4- James Madison

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4- James Madison

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Editado: Maio 10, 2010, 11:34pm

James Madison: (The American Presidents Series) by Garry Wills
James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham
James Madison: the Founding Father by Robert Allen Rutland
James Madison by Sydney Howard Gay

1808 Election Madison (122 electoral votes) vs. Pinckney (47)
1812 Election Madison (128 electoral votes) vs. Clinton (89)

Madison was our smallest President, weighing 100 pounds, and standing 5 feet and 4 inches tall.
Madison was the first President to wear trousers instead of knee breeches.
James Madison was one of two Presidents to sign the U.S. Constitution.
Madison, Wisconsin is named after James Madison.
Madison was a half first cousin twice removed of George Washington and a second cousin of Zachary Taylor.
During the War of 1812 Madison was under enemy fire. He was the first president to be in that situation. (Some people may question whether this is true or not since George Washington led troops during the Whiskey Rebellion, some say that he was the first to be under enemy fire. Nevertheless, I added this fact because I read it in several different places.
Madison was younger than both of his vice presidents, and both of his vice presidents died while they were in office.
Madison was diagnosed as epileptic.
Madison was the first U.S. congressman to become president.
He was named after his father.

Editado: Jan 5, 2009, 9:23pm

Does anybody have a good book recommendation for Madison? I have tried reading James Madison: (The American Presidents Series) by Garry Wills but haven't really enjoyed it. I was hoping for more background information on his life. Maybe I should give it another try though.

Jan 15, 2009, 5:50pm

Those are some good suggestions. I'm going to be taking a continuing education class on James Madison in a couple of weeks. Maybe I'll get some additional ideas then. If so, I'll be sure to post them. It seems like the James Madison: A Biography might be the best choice but I don't know if I'm ready for 700+ pages!

Jan 16, 2009, 8:49am

While touring Monticello one of the guides mentioned that Dolly Madison didn't like visiting President Jefferson because the beds were built in, only open on the sides and it was like sleeping in a box.

Mar 8, 2009, 12:41pm

James Madison: (The American Presidents Series)
Author: Garry Wills
Read: March 1 - March 8
Pages: 164

This book, IMHO, does not do justice to either the man or the era in which he served, glossing over a number of critical aspects and continually stressing other aspects.
He was a great legislator but not a very competent executive. He had flaws which he apparently didn't recognize, or if he did was not willing to correct.
He involved this nation in an unnecessary war simply because he would not recognize his own limitations as an executive and was constantly trying to protect his own political party as well as listening to the advice of Jefferson rather than making his own decisions.
If I had to rank his abilities according to the information provided in this book, I would not be impressed with Madison in the slightest. However, I am willing to proceed to another more definitive biography before I make my final evaluation.

I am not counting Madison as finished at this point. I have 2 more books related The War of 1812: A FORGOTTEN CONFLICT and James Madison: A biography

Mar 8, 2009, 1:20pm

This is one we all may want to wait a year for. Lynne Cheney is writing a new biography of Madison. She has always maintained that he is underestimated and underrated, so I'm thinking her book may stress some of what's been missing in previous bios. No word on publication date, but I'm definitely looking for it before I mark Madison as completed.

Mar 8, 2009, 3:42pm

According to this article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/17/lynne-cheney-to-write-jam_n_151659.html, publication not expected until 2011. Is she enough of a researcher to do a thorough job? I'm exposing my ignorance, but I don't know her qualifications to be anything except the vice-president's wife.

Mar 8, 2009, 4:37pm

Two reasons I'm not waiting..
1) I'm reading in order and can't wait until 2011.
2) I've gotten the impression that Cheney is a little partisan and I don't want that.

Just from what little I'm heard of her plan for the book, I'm not so sure that I go along with her thinking. I would rather have it from real historians, something I don't see her as. She may have written some children's histories, but I don't think she's a heavy weight in the history area. I could be wrong and who knows I may decide to read it after the challenge is over.

I have these two others and Ketcham's is 700+ pages so I think should be okay.

Mar 8, 2009, 4:44pm

Cheli, you should still count your Madison read on the thread ticker. You give the rest of us credit after only one book, even when we plan to read more deeply before moving on to someone else.

Mar 8, 2009, 5:09pm

she has a PhD in Lit, and has held some pretty high powered positions requiring brains, not just connections. I'm not going to discount the woman and her abilities just because I don't care for her husband. I got past that a long time ago. I'm sure all of the above are adequate, and it all depends on what you want to get out of your reading. Unfortunately, David McCullough isn't going to write the definite biography of every president, so we have to look elsewhere.

Looking at what's 'in the stacks' right now, Ketcham certainly pops to the top as being both broadest and widest. The sheer size of these books is the reason this challenge is going to take at least 4 years to complete for most of us who want to get something besides a quick glance.

The other problem that I personally have with older books (those published before say 1980) is that they often have a tighter typography than my old eyes are capable of handling. I can read them, but they tire me, and I tend to 'rest them' for awhile, often for a rather permanent siesta. Just looking at the online 'preview' of Rutland's James Madison: the Founding Father gave me a headache.

