James Madison and the Making of America
By Kevin R. C. Gutzman
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312625009, 416pp.)
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
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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 readers 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. He 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. Madison 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.
"Kevin R.C. Gutzman's James Madison and the Making of America revels in the intrigue of political debate and the intricacies of the political process, fashioning a narrative that re-creates the drama of nation-making and governing. Mr. Gutzman's narrative concentrates on Madison's maneuvering in Philadelphia at meetings of the Continental Congress and, later, at the constitutional convention. Mr. Gutzman meticulously recounts Madison's efforts to secure ratification of the Constitution in several recalcitrant states, working in concert with the redoubtable Alexander Hamilton, who later became an adversary not just of Madison but also of Jefferson."—The Wall Street Journal
"Gutzman’s meticulous disquisition on the proceedings of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention ... will most profit scholars. His perspective on an important Founder, and his minute examination of the Federalist Papers, will ... appeal to serious readers."--Library Journal
"[A] groundbreaking work. More than merely the definitive biography on James Madison, Kevin Gutzman’s book is essential to understanding the men, ideas and historical context of the U.S. Constitution and the early American republic. If the founders are important, then James Madison and the Making of America is vital to understanding what they actually said and did."--The Washington Times
"This book is relatively thorough, covering the years leading up to the Revolution and especially focusing on the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, ratifying the Constitution, inaugurating the Constitution, and, finally, Madison's years as Secretary of State and President [and] Gutzman's style of writing is refreshingly sprite at times."--The Peorian
"A well-considered and written biography of this gifted Founding Father's many contributions to the early republic."--Kirkus
"Kevin R. C. Gutzman, relying for the most part on primary sources, gives us an authoritative, vivid and wide-ranging exploration of Madison’s public career in James Madison and the Making of America... a solid and insightful biography that should appeal to both those readers who know a lot about Madison and those who want an introduction to him."--BookPage
"With James Madison and the Making of America, Kevin Gutzman has raised a glorious standard to illustrate and illuminate the importance of Madison and why he may be unfairly overlooked and buried in the shadow of Jefferson. On the whole, [it] is an impressive book. Gutzman makes history easy to read and keeps the expected dry boredom of reliving the 1700s at bay, making them vibrant and exciting, as they no doubt were to the people who lived them. With this book, the foundations of America are laid open for examination, and the specific work Madison undertook to bring about the glorious new nation with a republican-style government gets the attention it properly deserves."--Book Reporter
"Kevin R. C. Gutzman ... has written a well-researched public life of Madison that draws heavily on the documentary record. His ... discussions of Madison’s role in the Virginia Convention of 1776, where he argued for free exercise instead of mere toleration, his 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, and his successful efforts to gain passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, are particularly acute, as is his judgment that the last mentioned was Madison’s 'greatest accomplishment' (p. 48)."--The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
"...a fascinating account of Madison’s role in forming the institutions and the policies that characterize the United States of America."--City Book Review
"Gutzman’s day-by-day analysis of the debates and actions of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 is long—80 pages—but superb. He demonstrates Madison’s deep insight and great skill in first framing the task of the Convention, then, in responding to virtually every point raised by its members, guiding the debate to workable conclusions, and most remarkable of all, helping to fashion a document agreed to by “all states present.”... Later, in a well-informed analysis, Gutzman treats insightfully Madison’s contributions to The Federalist essays as a dialogue with increasingly effective Anti-Federalist articles, highlighting the basic issues of energetic government, insurance against tyranny, and meaningful representation.... Gutzman’s most thorough and penetrating analysis is of Madison’s premier role in the fateful discussion of the new constitution and its principles... His book is a signal contribution to our understanding of this near-miraculous epoch in our national history."--Ralph Ketcham, The American Conservative
"The serious reader who wants a detailed account of James Madison's long public career, drawn from primary sources, will find Kevin Gutzman's book deeply rewarding. The author's treatments of Virginia's ratification convention and the drafting of the Bill of Rights are particularly valuable.”--Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
“Writing with authority and verve, Kevin Gutzman merges James Madison the practical Virginia politician and James Madison the world-class political theorist in this well-rounded biography of one of the most remarkably multifaceted founders of the republic.”-- Jon Kukla, author of Mr. Jefferson’s Women and A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America
"Kevin Gutzman's beautifully written and insightful account of James Madison's fascinating life promises to become the standard biography of this great Founding Father."- Edward G. Lengel, Professor and Editor-in-Chief – The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia and author of Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, In Myth and Memory
"Focusing on the fourth president's public life, Kevin Gutzman's James Madison and the Making of America recaptures the drama and excitement of the new nation's bold experiment in republican self-government. No one played a more important role than Madison in the drafting, ratification, and implementation of the federal Constitution. The power of the great Virginian's penetrating intelligence is amply evident on every page of this nicely balanced, well-written, and lucidly argued study."-- Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History, University of Virginia and author of Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nationhood