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The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding Hardcover – May, 1992

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From the Back Cover

"Good fortune offered this nation an unusual chance at ideal nation-forming and... some honorable leaders seized that chance", writes William Lee Miller in The Business of May Next, and none among the founders made more of the opportunity than did James Madison, subject of this engaging work. Madison is depicted during the critical years between 1784 and 1791, when he was so active in articulating the governmental aims of the fledgling nation that he sometimes found himself in official dialogue with himself. More than simply a historical and biographical account, the book traces Madison's political and theoretical development as a means of illuminating its larger theme, the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the American nation. With a sound grasp of his material and a refreshing style Miller reveals how Madison's research into republics and his influence on the writing of the Constitution are central to the values for which the nation stands. From an examination of Madison's notes, Miller traces Madison's early research into other republics and their weaknesses. He reveals how Madison's thinking shaped the Virginia Plan, which, in turn, shaped the United States Constitution and the nation's institutions. The author writes that Madison sought the strands of Republicanism in history and gave republican ideals new and lasting institutional expression. He shows how the making of republican institutions became a collaboration, and how the newly created institutions contained within themselves provision for their own continuing alteration and for the involvement and influence of collective humanity down through the years. Miller follows Madison through the Constitutional Convention("the business of May next") to the great national argument on behalf of the Constitution, notably through the Federalist papers. Of particular interest are his discussions of the constitutional deliberations over religious freedom and the institution of slavery. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

William Lee Miller is White Burkette Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The First Liberty: Religion and the American Republic.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Virginia Pr (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813913683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813913681
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,255,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Busines of May Next is easily the best book I have ever read on James Madison's intellectual journey from his dismay over the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation to his draft of the Virginia Plan, which was the underlying foundation of our Constitution.
The title is taken from a letter Madison wrote in which he discussed the "business" of the upcoming Constitutional Convention (in May of 1789), of which Madison--along with Alexander Hamiltion--was the prime mover.
Miller's book expertly and eloquently explores the influences on Madison's thinking, from his reading of David Hume's essays on the ideal conditions for a republic, to his correspondence with Washington, Jefferson and many others in which he fleshed out his ideas of how to turn the weak, ineffectual Articles into a government that had both power and staying power.
As Miller points out, Madison's genius was his understanding of human behavior, and his awareness that any government must be shaped in ways that take advantage of the "better angels of our nature," but also (more important) minimize, or at least accommodate, the darker side of our nature.
By fashioning a government with limited and shared powers; by holding frequent elections in which the leaders are held accountable; by ensuring that the people possess certain rights that no government can threaten (on pain of being altered or abolished), Madison was the first among equals in the creation of a truly representative government that has lasted more than 200 years and shows no signs of dying out.
Miller himself is one of the few (William Manchester is another) historians whose thorough research is matched by his delightful writing style. I have two copies of the book--a hardcopy for reading and a paperback for underlining.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A masterful book about an important framer of the US Constitution.
An instructive example how teamwork helped develop and ratify the Constitution.

Eloquently quoted on p.216: (at the closing of the Virginia ratifying convention)

"... The warmest (hottest?) opponents were seen to exchange parting regards with each other. For it was a peculiar and noble characteristic of our fathers, when the contest was decided, to forgive and forget personal collisions, and to unite heart and hand in the common cause. ..."

It seems American politics has forgotten this basic creed followed by the founders of our country.

My email to Professor Miller:
Congratulations on your excellent study of Madison and the framers of the Constitution. As I reach the last 100 pages I noticed that you feel Madison and the other framers did not do as much as they could to start to end slavery in the Constitution. The state equality issue and religious freedom are dealt with okay, but slavery was relatively neglected.

I think the reason was a practical one of either creating a strong nation united in a more-or-less common cause, or risking a fatally divided nation. Later, the US was strong enough to survive an inevitable Civil War because of the strong start supported by Alexander Hamilton and the other founders and framers.

My study of the history of England has shown me that commerce is the engine of successful politics.

Thank you again for a truly inspiring book. Much food for thought.

Yours Sincerely,
Jay Lockie, retired in Mexico
S.B. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1963
M.B.A. Northwestern University, 1965
Facebook: "Jay Lilia Lockie"
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great book
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book arrived on time and was in excellent condition. It was just as I expected. The cost of the book was very reasonable, a good deal.
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By A Customer on January 23, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good discussion of Madison's role in the development of the Consitution. Very readabl
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