OTOH, Jack Rakove certainly has impeccable credentials, but his book got VERY mixed reviews and that makes me suspect that his is another scholarly but hardly readable book.

I think the final choices will come down to personal preferences, and the individual's decision about how deeply to delve into each bio. If we were discussing food I'd say BonApetit.

Mar 11, 2009, 9:27pm

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person having a hard time finding a suitable biography on Madison. I tried the American Presidents series and was bored. I recently took a four week fun course on James Madison and the Constitution. I asked the professor what biography she would recommend on Madison and she said none. Basically, there hasn't been a decent biography of Madison written which I find rather discouraging. This doesn't count as a biography, but Madison did pen Notes of Debates in the Federal Constitution in which he recounted the entire convention of 1787 in which the Constitution was formed.

Mar 11, 2009, 9:52pm

I felt the same way about the American Presidents Madison book. But, as everyone else has also said, I couldn't find anything else. I'll probably take a look at the Lynn Cheney book when it comes out, but until then, there are lots of other presidents to read.

Editado: Mar 11, 2009, 10:50pm

Well, before I start the Ketcham bio on Madison, I'm reading The War of 1812: A FORGOTTEN CONFLICT to give me some background. The President series didn't say much about the causes so I think this should help a little.

Editado: Mar 17, 2009, 6:23pm

I got to thinking that the Easton Press publishes a full collector series of leather-bound presidential biographies.

I think the one for James Madison is: "The Fourth President-A Life of James Madison" by Irving Brant. (I saw copies for sale on ebay but not sure it's still in print.)

Mar 21, 2009, 11:05pm

Thanks for all the info on finding something to read on Madison. It helps to know what I'll be facing. If I might suggest, audiobooks may be the way to go for some of the more wordy, smaller type publications. In other words, if the only offerings are actually difficult to read in terms of the small type or length, audiobooks can be excellent. I listened to one years ago about Abraham Lincoln and James Wilkes Booth. It was actually phenomenal. It was called An American Gothic and it was in cassette form. I think I got it at a library sale afterwards also, because I loved it. It was very long but so interesting and all-encompassing. I am reading Mccullough's John Adams right now. I guess I started with a good one. I know I enjoyed the HBO series and I'm happy to say they follow the book quite nicely. I would like to begin with the first few presidents, and though they may not be in exact order, I like following the progression of the politics.

Mar 22, 2009, 12:10am

#16 I agree that audio's make difficult-to-read books easier to "read", if you can find them. Our library tends only to get audio's of popular titles, so scholarly topics are often hard to find. McCullough is popular enough that his books are all available.

Mar 22, 2009, 2:00pm

I, personally, wish they were all on AUDIO. That way I would get all my reading done and my needlework, and maybe still have time to play a few PC games. I know that the one I'm reading now for James Madison would definitely be better on audio. But I'm plugging through and hope to finish it in 10 days to 2 weeks. It's 700+ pages and I can't read it for a long time because the writing is very choppy.

I'm not sure that I'm going to finish it, I really wanted something more about the middle years before his presidency since I read the other book as well as the War of 1812 I think I just needed more on that range of his life. Maybe by the time he gets older, the book will get better.

Mar 25, 2009, 6:40pm

Author: Ralph Ketcham
Read: March 14 - March 25
Pages: 384 of 747

This was a huge book. Let me just start with that because the volume that I had was over 700 pages. I closed it permanently at page 384. I couldn't take anymore of the style of Ralph Ketcham. When I started this book I had already read the biography of James Madison:(The American Presidents Series). I also had read a book on the writing of the constitution and one about the War of 1812. So I was looking for details when I picked up this book. And, yes, this book is filled with details, which would have been fine if they had been distributed with some semblance of order. However, throughout the pages that I read, the author was very disjointed and constantly jumps from one time period to another.
Again, this would be fine if it was in different chapters, about different aspects of Madison's life, but no, this happened in the same paragraphs and on some occasions the same long sentences.
This said, I could not in good conscience recommend this book to anyone, unless they were truly looking for a mountain of details concerning Madison's inability to decide on a career, his lack of a love life until he was 43, his health issues (mainly hypochondria), and his dependence on others both financially and emotionally.
Maybe the book got better after page 384, I'll never know.

I'm counting it as read since I went so far into it.

Maio 5, 2009, 12:40pm

Disappointing and a bit surprising for me to hear about the difficulty in finding suitable books. Haven't read any of these, but tagmash results suggested several that I might select from. I'd love to hear any comments if anyone has read these or heard anything about any of them.

History of the United States During the Administrations of James Madison
James Madison on Religious liberty
The Federalist Papers
The complete Madison : his basic writings
James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights
The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison
The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826
James Madison and the Future of Limited Government
The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding
The life of James Madison
James Madison and the search for nationhood
James Madison, Commander in chief, 1812-1836

Maio 5, 2009, 12:57pm

Bfertig....thanks for the great starting list....I've been holding off on doing much of this challenge until next year (my two 999's have me more than busy) when I can devote lots of time to really getting into this.

