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Madison and Jefferson Hardcover – September 28, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are both in the pantheon of Founding Fathers, but Madison is frequently relegated to the second tier. He is often described as Jefferson’s protégée and “faithful lieutenant” and credited primarily with his role in the formation and ratification of the Constitution rather than achievements during his presidency. This extensive and well-researched examination of their relationship spanning 50 years paints a more nuanced and often surprising portrait of both men. The authors, both history professors, succeed in removing their subjects from their pedestals without diminishing their brilliance or importance. Both Madison and Jefferson were intense political animals in politically turbulent times. In his conflicts with Federalists, Jefferson used surrogates to engage in “dirty tricks,” while seeming to remain above the fray. Madison was much more than a “policy wonk.” He was an effective and tough legislator at both the state and federal levels; also, he did not shrink from opposing Jefferson’s policies when he disagreed with them. This is an important reappraisal of a critical partnership that shaped our early republic. --Jay Freeman


“[A] satisfyingly rich dual biography [that] promotes Madison from junior partner to full-fledged colleague of the 'more magnetic' Jefferson…An important, thoughtful, and gracefully written political history from the viewpoint of the young nation's two most intellectual founding fathers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067282
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dedicated aptly to those who appreciate the "true complexity of the past" Adndrew Burstein's and Nancy Isenberg's sprawling dual biography of over 650 pages of text and an additional 100 pages of notes and bibliography, "Madison and Jefferson" has the virtue of showing the difficult, multi-faceted character of historical study. The book resists the temptation of single-aspect historical explanation. The more one looks, the harder explanation becomes, to paraphrase the authors in their Preface. The book has two subjects and two authors. Burstein and Isenberg are the former coholders of the Mary Frances Barnard Chair in nineteent-Century U.S. History at the University of Tulsa. They are now, respectively, Manship Professor of history and professor of history at Louisiana State University. Isenberg is the author of a well-received revisionist biography of Aaron Burr, "Fallen Founder" Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr while Burstein has written previously on JeffersonJefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello, Andrew Jackson, and other subjects in early American history. There is a degree of repetition in this lengthy study probably resulting from the dual authorship.

The book examines the friendship and relationship between the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (1743 -- 1826) and the fourth president, James Madison (1751 -- 1836) during the course of over 50 years. The book has a number of aims which, in addition to its length and the complexity of its subject give it a polemical, disjointed character in places.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed this dual biography, even though I'm not at all a "history buff". It is quite a long book, but almost always interesting and well written, and I learned quite a bit about our forefathers.

The book is entitled "Madison and Jefferson" specifically because it is an attempt to restore Madison to his rightful place in history. Although the more outgoing Jefferson is far better known to most people, the authors feel that the more low-key Madison was equally as influential to our history.

The book tells the story of the political relationship, as well as the friendship between our 3rd and 4th Presidents. It does a good job of delving into their different personalities, and showing the men behind the people we now see as almost deities. You learn that these men who did so much toward establishing the country we live in (with The Constitution, the Federalist Papers, etc.), were also very human, with frailties, weaknesses, greed and thirst for power. It does much of the same for George Washington, and other early founders of these United States.

I was afraid that I would find this a boring history book, but I didn't. The book merges history with biography nicely, and while I did learn quite a bit, it was engrossing as well. I learned how important the State of Virginia (where both men were from), was to these men, as well as to the decisions that were made by these early Politicians.

I found it interesting, and somewhat reassuring that the game of Politics really hasn't changed as much as most of us think it has, and that these men that we admire so much were still Politicians as much as they were human beings.

I would recommend this book to anyone - whether you are a history novice like I am, or a history buff - there is a LOT of information in this book, and it is presented in a style of writing that can be enjoyed by anyone.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is presented as being a history of a 50-year friendship between these two men, and as far as that goes, it succeeds. It analyzes their relationship by quoting the numerous letters between the two men, and shows a deep and abiding friendship. But that's all it does. It's just letter after letter. And that gets very tiring and makes for quite a dull read.

However, that's all it does. Everything else takes a back seat. If you are looking for an analysis of their presidencies, their interactions with others, the history of the times they lived in and through, you will not find it here. And that is very disappointing. This is a 650-page treatise, and these things - their administrations, their successes, failures, the history of the times - are merely window dressing for exploring the relationship between these two. Yes, that is what the authors set out to do, and yes, they accomplished that. But with 650 pages to play with, they could have and should have given us a whole lot more. In this they fail miserably.

Even reading the book is a hardship. What these authors commonly do throughout the book is present a conclusion as if it had been discussed in detail when starting a new subject. Frequently, I would reread a passage, thinking to myself, "Did I skip over the part where they discussed this?", only to find that I hadn't, and that the discussion of the conclusion was just ahead. This is poor writing.

The constant, and I mean constant, quoting from their correspondence is also very tiring. The authors glory in their ability to use quotes, as if to say, "Look at all the firsthand research we've done!" Summaries and analysis from others is useful as well.
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