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Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and The Election that Saved a Nation Hardcover – November 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Madison’s 1789 election to Congress embroiders histories of the establishment of the Constitution (James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights, by Richard Lebunski, 2006), but in DeRose’s account, it’s the main event. Perhaps drawn toward this campaign trail by his background as a contemporary political consultant, DeRose depicts what in retrospect was a critical contest, given Madison’s subsequent centrality to creating the Bill of Rights and the principal government departments. His opponent was none other than fellow future president James Monroe, then an opponent of the Constitution. Thrown together in a gerrymandered district whose anti-Federalist tincture favored Monroe, he and Madison campaigned through snowy northern Virginia in January 1789, expounding their views in courthouses and churches. Madison’s promise to codify religious freedom, DeRose suggests, might have gained him the Baptist and Lutheran vote; in any case, he squeaked past Monroe by 336 votes. Building up to this result with the duo’s political and personal relations in the 1780s, DeRose applies a dramatizing hand to a topic scholastically grounded in Ratification, by Pauline Maier (2010). --Gilbert Taylor


Praise for Founding Rivals

“Long before they fought the War of 1812 and planted the seeds of Manifest Destiny, James Madison and James Monroe fought each other over a seat in the First Congress. Their epic campaign—revolving around the size and scope of government, its taxing power, and a nation awash in debt—is America in microcosm. (It’s also frighteningly relevant to our twenty-first-century democracy.) It is a fascinating story, told here by a gifted young historian, as promising as his protagonists. Thoroughly researched and gracefully written, Founding Rivals is narrative history of the most readable kind.”
—Richard Norton Smith, author of Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation and founding director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

“Compelling narrative throughout. . . . A lively, clear-cut study of the myriad hurdles and uncertainty that characterized the first attempts to form the U.S. government.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“An engaging account of the Republic’s contentious founding.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Is there anyone in America who wouldn’t want their next congressional election to feature a choice between James Madison and James Monroe? As Chris DeRose shows us in this fascinating new book, one lucky district, Virginia’s 5th (which happens to be my own), got this lucky pick in 1789. Few single contests have ever been more important for the nation’s future. Just like today, past elections were high-stakes affairs with enormous consequences. Unlike today, the big issues could once be argued on center stage between friends, in a spirit of unity and harmony.”
—Professor Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of A More Perfect Constitution

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery History (November 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159698192X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596981928
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris DeRose is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and American historian.

His works include "The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them" (Rowman & Littlefield/Lyons Press 2014), "Congressman Lincoln: The Making of America's Greatest President" (Simon & Schuster/Threshold 2013) and "Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation" (Regnery History 2011). DeRose is also the author of "Clash of Titans," the cover story for the official magazine of "The History Channel," in support of their "Men Who Built America Series," as well as "Lincoln's Other War," a Sunday Washington Post lead op-ed.

DeRose's writing on American political history is firmly grounded in his 20 years of electoral experience across five different states. He has always been struck by how politics-and people-have remained the same over time.

DeRose currently serves as a Special Assistant Attorney General, litigating complex and Constitutional cases, prosecuting serious crimes on appeal, and enforcing public corruption laws. He was formerly a law professor, teaching Constitutional Law, Election Law, and International Law, among other classes. He was named "Professor of the Year" by students for the 2014-2015 school year.

DeRose has been highlighted in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor, Human Events, and four installments of C-SPAN "BookTV."

DeRose is a featured speaker at venues throughout the United States, having recently addressed members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol and spoken to a capacity crowd in New York's Bryant Park. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Scholarly Advisors for President Lincoln's Cottage, the first presidential retreat. A native of Chicago, DeRose lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Heather Macre on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Did you know that the Bills of Rights began as a campaign promise made during a 1789 Congressional election between two would-be presidents - James Madison and James Monroe? Friends and adversaries, the two squared off in a dramatic race, chronicled in Founding Rivals - the only Congressional election in which voters have ever been asked to decide between two people who would go on to become president. The election would save the U.S. Constitution as we know it and add the Bill of Rights. Founding Rivals tells the previously unreported story of Madison and Monroe's involvement in the Revolutionary War and the earliest days of our republic, the tough financial times brought on by war and rebuilding, a Congress in complete disarray (sound familiar?), and an election that would determine if the Constitution would be scrapped altogether and if the addition of a Bill of Rights would happen. The race bears many of the hallmarks of today's political scene, complete with mud-slinging, intense partisanship and a result achieved by the narrowest of margins.

