Synopses & Reviews
James Madison survived longer than any other member of the most remarkable generation of political leaders in American history. Born in the middle of the eighteenth century as a subject of King George II, the Father of the United States Constitution lived until 1836, when he died a citizen of Andrew Jackson's republic. For over forty years he played a pivotal role in the creation and defense of a new political order. He lived long enough to see even that Revolutionary world transformed, and the system of government he had nurtured threatened by the disruptive forces of a new era that would ultimately lead to civil war. In recounting the experience of Madison and several of his legatees who witnessed the violent test of whether his republic could endure, McCoy dramatizes the actual working out in human lives of critical cultural and political issues.
"Effectively employing biographical sketches against the background of the republican legacy to reveal a nation losing its way and a Union dividng, McCoy weaves a complex tapestry worthy of study." Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., Constitution"...excellent and richly detailed work...Though sympathetic, McCoy does not shrink from dealing with Madison's shortcomings. This is especially the case on the issue of slavery, which is exceptionally well handled. Highly recommended for large public and academic libraries." Library Journal"This inquiry into a complex mind and fascinating personality will please any reader looking for a rigorous but perfectly accessible treatment of Madison's accomplishments and contributions." Booklist"...there's a wholeness that's achieved through McCoy's thorough understanding of the complex details--as well as the implications of the issues he views from Madison's unique perspective." Kirkus Reviews"What makes this thoroughly researched study all the more enjoyable is McCoy's accomplishment as a biographer. He knows Madison; he is acquainted with the man rather than with an historical figure. As a result, the reader stands beside Madison in two stormy, antebellum decades. One can understand his thinking and anticipate his actions. That is superb historical reporting. Both Madison and McCoy will receive accolades as a result of this new treatment." James Robertson, Richmond News Leader"...a brilliant analysis of Madison's conservatism, and of the way it operated in his reactions to the issues of his day. More important, he has shown how those issues emerged from the Constitution itself, as the conflicts it subdued grew too strong to be contained within the political framework it furnished...McCoy's sketch of Rives juxtaposed to his analysis of Madison is not a casual epilogue. Nor is his book simply a study of America's greatest conservative thinker. It is a searching commentary on the ambiguities in the original Constitution of the world's greatest republic." Edmund S. Morgan, The New Republic"...a subtle, shapely and intriguing meditation on Madison's life, personality and political theory." Timothy Foote, Washington Post Book World"In this brilliantly conceived and original study, McCoy focuses on the last 20 years of James Madison's life. The book superbly illuminates Madison's struggle to straddle two vastly different worlds of political and cultural experience: the neoclassical, republican world of the Founding Fathers and the antebellum society of romantic democracy...The Last of the Fathers adds an important intellectual dimension to all previous biographical studies of Madison and histories of antebellum America. A major work--beautifully written and highly recommended." E. W. Carp, Choice"A beautifully written, sympathetic biography of Madison in the years after his presidency, Professor McCoy's book is at the same time a penetrating account of the transformation of republican values in the United States in the years between the framing of the Constitution and the advent of Jacksonian democracy." From the John H. Dunning Prize Citation"Drew McCoy's superb study gives us Madison in his retirement, looking back on these crucial years with the wisdom--and illusions--of his determinedly optimistic old age....McCoy, author of the influential Elusive Republic (1980), makes another valuable contribution here to the ongoing scholarly debate on republicanism, but not at the expense of the general reader....McCoy makes Madison accessible and attractive to modern readers, even while making an important point to his specialist colleagues. McCoy takes brilliant advantage of this quasi-biographical form; his analysis of Madison's reflections in retirement on his achievements as a founder illuminates both periods--and the man." Peter S. Onuf, Journal of the Early Republic
This is a prizewinning highly personal biography.
'What makes this thoroughly researched study all the more enjoyable is McCoy's accomplishment as a biographer. He knows Madison; he is acquainted with the man rather than with an historical figure. As a result, the reader stands beside Madison in the stormy, antebellum decades.' -- James Robertson in the Richmond News Leader.
James Madison lived a truly extraordinary life, from a sickly teenager, through to a leading figure in the American Revolution and 'father of the constitution', to an old age in which he witnessed the effects of his Revolutionary actions. This is a prizewinning highly personal biography.
In recounting the experience of Madison and several of his legatees who witnessed the violent test of whether his republic could endure, this study dramatizes the human side of critical cultural and political issues.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations; Preface; Prologue; 1. The character of the good statesman; 2. The character of the good republic: justice, stability, and the constitution; 3. Retrospect and prospect: Congress and the perils of popular government; 4. Memory and meaning: nullification and the lost world of the founding; 5. The republic transformed: population, economy, and society; 6. Accommodation: the old dominion; 7. Despair: the peculiar institution; 8. Legacy: the strange career of William Cebell Rives; Epilogue; Acknowledgements; Index.