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James Madison and the Making of America

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  • United States
  • English

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In James Madison and the Making of America, historian Kevin
Gutzman looks beyond the way James Madison is traditionally seen-as
"The Father of the Constitution"-to find a more complex and sometimes
contradictory portrait of this influential Founding Father and the ways
in which he influenced the spirit of today's United States. Instead of
an idealized portrait of Madison, Gutzman treats listeners to the
flesh-and-blood story of a man who often performed his founding deeds in
spite of himself: Madison's fame rests on his participation in the
writing of The Federalist Papers and his role in drafting the
Bill of Rights and Constitution.
Today, his contribution to those
documents is largely misunderstood. Madison thought that the Bill of Rights
was unnecessary and insisted that it not be included in the
Constitution, a document he found entirely inadequate and predicted
would soon fail. He helped to create the first American political
party, the first party to call itself "Republican", but only after he
had argued that political parties, in general, were harmful. Madison
served as Secretary of State and then as President during the early
years of the United States and the War of 1812; however, the American
foreign policy he implemented in 1801-1817 ultimately resulted in the
British burning down the Capitol and the White House.
In so many ways,
the contradictions both in Madison's thinking and in the way he governed
foreshadowed the conflicted state of our Union now. His greatest
legacy-the disestablishment of Virginia's state church and adoption of
the libertarian Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom-is often omitted
from discussion of his career. Yet, understanding the way in which
Madison saw the relationship between the church and state is key to
understanding the real man. Kevin Gutzman's James Madison and the Making of America promises to become the standard biography of our fourth President.
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