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.
"Broadwater has mastered the voluminous literature on Madison. With lively and fast-paced prose, this succinct synthesis of recent scholarship will appeal to historians, political scientists, and general readers alike."--Stuart Leibiger, LaSalle University
will appeal to readers looking for an in-depth analysis of Madison's revolutionary thinking."
"An essential American philosopher and president gains a substantive treatment."
"Meticulously researched and surprisingly readable. . . . History buffs and early-America aficionados will find Broadwater's work indispensable."
"A comprehensive and fascinating view of the nations, personalities, economic issues and events that led to the War of 1812."
-Rocky Mount Telegram
"Deal[s] with the whole man and with the complete story of [Madison's] life insofar as the biographer can limn it. . . . Restore[s] Madison's humanity."
-Wall Street Journal
"In an engagingly formulated work of synthesis, Broadwater offers a compelling view of the essential Madison. . . . [His] clear writing style and contextual explanations make this work especially appealing to incipient scholars and general readers."
"[Broadwater's] biography is very solid and scholarly. . . the best medium-sized life of Madison that we have."-Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books
"Broadwater has done an excellent job of discussing and analyzing the major issues, events, and people with whom Madison had to deal. His book is a welcome addition to the literature on Madison's remarkable career."
"Highly recommended. General readers and undergraduate collections."
"Readers who want an introduction to [Madison's] political thought and practice over his whole career will find these volumes considerably valuable."
-Journal of American History
"Broadwater grounds his study in the best Madison scholarship and thus understands Madison's position on the Constitution. . . . As good an account of James Madison as there is likely to be."
-Claremont Review of Books
"There are few one-volume works which stand in the pantheon of James Madison biographies. . . . [Broadwater's] is a welcome new addition to that list."
-Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Broadwater has produced an eminently readable synthesis that is well suited for classroom use as well as for those looking for an insightful introduction to James Madison's thought and public career. . . . [He] has succeeded in giving us a thoughtful and interesting analysis of this pivotal figure, around whom so much of the political discourse of the early national period revolved."
-Journal of Southern History
“Adrienne Harrison’s important, engaging, and eye-opening book demolishes the conventional wisdom about George Washington. Whoever thinks he was first in war and first in peace but last among his peers as a man of the Enlightenment needs to think again. Harrison proves that Washington, a bibliophile, commanded a world of ideas.”—Robert M. S. McDonald, associate professor of history at the United States Military Academy and editor of Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés
“Harrison argues persuasively that Washington read extensively. . . . [She] has effectively penetrated Washington’s mind and found it filled with books that he both owned and read.”—Theodore J. Crackel, editor in chief emeritus of the Papers of George Washington and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia
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
Adrienne M. Harrison is a former assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy. Her work has been published in Oxford Bibliographies.