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If Men Were Angels: James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason (American Political Thought) (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) Paperback – January 18, 1995

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard K. Matthews is professor and chair of the department of government at Lehigh University. If Men Were Angels is the second volume in his revisionist trilogy on the Founding that began with The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson and that will conclude with Alexander Hamilton and the Creation of the Heroic State.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas (January 18, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700608079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700608072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This work is truly goundbreaking. The comparison of the liberal/commercial views of James Madison with the radical democratic views of his close friend, Thomas Jefferson are truly enlightening. Matthews shows how Madison was closer to Hamilton than to Jefferson in political philosophy. Madison was obsessed with balance, and order in the liberal tradition. Jefferson,on the other hand, had a vision of radical democracy in the republic. Ward republics, and local democracy were infused into Jefferson's thought. Madison was more concerned with balancing the interests of society and controlling "factions". He viewed government from a more Hobbsian view than other Jeffersonians.Madison was far less trusting of human nature and more concerned with "stability" in society than with experiments in government. This book goes against the grain of current scholarship which unites Jefferson and Madison in philosophy when in fact in many ways they were poles apart. A great book.
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Only a professor writing for a university press could get a book this poor published. Matthews views are on the most extreme fringes of revisionist interpretations of American history, and may be summarized as follows: Thomas Jefferson was idealistic and good, James Madison was materialistic and bad. If you are inclined to think that this is an exaggeration, I will quote 4 sentences from the very last page of this book (consistent with Amazon.com's guidelines, I am limited to only 4 sentences of quotations): "It was Madison, not Jefferson, who designed the system. Madison's...dream has, as he knew it would, turned into a nightmare for increasing numbers of marginalized Americans. Instead of the chance to pursue happiness, they have neither the opportunity, the hope, nor even the illusion of either. America....has metamorphosed into an intriguing Orwellian-Kafkaesque labyrinth, where a few Ks still search for the reality behind the ideological myth, while the rich find meaning in each of their possessions." If you think that this makes sense, if you believe that this even remotely resembles the vision of James Madison, one of the fathers of our nation and its greatest expert on the American Constitution he did so much to create, then this is your kind of book. If not, I recommend that you save your money and order other books of real value on the life and works of Madison.
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By Kelly E on September 18, 2014
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By A Customer on September 18, 2000
If Men Were Angels is as "poor" a book as reviewer "Joseph (see more about me) Schulman" thinks, why is it that Gordon Wood gave it a favorable review in the New York Review of Books? Moreover, it received praise from several leading historians including Jack Greene and Forrest McDonald. Perhaps open minded readers might come to different conclusions about this book.
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By A Customer on May 2, 2000
This book is a must read for any enthusiast of American Political Theory.
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If Men Were Angels: James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason (American Political Thought) (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas))
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