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Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America Paperback – February 16, 2016
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“[Stewart’s] insights are illuminating . . . He weaves vivid, sometimes poignant details throughout the grand sweep of historical events. He brings early history alive in a way that offers today's readers perspective.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Stewart has a knack for offering telling details that humanize historical figures . . . Madison’s Gift is a fascinating look at how unfinished the nation was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and how one unlikely figure managed to help guide it from a precarious confederation of reluctant states to a self-governing republic that has prospered for more than two centuries.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“Stewart is an acknowledged master of narrative history. He can explain a political crisis or an ideological debate with perfect clarity and exactly the sense of urgency required to capture and hold the reader’s attention.” (The Washington Post)
“A fond portrait of the mild-mannered Virginian and implacable advocate for the young American government. . . . Historian and novelist Stewart offers a pertinent lesson on Madison's ability to forge working bonds with other founding members of the new American government, even if they did not always see eye to eye. . . . Stewart's lively character sketches employ sprightly prose and impeccable research.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Stewart examines [Madison] from a fresh angle . . . [he] illuminates much about the history-making relationships among these celebrated figures that in other books might remain obscured. Readers of history are in good hands with this dependable guide, which approaches its subject with a smooth, easy going style. (Publishers Weekly)
“A sparkling, well-written work that tells a balanced story of a man who worked diligently with his contemporaries for the greater good. . . . Madison is a hero for our times, and David O. Stewart nimbly re-introduces us to him.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)
“This eminently readable work is recommended for lay readers and should be considered alongside Lynne Cheney’s James Madison.” (Library Journal)
“This is a well-done effort to provide a different perspective on Madison’s career.” (Booklist)
“It’s hard to imagine anyone saying anything new about James Madison, but David O. Stewart with his ‘five partnerships’ has done it; and he has done it in a very beautifully written book.” (Gordon S. Wood, author of "The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States")
“David Stewart has created a compelling and nuanced portrait of Madison that reveals him anew. Madison’s Gift is a fascinating exploration of the profound emotional bonds behind the young Republic.” (Amanda Foreman, author of "A World on Fire")
About the Author
David O. Stewart is an award-winning author and the president of the Washington Independent Review of Books. He is the author of several acclaimed histories, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America; The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution; Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy; and American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America. Stewart’s first novel is The Lincoln Deception.
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In his earlier Summer of 1787, Stewart recounted the events of the Philadelphia Convention with an emphasis on the horse trading and shenanigans associated with a large delegation banging out a contentious compromise. In Madison’s Gift Stewart puts more emphasis on the many constitutional issues that concerned and involved the most central delegate throughout his life, using the lens of his reasoning. The result is a splendid elaboration of and companion piece to the earlier work, portraying not just the human Madison, but the many fruits of his incisive intellect, whose insights from over two hundred years ago are as poignant as they are stellar. Two gems of note: “War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement;” and ”The stockjobbers will become the praetorian band of the Government, at once its tool and its tyrant, bribed by its largess, and overawing it, by clamors and combinations.” Seen anything like these happening recently?
You will definitely want to add Madison’s Gift to your Stewart collection.
Stewart doesn't aim for the impossibly 'perfect' founder in Madison. Occasionally a blemish is allowed to show through such as Madison's dismissal of his own gift for impeccable logic in favor of an embarrassingly illogical argument against ratification of the Jay Treaty of 1795. Madison tried to argue the House had a role in treaty ratification despite the explicit words of the Constitution and despite a failed attempt (by others) at the Constitutional Convention to require treaty via statute (pg. 162). Others even less gifted - would have none of it. And even "it" may have been undertaken only as an effort to avoid having to go one-on-one with the deviously clever Hamilton in another public essays war.
It is not surprising that Stewart provides an easy and well written read, his earlier books (American Emperor..., and The Summer of 1787...) established that talent. The stories of "Madison's Gift" show the development of friendships and alliances - and in the case of both Washington and Hamilton - the decline of friendship the result of partisan politics. The book, even in kindle format, also includes a number of portraits of the subjects - personalizing the read in addition to Stewart's talented style. The final three chapters free Stewart of the narrative style and he impresses with Madison observations, anecdotes & factoids. Even for those readers experienced by a number of Madison biographies (Ketcham's, James Madison: A Biography is the acknowledged standard of comparison) there are some object lessons and reminders of Madison's brilliance, modesty, honesty and integrity. As a first read of Madison, the breadth of this book - that is, the scope of Madison's accomplishments - make the read a great start, solidly based in detailed research (and well cited facts) as well as thorough editing & fact checking. (This last point conspicuously missing in another recent offering on Madison.)