When my sister (cyderry) and I decided to start this group, it was because many years ago (some time in the late 70's I think) I had begun a personal 'challenge' to read the presidents in order. I got only as far as Madison, and could not -- at that time-- find anything readable. We lived in D.C. with excellent libraries around, but nothing was popping up.

Now, you've given me hope and your list, combined with some maturity (I prefer not to call it old age) and more reading experience under my belt, has me looking forward to getting started next year.

Maio 5, 2009, 1:06pm

It's unbelievable to me that there is so little available on Madison.

So far, my plan is to read either (1) the Garry Wills American Presidents book or (2) James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic by Jack Rakove, as well as the new book, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman.

Maio 5, 2009, 11:16pm

Checking the library catalog, I found:

James Madison: The Founding Father by Robert Allen Rutland
James Madison and the Search for Nationhood also by Robert Allen Rutland

The Ketcham and the Wills books already mentioned

Quite a few "juvenile" biographies

and Young Patriots by Charles A Cerami, which looks like it is about Madison's and Hamilton's efforts to get the consititution ratified.

Has anyone looked at either of the Rutland books?

Maio 6, 2009, 10:34am

I just happen to be starting James Madison: The Founding Father today at lunch. I'll let you know how it goes.

Maio 6, 2009, 9:43pm

I found a treasure at a used book sale to help the library and I thought I would share. It is a volume of the Library of America series by Henry Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of a President and a noted historian. The volume I have is Vol 2 which is titled "The History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson. However, Vol. 3 deals with Administration of James Madison. The book jacket says that Adams works were first published in 9 volumes from 1889-91 and "has been judged one of the greatest historical works in English".Thought this might interest some of the members of our pack looking for a book about Mr. Madison. I know I cant wait to read the Jefferson volume and will most likely be looking for the Madsion work as well.

Maio 11, 2009, 11:05pm

So here's my review of Robert Rutland's James Madison: the Founding Father:

James Madison is one of those characters in American history that we often neglect. He's a "Founding Father", yet he falls under the shadow of Jefferson, his mentor and friend. He was instrumental in the writing and adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and was a leader in the House of Representatives. But he was also instrumental in the establishment of the Democratic Republican party to oppose the Federalists. And he's not a President that I've studied all that much.

Rutland's biography, James Madison: The Founding Father, was good, but not great. I appreciated his recounting of the political maneuvering that went on during the establishment of the Constitution, but ultimately was unsatisfying given the brevity of the book. The choice of a single chapter per President through Madison's own term in office was limiting, and forced Rutland to greatly abbreviate his discussion of critical events. His brevity also meant that Madison's personal life was relatively unexplored.

In spite of its flaws, James Madison: The Founding Father should work fine as a jumping off point for further reading on Madison.

Jul 5, 2009, 1:20am

James Madison by Garry Wills

This is a short overview of James Madison, particularly as to his presidential years. The book is part of the American Presidents series and, for what it aims to do, it's not too bad.

More than half of the book is on Madison's presidency, though, even there, it seems to be more of a history of the times and less about Madison's role in it.

After reading the Wills book, I see Madison as skillful in legislative matters and a giant at the Constitutional Convention but not particulary adept as our nation's Chief Executive. There, he was naive, provincial, and seemed to flip flop quite a bit in his views. His solution to everything seemed to be to impose an embargo.

This book did make me want to read more about Madison, though there's a scarcity of good biographies about him. As a result, I intend to read something about the making of the Constitution and also about the War of 1812. This book was a decent start to my Madison reading.

Editado: Ago 31, 2009, 12:40am

The bio I have and have read is the one by Ralph Ketcham. Whilst I sort of agree with Cheli about it being a loooooong book, I accepted that Madison had a very long political career so I persisted to the end. I actually enjoyed the read because I was also learning about some of the politicians who were creating (or trying to block) the history. I have enjoyed meeting people like Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Albert Gallatin, John Randolph, John Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, all of whom are just as important to the shaping of USA as are the Presidents. Of course there are many more men to enjoy and admire but these in particular pushed and pulled Mr. Madison to and through his two terms and were very infuential in making him into the president he was.
On balance, I think he was a "safe" president, one of the more important "founding" fathers and a "difficult" person to bind into a personal friendship.

Ago 31, 2009, 12:03pm

gmillar, I am tempted to read the Ketcham book, at some point, but I am also eager to move on.

I read that short Wills biography and will read two other books, of a more general historical nature (not strictly presidential biography). I just started Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman. I also plan to read a detailed history of the War of 1812.

Ago 31, 2009, 6:24pm

Hope you enjoy it. Wouldn't you like to travel back in time and be a fly on the wall?

Set 2, 2009, 11:47am

Editado: Set 4, 2009, 1:33pm

Has anyone read James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights, part of the Pivotal Moments in American History series, by Richard Labunski (i see where #20 has listed it)? I saw this in my local bookstore and wondered how it was.

I've been thinking about doing the challenge, but I would be lucky to collect and/or find the books I want by 2012 let alone read them all! It's a great goal, and I look forward to following people's comments on each president.

Is anyone interested in reading books about the First Wives? I've been considering that as a side goal myself. For me, this would be more of a decades long goal of collecting and reading books about the Presidents.

