- Publisher: American Political Biography Press (March 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0945707339
- ISBN-13: 978-0945707332
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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James Madison: A Biography Hardcover – March 1, 2003
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"Madison's personality comes alive in these pages, his strengths and weaknesses of mind and character clearly outlined. His great services in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are graphically portrayed. The analysis of his political theory, and of the way in which he sought to apply it to the establishment of of government under the Constitution, is excellent. The depiction of Jeffersonian and Madisonian foreign policy up to the outbreak of the War of 1812 is clear and succinct. This is an excellent biography.(American Historical Review )
Utilizing the vast amount of source material made available in the last 30 years, Ketcham has captured the essential man in his times and in doing so has made him understandable for us in our own day.(Los Angeles Times )
This single volume has provided a penetrating and highly readable biography which merits distinction as the best one-volume life of Madison yet written.(Virginia Magazine of History and Biography )
Ketcham's long-standing familiarity with Madison's life and times is evident in this accessible work...Ketcham has written an enjoyable and scholarly narrative that will no doubt be considered of great value to Montpelier's more serious visitors, as well as students, scholars, and general readers with an interest in the founding couple.(Kellie Strickland, North Carolina State University North Carolina Historical Review ) --North Carolina Historical Review
About the Author
Ralph Ketcham is Professor of American Studies, Political Science, and Public Affairs, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. His most recent publications are Presidents above Party: The First American Presidency, 1789-1829 and Individualism and Public Life: An American Dilemma.
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It's not even a close call.
It's long, yes, but remember that Madison lived for 85 years and was at the pinnacle of American politics for about 40 of them. He lived a long, substantial life.
The author honestly traces Madison's evolving philosophies of democratic and republican government through this time, putting them in frank context. Internally, economic interests begin to divide our nation into competing sections, exacerbated by increasingly stringent and divergent views on the best course for our democracy. Madison is trapped in a whirlwind, seeming prey to inescapable political realities, often blocked by the actions or inaction of the Congress. Late in his life, as the nation slides toward the Civil War, to his horror, his own words are used to attempt to justify secession. He comes from his cherished retirement to attempt to refute this.
Madison seems simply to be more reserved and cerebral than the other "Founding Fathers," making for less interesting reading. However, what does come to life are his relationships, particularly with Washington and Jefferson. The written communications with them and with his wife Dolly are touching and deeply felt, our best view into the emotional life of this very private man. What comes from those who met him is an appreciation for his profound and careful mind. What we are left with is awe at his accomplishments, which led his peers to acknowledge him as the "Father of the Constitution."
The book deals with not only the life of the man, but also the relationships he had with fellow founding fathers like Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and Monroe. For great detail, I really believe this may be the best most current biography of our fourth president that is available. Doesn't read like an exciting novel, because Madison was not an action hero but rather was a man whose actions were related to political theory and the establishment of the American government system.
Ketcham provides thoughtful analysis of Madison's career and how it related to the writing of the Constitution and the formation of the nation. In fact, his writing style is a bit unusual--he describes Madison's life from Madison's point of view, and you think that perhaps Ketcham agrees completely with Madison. But then he concludes a section with an analytical summary, giving his judgment of Madison's actions; and some of his judgments are devastating. The author was overall very fair to Madison.
Good book for getting an idea of Madison's role in the declining years of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, Federalist Papers, the application of the Constitution in the early years, the embargo, and the War of 1812.
I would recommend this book, but be prepared to slog through some sections.
Yes, I happen to work at Montpelier, Mr. Madison's life-long home and the home that he and his wife Dolley shared during their marriage - and I can promise you that Dr. Ketcham's well-worn, tabbed (it looks like a porcupine) book is our 'bible' when it comes to James Madison.
There are other, quite good, books about Madison but this is the one for a thorough overview, from birth to death.