Richard Labunski offers a dramatic account of a time when the entire American experiment hung in the balance, only to be saved by the most unlikely of heroes, the diminutive and exceedingly shy James Madison. Here is a vividly written account of not one, but several major political struggles that changed the course of American history.
Labunski takes us inside the sweltering converted theater in Richmond, where for three grueling weeks, the soft-spoken Madison and the charismatic Patrick Henry fought over whether Virginia should ratify the Constitution. The stakes were enormous. If Virginia voted no, George Washington could not become president, New York might follow suit and reject the Constitution, and the young nation would be thrust into political chaos. But Madison won the day by a handful of votes, mollifying Anti-Federalist fears by promising to add a bill of rights to the Constitution.
To do this, Madison would have to win a seat in the First Congress. Labunski shows how the vengeful Henry prevented Madison's appointment to the Senate and then used his political power to ensure that Madison would run against his good friend, Revolutionary War hero James Monroe, in a House district teeming with political enemies. Overcoming great odds, Madison won by a few hundred votes, allowing him to attend the First Congress and sponsor the Bill of Rights.
Packed with colorful details about life in early America, this compelling and important narrative is the first serious book about Madison written in many years. It will return this under-appreciated patriot to his rightful place among the Founding Fathers and shed new light on a key turning point in our nation's history.
The “Pivotal Moments in American History” series seeks to unite the old and the new history, combining the insights and techniques of recent historiography with the power of traditional narrative. Each title has a strong narrative arc with drama, irony, suspense, and – most importantly – great characters who embody the human dimension of historical events. The general editors of “Pivotal Moments” are not just historians; they are popular writers themselves, and, in two cases, Pulitzer Prize winners: David Hackett Fischer, James M. McPherson, and David Greenberg. We hope you like your American History served up with verve, wit, and an eye for the telling detail!
©2006 Richard Labunski; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC.
"Engaging....A lively look at the rickety early republic and Madison's great balancing act." (Publishers Weekly)
I've never been a big fan of American history, especially having to read through it. The author, Richard Labunski writes in a style that takes us on an interesting journey through the early formation days of the United States of America. He makes the various characters interesting and compelling. You can almost picture yourself right in the midst of all the goings-on, and that always makes for a good read.
The title should be "Patrick Henry Was a Major Douchebag." The book spends more time talking about Henry, the principle antagonist, than it does about Madison, the protagonist. Even when he does talk about Madison he spends more time talking about his diarrhea and hemorrhoids than his political genius.
The chapter in American history when the Constitution was ratified was obviously pivotal, but all of the historical "what if?" discussion is ultimately fruitless. The author should have spent more time on the actual importance of the bill of rights. Amazingly, for such a long book he never finds time for even a cursory review of the actual bill of rights. Some amendments are discussed as they come up but the coverage is surprisingly sparse.
Overall, the book is accurate and provides insight into the ratification of the Constitution and later the bill of rights. However, the writing is very dry and repetitive and he spends too much time talking about Patrick Henry and the other anti-federalists.
The performance goes a long way to improve the subject, but the narrator can only do so much.
The big picture information was great. But the author went into too much detail. This is the only book I have listened to at 3x speed.
Reduce the amount of detail. It is not necessary to know the detailed weather, clothing, etc. to understand that transportation and communication were difficult in the 1700's.
Appreciate the work that went into giving us a constitution that has lasted longer than most since its development.
The struggle for the Bill of Rights should be a fascinating history. What ideas drove the men who argued for and against the Bill of Rights? The book claims that much of the disagreement was just about process--e.g., whether we should get a Constitution with a Bill of Rights or first a Constitution and then a Bill of Rights. Oh really? Process may have been an argument, but surely wasn't the foundation of disagreement. Puzzling facts get mentioned, but but never get explored--such as, why was New Jersey so quick to approve the Constitution without a Bill of Rights? The author doesn't pause to consider such questions. A great opportunity missed.
Just little ol' me
I learned a lot about how the Bill of Rights came about which was great, especially that Madison and the Federalists were initially against it since they thought the constitution didn't need it since anything that wasn't enumerated in the constitution was for the states to decide which is important for today's discussion of the constitution. It was also very interesting to learn how the first amendment came about. However, I was extremely disappointed the author did not give any more detail about the issues behind the other amendments. I especially wanted to know how the second amendment changed from not having a standing militia to its current form. That would help us understand what it really means. I feel the author was too much of a coward to not talk about that considering how polarized the debate on it is. It is extremely important we know the background on this amendment.
Unfortunately, the reader of this book seems to belong to the 'It's history, so I must sound portentous' school of thought. That really detracted. But in addition, the writing style is repetitive. Over and over, we hear something like, 'The anti-Federalists did not agree with Madison,' or, 'The Federalists thought they could turn this to their advantage.' I'm not quite half-way through, but am stopping.
This book was interesting history but an editor and a better narrator would have been most appreciated.
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