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James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government Paperback – January 26, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"the overall analysis is brilliant, and merits careful reading by anyone seriously interested in the ideas of our greatest political thinker." -Jack Rakove

"This book constitutes the most important contribution to the scholarship on James Madison produced in recent memory. In it, Colleen Sheehan demonstrates that Madison's ruminations on politics in the early 1790s and thereafter, and his activity as a politician in the early republic, need to be reinterpreted in light of his Auseinandersetzung with a group of late eighteenth-century French writers-including Mably, Moreau, Necker, Turgot, Condorcet, Chastellux, Dupont de Nemours, Le Trosne, Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le Mercier de la Rivière, Volney, Mirabeau, Brissot de Warville, Barthélemy, and the like-who debated the significance of what Montesquieu had, in his Spirit of Laws, called communication, and who wrestled with the importance of a powerful phenomenon, more or less unknown in France until the second half of the eighteenth century, which they termed 'public opinion.'" -Paul Rahe, Hillsdale College

"Sheehan's insightful and incisive analysis of the thought of James Madison once again confirms for us his greatness as a political thinker and his importance as a proponent of popular republican government." -Gordon Wood, Brown University

"Colleen Sheehan's bold new book provides a corrective to the many myths of the Founding. It portrays James Madison, the father of the Constitution, as a man deeply concerned with the ideas of civic virtue, citizen character, and common purpose, albeit in the service of the truly republican principles of the Declaration of Independence." -National Review

"....give us a handsome and worthwhile down payment on the more sustained analysis she promises. " -Dr. Michael Zuckert

"Colleen Sheehan's Madison is driven by an overarching concern: What would it take for this American population to become--and remain--a self-governing people? More was at stake than survival and prosperity. For Madison the new national community could flourish only if the people had good reasons for respecting themselves. Sheehan's engaging account of America's beginnings enlarges our understanding of the hopes and fears, successes and failures, not only of a notable man but of a generation of founders." -Ralph Lerner, University of Chicago

In her excellent new study, Colleen A. Sheehan argues that James Madison is preeminent among the Founders in his insistence on the civic cultivation of public opinion." -Richard M. Reinsch, The City Journal

"This well-written and engaging book situates James Madison as a spirited defender of popular government." -George Thomas, Review of Politics

"...Sheehan's book is a rich, well-written, and well-argued text on adison that any serious scholar of Madison and the founding of the United States must read." -Richard K. Matthews, Journal of American History

"...Sheehan's book is a rich, well-written, and well-argued text on adison that any serious scholar of Madison and the founding of the United States must read." -Richard K. Matthews, Journal of American History

"...James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government is an informed and intriguing addition to the literature on the American founders. The book will appeal to fans of Madison and to scholars of American political thought and the American founding."
Canadian Journal of Political Science Graham G. Dodds, Concordia University

"This is a wonderfully provocative and morally engaged argument...the overall analysis is brilliant and merits careful reading by anyone seriously interested in the ideas of our greatest political thinker."
Political Science Quarterly, Jack Rakove, Stanford University

"This well-written and engaging book situates James Madison as a spirited defender of popular government...Sheehan has elegantly and artfully recaptured neglected and forgotten elements of Madison's thinking that all serious scholars of Madison will need to confront."
The Review of Politics, George Thomas