Re the War of 1812, Walter Borneman's 1812: The War That Forged a Nation is another book for getting background on the issues Madison faced during his presidency. From what I remember, the fall-out caused by Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 was a huge problem that Madison inherited early on in his presidency.

Set 4, 2009, 3:02pm

ludmillalotaria, thanks. After I read my current one about the making of the Constitution, I plan to read that Borneman book about the War of 1812.

Because I'm reading side books on the era and not just the presidential bios, I'm not sure I will finish this challenge on time but I sure am enjoying it!!

Set 4, 2009, 3:05pm


The list in the OP shows who has read which book, so it doesn't look like anyone has read James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights.

As for joining, my mother always said "You never know how far you'll get if you don't try" so sign on with the rest of us. If Obama is re-elected, you get an extra 4 years!

If we don't make it, at least it was fun trying!

Editado: Set 6, 2009, 5:14pm

I finished up James Madison last night. The first book I read was James Madison: American Presidents. I am not going to trash books from this series. They are what they are: short bios of the Presidents focusing on their time in office. I am also interested in the lives, families and times of the Presidents. To this end, I also read A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation. Obviously, this book focused on Dolley Madison but it did give a good picture of James' personal life and his presidency. Before reading this book, I knew zero about Dolley, except that she has an ice cream named after her. After reading the book, I came to realize she was an amazing person.

Editado: Set 15, 2009, 3:43pm

I still have to read something on Jefferson, but I dropped by to see what resources people were reading on Madison.

My local library has the Ketcham, Rutledge, and Wills books. It also has a single copy of The fourth President; a life of James Madison a one-volume condensed version of a 6 volume work James Madison by Irving Brant. It's being held for someone else, but I'll try to get it after them, probably in another month or two, when I finally am ready for Madison.

I'll report back on it.

Set 20, 2009, 9:35am

I own the Brandt abridgement and started to read it. I don't recommend it.

Out 3, 2009, 8:53pm

OK, so no on Brandt. And I'm not up to another 600 page book right now.

National Review had a review of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government by Colleen Sheehan that looked interesting. I have a copy coming so I'll give that a try and report back.

Editado: Out 6, 2009, 10:31pm

I finished James Madison by Garry Wills and gave it 3½ stars. It was informative, but I've got so many questions after reading it I'll have to find something else at some point to fill in, especially about the writing of the Constitution. For now I can be counted as done on Madison (gotta keep going or I know I'll get sidetracked).

The book really plows right along, not stopping to define many things (luckily, there's always Wikipedia for a quick look-up of terminology and events). I did enjoy it, though: kept my interest, engaged my curiosity, and left me with very mixed feelings about Madison. The Epilogue, meant to sum up his legacy, was much too brief and introduced ideas not really discussed in the main part of the book: especially, Madison's attitude towards slavery and nullification and/or interposition. From the 21st century, it sounds like Wills is proposing that Madison had negative feelings about the institution of slavery, but I suspect he means that Madison saw slavery as being used as a wedge issue to support states' rights advocates and threats of secession. He can hardly have been antislavery, given his own "holdings" (regardless of what Washington and Jefferson professed about their own feelings on slavery, let's face it: they didn't care enough to do without).

But, and here's where I'll always hold Madison dear to my heart: separation between church and state! God bless the little guy!!!

Out 7, 2009, 8:42pm

So is there a "great" bio of James Madison? Cuz I sure would like to read one. My expensive leatherbound Library of the Presidents Irving Brandt abridgement sux!

Out 7, 2009, 9:42pm

I was kind of hoping you'd tell me, Garp :)

I have to admit I feel a bit let down on Madison, after reading such wonderful books about Adams and Jefferson and a decent one on Washington.

Out 8, 2009, 3:27pm

I hate the saying 'The book you want to read is the book you have to write'

Out 8, 2009, 7:39pm

If only! Well, I'm currently reading 10 books at the same time so I guess I can wait till a good Madison book comes along!

Out 8, 2009, 8:16pm

Wow, Garp, just how many eyes do you have?

(Personally, I have only 6-8 at a time....)

Out 11, 2009, 9:50am

Well its just that i start these books and see other books I like and start them and feel guilty about leaving any behind and then ...

Out 18, 2009, 6:48pm

I've just discovered your blogsite and am happy to see that there are so many thoughtful folks interested in Madison today.

I think that one of the reasons that there is no biography on Madison that stands out as "delightful and capturing" is that Madison just wasn't the exotic Carribean and handsome rake Hamilton was, or the deeply introspective, hand-wringing Puritan Adams was, or the personally moody but publically democratic optimist and sophisticate with a flare for what we today call "interpersonal skills" that marked the persona of Jefferson.

I'm happy to see that lauranav will be reading my recently published book on "James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government." While this book is not a biography, I think that the best way to come to know Madison is through an understanding of the ideas that drove him -- which is what my book is about. My goal in the book was to write it as much as possible in a style and with a tempo that citizens in general would be attracted to (rather than the pedantic style so common in academia). I hope I've succeeded, but I will count on you to be the judges of that.

