James Madison and the Making of America

I encourage you to read James Read’s review for Law and Liberty of Kevin Gutzman’s thoughtful new political biography James Madison and the Making of America. James Read, who recently participated in the Liberty Forum debate “Sound the Alarm to the People: James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the Principles of 1798,” observes that “in twentieth century scholarship Madison emerged as a towering figure in his own right, in some respects superior to his friend Jefferson. Since his “rediscovery” Madison has received generally favorable treatment from biographers and historians – his presidency excepted, and even that phase of his career has gained some defenders.”

Read notes the following of Madison:

“Madison was not the “Father of the Constitution.” But his legacy is so intertwined with it that shifting interpretations of the Constitution typically entail shifting views of Madison and vice-versa.  To Madison’s mid-twentieth century biographer Irving Brant, for example, Madison’s nationalist side was unproblematic; what required explanation was Madison’s occasional indulgence of state sovereignty.  James Madison and the Making of America suggests that the political landscape has shifted: for Gutzman it is the national side of Madison’s “partly national, partly federal” vision that appears problematic, and state sovereignty that provides the constitutional bedrock.