Founding Rivals is a swift and compelling read, a must for anyone with an interest in U.S. history and modern politics. DeRose's writing style is clear, concise and accessible. The book is well researched and documented, and DeRose's words put Colonial life in perspective, while making parallels to today's political situation with ease. This book highlights an oft ignored aspect of our nation's history, at once showing how far we have come and yet how people and politics remain unchanged over time.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Chris Ashby on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't believe this story has not been told until now -- two future presidents, facing off in an election for Congress, with the fate of the Constitution and the survival of the young nation literally hanging in the balance. And yet it is attorney, political strategist and first-time author Chris DeRose who, for the first time, is telling "Founding Rivals," the story of the 1789 election that pitted James Madison against James Monroe in Virginia's 5th congressional district.

DeRose is a smooth, witty and engaging writer with an incredible eye for color and detail. The result is a book that is easy and interesting to read. But the book is also a remarkably compelling read because the prologue sets the stage. Thus, the reader knows from page ix exactly what's at stake as these two founding fathers' lives, political careers and philosophies develop and then eventually collide in a titanic election in which far more than just their names were on the ballot -- Madison vs. Monroe, Federalism vs. Anti-Federalism, a Bill of Rights vs. a new constitutional convention, the survival of a Nation vs. the breakup of the Union. In a book that covers the better part of two decades, DeRose deftly moves the story along without sacrificing character, political and historical insight. The book advances at a great pace.

I highly recommend "Founding Rivals," especially for anyone interested in history or politics. It's a riveting story, well-told, of just how close our country came -- 336 votes -- to falling apart at the very beginning.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By James C. Slattery on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"No residents of a U.S. congressional district have ever had a better selection of candidates since the 5th District of Virginia in the election of 1789." And will we ever again? Chris DeRose's masterly new book tells the story of this little known but critically important race between future presidents James Madison and James Monroe for a seat in the First Congress -- the only contest in American history between two future presidents in a non-presidential race. DeRose explains that this election deserves more attention than history has given it, because Madison's victory in this election enabled him to win the passage and ratification of the Bill of Rights, the location of the national capitol along the Potomac, and quite likely the preservation of the Union. Beyond taking us for a blow by blow tour through this strikingly modern campaign and its aftermath, DeRose also guides us through the lives of the two men at the heart of the struggle for the 5th District. Their friendship and political alliance, tested nearly to the breaking point when they found themselves in opposite parties in 1789, form the real heart of this engaging account of a pivotal moment in our history.

As DeRose lucidly explains, by the time Madison and Monroe contested over the 5th District, a decade under the Articles of Confederation had left the country dangerously adrift. The central government was too weak to impose its will on either its domestic or foreign enemies, whether it be state governments that ignored their obligations to fund the federal government, the British who continued to occupy forts in the Northwest, the Spanish who ignored American demands for free navigation of the Mississippi, or Western settlers who flirted with independence.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Greendragon on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's always a good trivia question to ask what two presidents ran against each other for Congress & also for president? The Madison-Monroe contest for the U.S. House is interesting because it personified the recent debate over whether a stronger Constitution was a good thing or a danger to liberty.

But the book over-dramatizes the importance of the election very much. To begin with, the federalists had already more or less had to promise a Bill of Rights in the 1788-89 debate over ratification in the various state conventions. No matter who won this congressional race, there would be a Bill of Rights--and Madison himself didn't think one was necessary.

In the second place, this election wasn't going to decide the future of the new government. The antifederalists made a very poor showing in the first congressional elections & would have only a handful of people in the new House and Senate, no matter whether Monroe or Madison won this particular race.

So it was a very interesting contest but frankly not terribly important in the big picture. Whoever won the race, both Madison & Monroe were going to remain very important people in the politics of Virginia & the nation. Whoever won the race, there was going to be a Bill of Rights. And whoever won the race, the antifederalists were not going to endanger the success of the new government.

A professional historian would have written a much more accurate--and subdued--book. On the other hand, he wouldn't have written nearly as interesting a story. It's a very good read so long as you discount the hyped-up drama.
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