As for the best books on Madison, Lance Banning's "Sacred Fire of Liberty" must be at the top of the list. Professor Banning devoted his life to studying Madison and Jefferson (Banning died only a very few years ago at a relatively young age). While this is not a biography, it will give you a very good feel for -- as well as sound understanding of --the man from Montpelier.

Out 19, 2009, 8:19pm

Colleen -- I am delighted that a Madison author posted here! There is actually a LT author membership which you should pursue. I am interested in your book & am adding it to my TBR. I would invite you to continue to participate -- it is quite valuable to have someone with your background and perspective here with us.

Out 20, 2009, 8:03pm

I concur. Welcome.

Out 20, 2009, 8:44pm

Dear Garp and GMillar,
Thanks so very much for the kind welcome to your discussion. I will be happy to be part of your conversation. After all, as Jane Austen once remarked, what is a ball (or a good book or good man/woman) if not to be talk'd over!

Here's a question for you and our friends on this site: Why were Madison and Jefferson truly best of friends? (And not Madison and Washington, or Madison and Hamilton, etc.) I think this question goes to more than only ideas or more tha just personality.

I would love to hear your ideas on this.

Out 22, 2009, 8:26pm

It seems to me very much a symbiotic relationship. They were in many ways the kinds of opposites that attract. That is most obvious in the physical differences of the two men, but was more manifest in their intellectual relationship and their long collaboration.

They were both absolutely brilliant thinkers, so you might expect them to be natural rivals, yet these two fed off each other's brilliance. It was sometimes as if Madison acted Igor to Jefferson's Dr. Frankenstein, the short, sickly fellow who wanted to be noticed and the tall, handsome, robust but shy Jefferson who wanted to rule from behind the scenes, all the while pretending to be above politics.

Of course, I know much more about Jefferson than Madison, so I look forward to your answer to your own question, Colleen.

Out 22, 2009, 8:42pm

My quick esponse to your question is this: I think they were both cerebral types. I can imagine them at dinner bouncing ideas and thoughts around and getting really excited by the exchange. Washington, although probably a very thoughtful man, seems to have been reticent in sharing his thoughts in a social situation and I can't imagine him loosening up enough to enjoy such an exchange. I see Hamilton as being the opposite, a total pain-in-the-neck who seemed to have been so sure of his correctness-of-opinion that an ideas exchange over dinner would have been infuriatingly one-sided. He would probably have enjoyed the situation but the others likely would not have.
This is not so say that each of them would not have respected the others' reasoning powers, merely to suggest that only Madison and Jefferson would have been comfortable enough with each other socially so as to be real friends.
I also think that the Adams/Jefferson friendship at the close of their lives was only really possible because it was conducted by correspondence. Adams's thoughts could ,in this way, be measured and not from-the-hip and thus potentially unfriendly-like.

Nov 3, 2009, 9:25am

I finally finished James Madison by Gary Willis. It's only taken me several months to finally sit down and finish reading the book. As stated above by other readers, the book is short to the point and assumes you know quite a bit about the history of the time.

On to the next one!

Nov 6, 2009, 9:22am

I also finished James Madison: The American Presidents Series and it was not very good, like others have said (I gave it two stars). It felt like I was back in history class reading a dry textbook.

To learn more about Madison, I also read A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation and that book was actually worse than the Garry Wills book. The author spends 400 pages trying to convince the reader that, by inviting everyone to her tea parties, Dolley Madison "created" modern American politics and bipartisanship. If the author had just stuck to history, she would have had a decent book, but trying to turn Dolley's choice of curtains or her taste in clothes into political statements was really ridiculous. I gave it one and a half stars.

I think the problem with Madison is that he was just very boring and his life was not nearly as interesting as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Hopefully, Monroe is better!

Nov 12, 2009, 7:44am

I think the general consensus about Garry Wills' book on Madison is spot on. I wrote a review of it a few years ago, which can be found at: http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.953/article_detail.asp

The bottom line is that Wills really didn't do his homework on Madison.

Nov 12, 2009, 8:33am

I am saddened to see that a number of readers of books on Madison have decided that he's either boring or not worth any additional effort to come to know. However, I suspect that these views might be the result of the secondary sources you are reading rather than of Madison himself. I urge you to give this fellow another chance! It is true that he was rather quiet and shy, but you all must know someone who is reserved, but who is also a very substantial and interesting person -- perhaps even delightful and charming, once you get to know him/her.

In the hopes of keeping Madison on your reading radar screen, here are just a couple of examples of things to consider:

First, as much and perhaps more than any of the other founders, Madison was responsible for thinking through the system of free, constitutional government we basically still live under today. If we want to understand what it means to be a citizen of the American republic, Madison is the man to go to.

Second, if you think that Thomas Jefferson was a man worth getting to know, then you might want to come to know James Madison as well. Their lives and their ideas were, in many important ways, intertwined. Madison was Jefferson's best friend; he was the man whose character and principles Jefferson admired most in the world. Not long before his death, and knowing that the event was imminent, Jefferson wrote this touching and revealing letter to his friend Madison:

"The friendship which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period. And if I remove beyond the reach of attentions to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your care, and an assurance that it will not be wanting. It has also been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted too in acquiring for them. If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections."

