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James Madison: A Son of Virginia & a Founder of the Nationby Jeff Broadwater
Synopses & Reviews
His formal schooling abruptly cut off at age eleven, George Washington saw his boyhood dream of joining the British army evaporate and recognized that even his aspiration to rise in colonial Virginian agricultural society would be difficult. Throughout his life he faced challenges for which he lacked the academic foundations shared by his more highly educated contemporaries. Yet Washington’s legacy is clearly not one of failure.
Breaking new ground in Washington scholarship and American revolutionary history, Adrienne M. Harrison investigates the first president’s dedicated process of self-directed learning through reading, a facet of his character and leadership long neglected by historians and biographers. In A Powerful Mind, Harrison shows that Washington rose to meet these trials through a committed campaign of highly focused reading, educating himself on exactly what he needed to do and how best to do it. In contrast to other famous figures of the revolution—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin—Washington did not relish learning for its own sake, viewing self-education instead as a tool for shaping himself into the person he wanted to be. His two highest-profile and highest-risk endeavors—commander in chief of the Continental Army and president of the fledgling United States—are a testament to the success of his strategy.
"Barton College history professor Broadwater's (George Mason, Forgotten Founder) biography of James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S. and widely considered 'The Father of the Constitution,' is meticulously researched and surprisingly readable. Given the myriad biographies of the Founding Fathers — and in an attempt to correct the notion that, in Joseph Ellis's words, Madison 'seemed to lack a personal agenda because he seemed to lack a personality,' Broadwater specifically provides readers with a detailed account of Madison's attempts to secure religious freedom in his native Virginia, his relationship with his charismatic wife Dolley Madison (sometimes referred to as 'Lady Presidentess'), and his ongoing struggle with his ideas about slavery. In addition, the author discusses Madison's enormous impact on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the party system, which Madison considered — in Broadwater's words — 'at best a necessary evil,' hoping instead that an 'elaborate system of checks and balances would mitigate their unwholesome tendencies.' Though Madison retired after his two terms as president to become a gentleman farmer, matters of politics and the intellect never left him — he wrestled with the issue of slavery till the end of his days. Though the enormous amount of detail will likely put off casual readers, history buffs and early-America aficionados will find Broadwater's work indispensable. Illus. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
About the Author
Jeff Broadwater is professor of history at Barton College and author of George Mason, Forgotten Founder.
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Biography » Historical