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Three Good Books about James Madison

Labunski, Richard; James Madison & the Struggle for the Bill of Rights, Oxford University Press, 2006 

Broadwater, Jeff; James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation, University of North Carolina Press, 2012 

Stewart, David; Madison’s gift:  Five Partnerships That Built America, Simon & Schuster, 2015

James Madison was one of the most influential Founding Fathers. However, his pivotal role in our country’s early history has been overshadowed by the difficulties of his Presidency and the War of 1812. For readers looking for a comprehensive biography, there are a number of good choices.

james-madisonJames Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights focuses almost exclusively on Madison’s efforts to ratify the Constitution and pass the Bill of Rights. Written by journalist Richard Labunski, the book is part of the Oxford Series “Pivotal Moments in American History.” It details how shy and soft-spoken Madison convinced his home state of Virginia to ratify the Constitution over the objections of charismatic Patrick Henry and won a seat in the First Congress so he could fulfill his promise of introducing the Bill of Rights. As Labunski describes in journalistic detail, Madison did not believe that the Constitution needed a declaration of rights, but later became their biggest and most unlikely champion.

James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation is one of the best Madison biographies in recent years. It provides enough detail to be satisfying yet is not too long to become tedious. Rather than a straight biography, author Jeff Broadwater explores Madison’s views on the key issues of his time, including the drafting of the Constitution, War of 1812, slavery, religion, and the role of the Presidency. As the book’s publisher notes, Broadwater makes the case that no single figure can tell us more about the origins of the American republic than our fourth president. 

Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America is the most basic and sweeping of the three books. Written by David Stewart, the book explores the personal and political relationships that shaped Madison’s life and ultimately the future of our country — President George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, President Thomas Jefferson, President James Monroe, and Madison’s wife Dolley Payne Todd. In a well-written and comprehensive biography, Stewart examines Madison’s many contributions to the success of the fragile union, from working behind the scenes at the Constitutional Convention to leading the country through the War of 1812. In addition to providing great insight into Madison’s personality and political mind, Stewart also paints a gripping picture of the often tumultuous world in which he lived.

All three of the books are available on Amazon.com and Audible.com.

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