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Libertys Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 3, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thomas Jefferson called it the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written. High praise, indeed, for The Federalist, that compendium of brilliant essays on power written in 1787–1788 by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (with an assist from John Jay) to persuade waverers to ratify the proposed Constitution. Recent scholars have downplayed the work's influence, claiming the essays circulated only among New Yorkers or convinced no one who wasn't already convinced. Meyerson (Political Numeracy), a professor of law at the University of Baltimore, argues conversely that The Federalist remains of critical importance for understanding not only early America but today's divisive debates on issues like clean-air regulation and medical marijuana. In the book's first half, he succinctly narrates the astonishing story of how Hamilton and Madison—the first combustible and heedless, the other priggish and intellectual—subsumed their differences and forged a genuine friendship that lasted only as long as their writing partnership. In the second part, Meyerson analyzes the various meanings and conflicting interpretations of The Federalist over the following centuries. By combining the personal and the constitutional, law and history, Meyerson has produced a remarkably insightful volume on a crucial American document. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Part historian, part lawyer, Meyerson explicates James Madison and Alexander Hamilton’s 1787–88 publicity campaign touting the new Constitution. Bundled into the famous book The Federalist, the duo’s essays remain a point of origin in constitutional interpretation, though their relevance and influence at the time are questioned by some today. Defending The Federalist against modern critics, Meyerson credits it with impressing its initial audience and with impact on the present Supreme Court. Analyzing the opinions of justices who have cited The Federalist, Meyerson wends through the concept of originalism, the extent to which the intent of the Constitution’s framers can be discerned and applied. A good way to fire up a law class perhaps, but the history-minded may be more drawn to how the Madison-Hamilton odd couple got together, considering their subsequent political animosity. Noting their exasperation with the Articles of Confederation and sketching in the course of their (and John Jay’s) collaboration under the quill name of Publius, Meyerson delivers biography as ably as he does political ideas. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0465002641
  • ASIN: B002FL5IL8
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,125,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. D. Weimer on May 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Michael Meyerson is Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore, and teaches the Federalist Papers as part of his Constitutional Law class. He has put his academic training to excellent use.

Some legal scholars focus on minutia. Fortunately for us, Professor Meyerson is a skilled popular writer, with a true gift for synthesizing and explaining first principles. Using the best of modern scholarship, he provides us with a clear and fresh overview of the main arguments in the Federalist Papers.

Especially helpful is Professor Meyerson's frequent reference to the Anti-Federalist writings. Ignoring them is like hearing only one side of a phone conversation. By reconstructing both sides of the debate, Meyerson creates a dynamic work that transports us back to that turbulent time, when the public's approval of the new Constitution was in the balance.

I was fascinated by Professor Meyerson's clear explanation of the checks and balances in the Constitution, designed to avoid concentrations of power, which are the principal risk with a strong government, due to the defects in human nature.

Perhaps the main weakness in the book is its effort to comment on current political debates. Here, if I'm not mistaken, Professor Meyerson seems a bit too eager to criticize various Republican and conservative ideas. Perhaps he thinks that Democracts have ceded the Federalist Papers to the Republicans in recent years, and he is seeking to redress the balance. In my view, this weakens the work by interjecting a partisan perspective in an otherwise excellent and balanced historical analysis.
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Format: Hardcover
Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution and Made Democracy Safe for the World, fittingly describes the premise of the book in so little words. Michael I. Meyerson observes The Federalist or Federalist Papers, the essays, which Alexander Hamilton and James Madison composed in order to convince the framers of the US Constitution that one of the most important documents in American history was worth ratifying. Meyerson puts a human face to the story as well as examines this historic moment in terms of history and law. In addition, he clarifies the papers' meaning as well as misinterpretations that have arisen since the completion of the papers in 1788.

But in order to understand its purpose, Meyerson has had to revisit the history of the framers of The Federalist essays, which helped shape freedom and democracy in the US. However, their story is not as romanticized as history books have painted it out to be, but rather it was a series of events that consisted of a blend of squabbles and commiseration that involved rumors of Hamilton's precipitous idea of moving the capital from Philadelphia to New York, which turned out to be congressional President Elias Boudinot's political influence that later had Hamilton confiding with Madison to clear his name from the matter; this event would strengthen their collaboration but also eventually be one of the factors, which ended their friendship.

Despite Hamilton and Madison's demise, they have left a lasting legacy that is relevant today. Meyerson suggests that Madison and Hamilton wanted to provide an understanding of the how laws have an enormous effect on the entire populace be it through a state or national level.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are much better books out there on Madison, Hamilton and the entire process that produced to this Great Nation.

If you are a student, or recently graduated, then this book will be right up your alley.

For those of us that are a "bit" older, it is not very well written nor is it easy to read and follow. Much of it feels disjointed.

As a student of those times I have read a lot of books from numerous authors about this glorious time in American History. While I can not fault the facts presented in this book, it is not an easy read.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been searching for a while some book on THE FEDERALIST which were recent and not a difficult reading, so when I found this work combing history and analysis I decided it to give it a chance, in despite of not finding previous comments on it.

The description on the synopsis provided by the "Book reviews" is fairly accurate. Therefore, I will only point out that this work,combining the personal and the constitutional, law and history, takes a close look at the Federalist Papers,which are essays written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in favor of ratifying the Constitution. The book is basically divided in two parts. Part I explains how Hamilton (combustible and heedless) and Madison (priggish and intellectual) became friends, came to write THE FEDERALIST together (John Jay's contribution is briefly mentioned), and afterwards became political enemies. Part II provides reasons to read, understand and appreciate the influence of THE FEDERALIST, the author's succinct and readable interpretation of it and his defense of THE FEDERALIST's critical importance for understanding many of present America's divisive political debates.

Just in case some people may refrain from this work lest it will be scholarly dull, let me tell you that is not the case at all. I could not put it down it and read it in less than a week's time (content: 5 starts; pleasure of Part I: 5; pleasure of Part II: 3 to 4). So I highly recommend it.

All that (and much more that I do not mention in this summary) is developed in 297 pages (footnotes included), the book being divided in the following way: Preface. /Introduction: "A well-established historical controversy": solving the mystery of who wrote THE FEDERALIST //Part I: Writing THE FEDERALIST.
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