Nov 12, 2009, 9:05am

Hi Colleen,

I would very much like to read a good book about Madison. He seems pivotal about a number of things, and I don't have the feeling he was boring - just the books that have been written about him. I'll keep an eye out for your book.

Editado: Nov 15, 2009, 11:26pm

I had a very difficult time with Madison mainly because I couldn't find a good bio about him. I read 2 - one by Wills, one by Keatchem(sp?) and a few background books - writing of the constitution, War of 1812. Maybe my problem with Madison is that fact that he was such good friends with Jefferson and I really lost all repect for Jefferson reading about him and his actions.

Nov 16, 2009, 8:15am

>57 cyderry: "Maybe my problem with Madison is that fact that he was such good friends with Jefferson and I really lost all respect for Jefferson reading about him and his actions."

Yeah, that might do it.

Still, to stick to "separation of church and state" through it all is something that's pretty impressive. We can't get our politicians to do that now.

Editado: Abr 14, 2010, 8:43pm

I just finished the Rutland Bio: James Madison: The Founding Father I found it readable, and with just enough info to get me over the early presidential hump and on my way to reading more.

I do hope eventually to read more about Mr. Madison, but think for now I have a decent grasp of his contribution and the history of the country at that time. Dneutron has a good enough comment/review in msg 27, so I'll not belabor the subject.

ETA: For those of you having trouble finding something readable, I was able to get this one on audio from Overdrive download. It was quite well done, and held my interest exceptionally well for a 'dry' biography with lots of quotes from papers, letters, etc.

Abr 14, 2010, 9:28pm

and held my interest exceptionally well for a 'dry' biography with lots of quotes from papers, letters, etc.

oooo I love it when they have quotes from papers, letters, etc! It makes me feel like I can hear their voice or get a sense of their personality a bit better. I like it when the historian also helps out with the analysis of what they're saying or uses these snippets to make their point well.

Abr 17, 2010, 8:38pm

"and held my interest exceptionally well for a 'dry' biography with lots of quotes from papers, letters, etc."

somehow this does not get me all excited about running down to the store to pick this up ... LOL

Abr 17, 2010, 9:28pm

actually my remark about 'holding my interest well' was directed at the audio version. I find often that 'dry' books, particularly non-fiction, with many quotes and citations, are difficult to follow in audio. This one wasn't!

Maio 7, 2010, 2:39pm

I have another James Madison biography.

James Madison by Sydney Howard Gay. It is a Project Gutenberg ebook and can be found at the following URLs:




Both offer the book in many different formats. I downloaded the Kindle formated book from Manybooks.net.

If you search either site, you will find other biographies on other Presidents. Manybooks.net gets all their ebooks from Gutenberg.org, Manybooks.net just has more formats available.

Hope this helps someone.

Bill Masom

Jul 21, 2010, 10:42am

I read the Wills book. It was adequate, but that's all. Too much comparing to more recent events. Better than Appleby's book on Jefferson though.

The Presidency of James Madison by Rutland is a good in depth look at the mess that Jefferson left to Madison and how he tried to extricate himself from it despite not having the greatest leadership skills.

I have the Ketcham book on my shelf, but I know it is long and dense, so I'm waiting until I'm done with all the Presidents, and then I'll revisit Madison.

My favorite Madison book by far is The Last of the Fathers by Drew R. McCoy. This book begins after Madison leaves office, and it shows his thoughts on the events that happened after his Presidency, his views of the Constitution which he crafted and how it applied to many issues, including slavery, and how he influenced younger politicians. It's 373 pages, yet it is a quick read.

Jul 22, 2010, 8:31pm

Gotta read that one. Thanks for wising us up to it.

Ago 31, 2010, 8:35pm

The Madisons: A Biography by Virginia Moore

I couldn't find anything titled "James Madison: A Life", so for my next presidential biography I read this tome. Man, was it weird! It starts out with the birth and childhood of Madison's wife, Dolley. When "Jemmy" finally arrives on the scene, Ms. Moore then tells his history in flashback. The book then progresses as a biography of them both, but ends with Madison's burial, with nary a word as to how Dolley's life fared after that. I just don't get it. The style was also weird. The president's actions were recounted intertwined with Mrs. Madison's feelings, all of which apparently have documentary support. All in all it was very much a "hero" tale--the few shortcomings mentioned of the Madisons are quickly refuted or forgiven. I personally would have preferred something more balanced (assuming that the Madisons aren't as perfect and noble as presented here). But it was an interesting read. It didn't kill me to learn about Washington's social scene during Madison's presidency, and who knows how such matters might have affected the country. Anyway, James Madison's life covered such a broad section of this country's early history--from the Revolution through the War of 1812 and the arrival of Jacksonian democracy--it's definitely worth checking out, even if you don't care what Dolley Madison happened to be wearing from year to year.

Jun 10, 2011, 10:07am

25) thanks, I have been looking for a good Madison work and none of the usual suspects looked interesting. Luckily my library has this book. Requested it I did.

