Books: James Madison

Basic Books, 2011 | ISBN 978-0465019830

James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution—attending and recording every session of the Constitutional Convention; leading the fight for ratification in his native Virginia; co-authoring the Federalist Papers, and shepherding the Bill of Rights through the First Congress. But he was also the Father of Politics. He founded the first political party, ancestor of today’s Democrats. He pioneered partisan journalism and the study of popular opinion. He belonged to the first political machine, the Virginia Dynasty, and married the first political wife, the lovely and charming Dolley Madison. Political theorist and wily pol—America is doubly in his debt.


August 24, 1814 began as a typical summer day in Washington: bright and cloudless, promising heat and humidity as the day wore on. For years, James Madison, the president, had fled high summer in Washington and other low-lying cities for the healthier air of his inland home in the Virginia Piedmont. But this August his presence was required in the capital. America had been at war with Britain for two years. Mr. Madison’s War—he had asked Congress to declare it—had been fought along the Canadian border; against Indians on the frontier; on the high seas. Now the war was coming home.

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