attempts to suppress rights not listed in the document. Of course, as Banning points out, Jefferson won that argument: On May 4, 1789, Madison announced in the House of Representatives that he would soon introduce a series of amendments to the infant Constitution. These amendments, which would become the Bill of Rights, were drafted and largely shepherded through the ratification process by Madison. Banning also presents the thoughts of the founders. Jefferson asserted that the public should not be burdened with debts of the previous generations, and even that legislatures should lack the power to bind future generations with indebtedness. Banning writes that what united the seemingly radical Jefferson and the more conservative Madison was a similar notion of ``public spirit,'' characterized by equal commitments to republican ideals and to democratic, majority decision making. A well-crafted work of history that not only gives insight into the lives and thought of the two men but also stimulates thought about the public institutions they helped to create.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1995

ISBN: 0-945612-42-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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