(Yes, I know I am replying to a post from 2009)

Ago 5, 2011, 9:29pm

I ended up reading the Founding Fathers: James Madison In His Own Words. It wasn't too bad--mostly his writings interspersed with what was happening in his life and in the country at the time. For someone who was so instrumental in the founding of the country, he just wasn't a very interesting person to read about. And it barely touched on his wastrel stepson. But I think I got what I needed out of it, and so I'm off to the next one!

Ago 24, 2011, 10:24am

After attempting to read The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy and getting absolutely bogged down by it about halfway through, I switched over to James Madison in order to just get by him and move on. It's really unfortunate there isn't a better biography of the Father of the Constitution.

A few things about Gary Wills' work. An interesting take on the man. I think it's true that there are plenty of ideologues who once they take on the mantle of executive leadership realise they have to bend their own rules in order to actually get things done. It doesn't seem out of the ordinary that James Madison would fall to the same pressures. However, I think Gary Wills, instead of relaying the man James Madison was, has a view of James Madison that he is trying to force upon the reader (and to be honest, with Gary Wills, there is a very real possibility of a political/ideological motive).

This book, along with others I have read, really shows despite how much we know each man there are nearly an infinite amount of interpretations as to who each man was and what he means today.

Jan 28, 2012, 1:54pm

I finished James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham. It took me months to get through it. The author really liked his subject, and seemed to constantly be making excuses for him. Although he did try to examine him critically from time to time throughout the book. I found it interesting that later in life Madison changed some of his original letters to, in one case, make someone look better (LaFayette), and make someone look worse (John Adams). I found it surprising that Madison was so adamantly supportive of the separation of church and state (bravo!). His belief, based on his readings, was that state-supported religion only leads to corruption of religion. He definitely supported measures that favored Virginia, but he always kept the national priorities in mind. I also found it kind of funny that he pushed so hard for a strong national government - until he had to make the "obnoxious" Great Compromise - the peak was reached when he thought representation in both houses would be by population. He then became much more cautious about the power granted to the general government. This bio also showed me that there has been horrible, nasty bipartisanship since Washington's second administration, so I guess I shouldn't be so depressed about the current state of national politics.

As long as the bio was, some things were mentioned in passing with no explanation, such as Shay's Rebellion. I also found it interesting that the author would say out of the blue that Jefferson and Madison weren't scheming together in Dec 1879 - why say this if there hasn't been any other comment about it previously. Sometimes I felt like there was an unnamed prerequisite that I was supposed to read before reading this tome. Then, there were quotes he included that I just found no use for, and that were not explained in any way and no realy connection to what the author was relating. Here's my favorite..."I, pilgarlic, sat entranced."

Maio 19, 2013, 11:02am

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski
I found listening to this book so difficult that I stopped after the second disc. I hope to grow up a bit and get back to it one day in order to finish it because it's stated intent is so important to understanding USA. I was also hoping for a more intimate look into Madison but, as far as I went, I didn't find it. Again, I may not have been paying enough attention. Either way, the writing (or the reading) wasn't of the type to grab me quickly enough.

Jan 7, 2014, 1:29pm

James Madison by Richard Brookhiser
Very superficial and would have liked more in depth information on Madison's style of leadership and relationships.

Maio 25, 2014, 12:00am

if anyone is looking for a good solid bio on Madison, Lynne Cheney has a new book just out. You can even entry to win a copy at Tutu's Two Cents . Deadline to enter is *June 8th.

Abr 14, 2017, 5:51pm

I read The Federalist Papers that have been ascribed to Madison:

#10-My college curriculum teaches that this is probably Madison’s most famous paper. (And the only one I am familiar with before this study). This article calls for Americans to support to the Constitution and by doing so it will eliminate factions. This might have been true then, but now there are those who believe the constitution is outdated or a fluid document and they oppose the conservative constitutionalists. Madison defines factions as groups of people who gather together to protect and promote their special economic interests and political opinions. Although these factions are at odds with each other, they frequently work against the public interest, and infringe upon the rights of others. To Madison, there are only two ways to control a faction: to remove its causes and to control its effects. The first is impossible. There are only two ways to remove the causes of a faction: destroy liberty or give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests. Destroying liberty is a "cure worse than the disease itself.” The people are disilusioned with State governments because they exacerbated the differences between people (specifically the landed vs. the poor) in their constitutions and they are afraid a national constitution will do the same thing. Most of this paper can be summarized by Madison’s most famous quote (amongst historians), “"A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex ad oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good."

#14-Madison is responding to several critic’s of the new proposed republic saying that this country is too large (physically) to be governed by a constitution. I can understand that argument, especially in the day of no communication except by newspaper or letter. Also I can understand the critics that the people in California don’t have a lot in common with those in New England, the South, etc. Madison argues that these critics have a republic and democracy confused. Being a history teacher and professor I can tell you that is still a confusion of at least 50% of the today’s population. Madison argues that because a republic has representatives, it can extend over a large region. Madison is appealing to American’s to unite on this issue. He seems to heap a lot of compliments upon the common man to try to sway them to accept his arguments such as calling them courageous leaders, undying patriots, and an example of risk takers for all the world to emulate.

