This engaging and sympathetic biography reveals the prolific founding father who Thomas Jefferson described as “the greatest man in the world.” We see Madison the legislator, writer, Secretary of State, president, and elder statesman. Perhaps most importantly, we see a man who believed implicitly in the mutual dependence of democracy and individual freedom and whose life was guided by this philosophy. Accordingly, our constitutional guarantees of civil and religious liberty are in many ways his legacy.
©1987 Robert Allen Rutland (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“[A] very human portrait of Madison and his role in the early, problem-fraught years of the new republic… recounts his goals and frustrations, victories and defeats….” (Publishers Weekly)
I'm an amateur historian who's been running through audiobooks about central figures in American history. I've listened to excellent biographies on Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. I turned to this book looking for a good treatment of Madison. I found it adequate but definitely not sufficiently thorough for my tastes. To be fair, the author explicitly states that his intention is not to be necessarily comprehensive. In his prologue, he refers to several more complete biographies of JM and says that his purpose is to (paraphrasing) give a broad overview of JM's political life with an eye towards the context of the time and in the face of several criticisms of JM and other historians have leveled and this one finds somewhat unjust. There is barely any background for JM in this book. We start off with JM in his early political life and go from there. From then on, it's a blow-by-blow account of his political life which is pretty good. The author does come across as "pro-JM" but he gives criticism where it is due (namely his late years as Sec. of State and several blunders leading up to the War of 1812). The recording bothered me a bit. The reader's voice is clear and pleasing but he fails to make any change in tone that might indicate a shift from the author's text to a quote from JM or a contemporary. Add to this some odd editing in the reading so that there are few pauses in cadence (think of a Japanese movie dubbed with English) and it can be quite distracting. I wonder if some of the reviewers about this book mistook quotes from JM's contemporaries praising him to be coming from the author because the context wasn't clear? All in all, decent if you're an amateur like me but likely to leave you wanting if you want a lot of detail.
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