Book Description

In the first study that combines an in-depth examination of Madison's National Gazette essays of 1791-92 with a study of The Federalist, Colleen Sheehan traces the evolution of Madison's conception of the politics of communication and public opinion throughout the Founding period, demonstrating how "the sovereign public" would form and rule in America.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521727332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521727334
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colleen A. Sheehan is Professor of Political Science at Villanova University, Director of the Ryan Center for Free Institutions and the Public Good, and has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She is author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government (Cambridge University Press, 2009), co-editor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists 1787-1788, and author of numerous articles on the American Founding and eighteenth century political and moral thought which have appeared in journals such the William and Mary Quarterly, American Political Science Review, Review of Politics, and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal. She is currently completing a book on Madison's Voyage to the World of the Classics.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This book is not for casual reading, but for study. Probaly 1/3 of text is in footnotes. I'm reading it a second time, this time as a TEXT BOOK.
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Colleen Sheehan's book on James Madison offers a wonderfully refreshing view of what it was like to be an active American early in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Her introduction, where she quotes from Robert Frost's poem "The Gift Outright," reminds us of the sense of gratitude felt by those just realizing that this land was indeed a gift, a gift for which we owned enormous gratitude. And gratitude, need I remind anyone, seems sadly out of fashion these days.
I had just been looking over some of Van Wick Brooks essays and F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance, and of course they all come together with the founders like Madison....once upon a time this was all part of "American Studies," an inspiring curriculum back in the 1960s and 1970s.
I am a literature person, not a political historian, so the earnestness of Brooks and Matthiessen was infectious for me. Like Madison, they knew that America was special, that the now discarded writers of their time--Longfellow, Holmes, Cooper, Hawthorne, Emerson, Melville, were worth taking seriously because they were so serious thenmselves. Even the gloomy Melville understood that America was a special gift to those who could survive the early, difficult years. We may have been haunted in those strange, distant days, but we were not hopeless. Our regionalism was real but instructive. Everyone seemed to be on the same very exciting train ride, although perspectives differed tremendously.
It was nice for me to be reminded by Dr. Sheehan's intelligent and accessible narrative that so many people--not just the writers--caught that same sense of discovery and excitement. Madison, Hamilton, and others like them can help us to recall what it was like to live in that ragged but brilliant period. The understanding of these times, and the knowledge that all this was part of our own heritage is more than nostalgic--that, too, is a gift outright.
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Format: Paperback
This is a well considered analysis of the ideas of Madison towards what would become our system of governance. The author presents a political theory that James Madison was a significant contributor to our country's move to republican self-governance. Madison battled the ideas of Federalism that were expressed by George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton and break through their opposition. This was both politically and personally difficult for Madison as he deeply respected Washington and he often found Hamilton in his camp, although they often became rivals within the same political party.

Madison expressed the spirit, principles, and ethos (as Aristotle would put it) of republican self-governance. The ethos of republican government is self-governance. Madison labeled this the "spirit" of a new nation's governing system. The spirit thus drove the principles and activities of public expression that produced public policy changes. Madison concluded that it was America's goal "to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of self-government."

Some scholars have concluded that Madison was suspicious of democracy. The author argues that Madison's principles of minimizing government's role in society, of stressing private rights, and for protections of free markets are trademarks of republicanism.

There are scholars who observe Madison moved towards states' rights and away from a strong central government in the 1780s. The author notes that Madison was always concerned about the abuses that could result from a large government without sufficient checks and of improprieties of a majority ruling over all. Madison was always a proponent of self-government, the author argues.

Madison wrote under the pen name of Publius.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well considered analysis of the ideas of Madison towards what would become our system of governance. The author presents a political theory that James Madison was a significant contributor to our country's move to republican self-governance. Madison battled the ideas of Federalism that were expressed by George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton and break through their opposition. This was both politically and personally difficult for Madison as he deeply respected Washington and he often found Hamilton in his camp, although they often became rivals within the same political party.

Madison expressed the spirit, principles, and ethos (as Aristotle would put it) of republican self-governance. The ethos of republican government is self-governance. Madison labeled this the "spirit" of a new nation's governing system. The spirit thus drove the principles and activities of public expression that produced public policy changes. Madison concluded that it was America's goal "to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of self-government."

Some scholars have concluded that Madison was suspicious of democracy. The author argues that Madison's principles of minimizing government's role in society, of stressing private rights, and for protections of free markets are trademarks of republicanism.

There are scholars who observe Madison moved towards states' rights and away from a strong central government in the 1780s. The author notes that Madison was always concerned about the abuses that could result from a large government without sufficient checks and of improprieties of a majority ruling over all. Madison was always a proponent of self-government, the author argues.

Madison wrote under the pen name of Publius.
Read more ›
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