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James Madison

A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation

Jeff Broadwater

Publication Year: 2012

James Madison is remembered primarily as a systematic political theorist, but this bookish and unassuming man was also a practical politician who strove for balance in an age of revolution. In this biography, Jeff Broadwater focuses on Madison's role in the battle for religious freedom in Virginia, his contributions to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, his place in the evolution of the party system, his relationship with Dolley Madison, his performance as a wartime commander in chief, and his views on slavery. From Broadwater's perspective, no single figure can tell us more about the origins of the American republic than our fourth president.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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pp. 1-1

Front Matter

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pp. 2-7

Contents and Illustrations

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pp. 8-11

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pp. ix-xvi

If, save only for George Washington, he was the most indispensable of the founders, there was nothing flamboyant about James Madison. Reserved, soft spoken, and slightly built, he seemed incapable of fiery oratory. Guarded about a private life that was unremarkable except for a fortuitous marriage to the effervescent Dolley Payne...

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ONE: Religion and Revolution

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pp. 1-27

James Madison was born on 16 March 1751, while his parents, James Madison Sr. and Nelly Conway Madison, were visiting his maternal grandmother on her plantation in King George County, Virginia. The young family soon returned to their own plantation, which would eventually be known as Montpelier, in Orange County. Little...

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TWO: A Republican Constitution

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pp. 29-55

In a speech in 1827, the Philadelphia lawyer and politician Charles J. Ingersoll called James Madison the “Father of the Constitution,” and the appellation stuck. Madison denied it, writing another admirer, “You give me credit to which I have no claim. . . . This was not like the fabled goddess of wisdom the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many...

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THREE: From Ratification to the Bill of Rights

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pp. 57-84

hortly after the Philadelphia convention adjourned, the Virginia legislature reelected James Madison to Congress by a vote of 126 to 14. Broke by the end of the convention, Madison borrowed one hundred dollars from fellow delegate John Blair and left for New York. Madison’s return to Congress broke a deadlock in the Virginia delegation. Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson opposed...

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FOUR: The Origins of the Party System

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pp. 85-112

"If I could not go to heaven but with a party,” Thomas Jefferson once said, “I would not go there at all.” Jefferson was given to hyperbole, but the framers generally took a dim view of political parties. “Party spirit,” Abigail Adams said, "sees not that wisdom dwells with moderation.” Madison believed parties were at best a necessary evil. The Constitution made no provision for them...

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FIVE: The Politics of Charm and the Limits of Diplomacy

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pp. 113-143

Martha Bland, the wife of Virginia congressman Theodorick Bland, knew James Madison when he served in the Continental Congress. He was, she thought, “a gloomy, stiff creature . . . the most unsociable creature in existence.” Edward Coles, who served as Madison’s personal secretary in later years, recalled a man habitually dressed in black...

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SIX: A Founder as Commander in Chief

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pp. 145-179

Thomas Jefferson worried about James Madison as the new president took office. “If peace can be preserved, I hope and trust you will have a smooth administration,” Jefferson told his old friend. But he warned him, “I know no government which would be so embarrassing in war as ours.” Jefferson blamed “the lying and licentious character” of American newspapers and “the wonderful...

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SEVEN: Slavery, Sectionalism, and the Decline of the Old Dominion

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pp. 181-210

The Harvard professor George Ticknor visited Montpelier in 1824 and found James Madison looking younger than he had seemed, as a wartime president, ten years earlier. Madison enjoyed good health for the first decade of his retirement, entertained an almost constant stream of admirers and relatives, and kept busy with a variety of tasks. “I have rarely during the period...


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pp. 211-248


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pp. 249-258


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pp. 259-266

E-ISBN-13: 9781469601878
E-ISBN-10: 1469601877
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807835302
Print-ISBN-10: 0807835307

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 787844754
MUSE Marc Record: Download for James Madison

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Subject Headings

  • Madison, James, 1751-1836.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
  • Statesmen -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1809-1817.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1789-1815.
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