#18-In this paper Madison outlines the basic inadequacies of the Article of Confederation: chiefly that it has created a “government of multiple sovereigns and a powerless central government. Other inadequacies are: no power to tax, no judicial or executive branches of the government, and the sovereignty of each State can allow for multiple alliances/treaties with different countries.

#19-Paper # 19 is very similar to #18 in that Madison is arguing for a strong central government. He does this by giving examples of weak confederacies that have failed. He goes into detail about Germany and Poland and that their vassals (feudal system) were too weak to be controlled by the emperor and this caused anarchy.

#20-The same theme as papers #18 and #19. Madison waxes a bit more eloquent (if possible) in this paper as he writes of sovereign states that ultimately end in weakness, civil war, and become prey for predators. This time he uses The Netherlands as an example which led to tyranny.

#37-Madison writes a lot about human nature in this paper. He writes that man nor government is infallible. He writes that the framers of the Constitution in Philadelphia had no precedent upon which to base this document. They only had other confederacies which had failed to study; so they knew what NOT to do. While that may be true, I know that these men did study the works of Montesquie, Hume, and Locke and their views and treatises on the human spirit and contractual government. Madison wrote much in this paper about the “energy” of the government and I’m not really sure that I comprehend all he said. I will make a further study of this topic at a later date.

#38-Madison is pretty harsh on the constitution’s critics in this essay. He says that in ancient civilizations often the constitution was written by a single man since they were afraid of “discord and disunion among a number of counselors” more so than the “treachery or incapacity in a single individual.” Madison takes on the anti-federalists by stating that they (the anti-federalists) can even all agree upon what is wrong with the proposed constitution. He uses analogy for the common person in this paper. He likens the U.S. to a sick and ailing patient. The doctor is called in for a consultation and recommends a new constitution. He likens the anti-federalists to those who won’t provide the cure nor do they have an alternative cure.

#39-Basically this essay is to answer the questions: Did the framers create a republic? Madison asks a lot of rhetorical questions in this essay and then goes on to answer them. His first and longest question is: What are the characteristics of a republican form of government? He said there are no examples of republics so that one must look to theoretical situations. He goes on to praise our founding fathers for doing a superb job of creating the first viable republic in history. He argues that the others were not created by the people (Rome), but by kings and the aristocrats.

#40-One criticism of the Constitutional Convention was that they went beyond their designated scope, which was to amend the Articles of Confederation. Madison takes on this argument in this paper. Madison does agree that amending the Articles was the primary purpose of the Convention. However, he says the Convention acted in the best interests of the American people. He hints that most common-sense Americans will/would understand this.

#41-In this essay Madison is again on the defense defending the Convention’s ascribing of the Federal government certain powers. Madison believes ALL forms of government are imperfect and ““in every political institution, a power to advance the pubic happiness, involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused.” He believes the Federal government must have power to govern and that Americans will just have to accept there is a risk.

#42-This paper was difficult to read because it did not have a single them. Madison is on the defense again but I can pull out at least 4 main defenses: right of the Federal govt. to control international trade, the right of the Federal govt. to control intrastate trade, the right of the Federal govt. to maintain diplomacy, and the right of the government to permit slavery (at least until 1808). Madison notes that the right to permit slavery was a compromise at the Convention. To be honest, much of this material about interstate and intrastate trade was complicated, difficult to understand, and just a plan snooze fest.

#43 A defense by Madison of the right of the federal government to issue copyrights and patents and control the capital city area. He also argues that the Federal government has the right to guarantee that each State have a republican form of government and it is the Federal govt.’s responsibility to secure that for the people of each State. The anti-Federalists argued that this a far reach of the Federal government into each State’s business. Madison counters that if the republican form of government fails in Boston, in might also fail in Philadelphia and it’s the duty of the Federal government to secure a republican form of government for ALL citizens.

#44—Madison’s defense of the “necessary and proper clause”. Most of Madison’s writings are in defense of........! Madison defends the “necessary and proper” clause and the supremacy clause of the Constitution as essential to give “efficacy” (a word I’ve not heard/used since college) to all the other powers and provisions granted to the national government in the Constitution. He says that granting the union the right to make all laws “necessary and proper” to fulfilling its responsibilities.

Ok, I must admit, after two weeks on the Federalist Papers I’m running out of steam and interest. I’ve filled up 40 pages of a 50 page notebook. I think I know James Madison fairly well. I’m going to skip # 45-58, #62 and skip to his later writing, # 63.

#63-Madison is defending the idea of the Senate. As per the original constitution, it is NOT an elected position, but an appointed position. Madison argues that sometimes the people need to be saved from themselves—ain’t that the truth! Madison argues that since the Senators are not elected they are not blown by the whims of the people and can look out for National interests long term. Madison did argue for term limits, 6 years as a Senator. He said they could not be corrupted during that time. HAH!

Abr 28, 2017, 2:21pm

Great Information!

Dez 20, 2017, 12:16am

For me, Madison's life story is much less interesting than his activity between the end of the Revolution and 1804. The work to build and pass a constitution (not to mention his notes on the convention), the work in the legislature against the Federalists, his collaboration with Jefferson and Monroe, etc, make him such an important figure. Founding Brothers and The Quartet provide good introductory information before tackling some of the "drier" tomes.