James Madison The American Presidents Series: The 4th President, 1809-1817

The American Presidents

Garry Wills; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

Times Books

0805069054

9780805069051

Hardcover

208 Pages

$25.00

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A New York Times Notable Book

The eternal conundrum about James Madison—a key framer of the U.S. Constitution, a formidable political figure, and a man of penetrating analytical intellect and tremendous foresight—is why, when he became chief executive, did he steer the ship of state with such an unsteady hand? Why was this man, whose pre- and post-presidential careers contributed so significantly to the future course of American political history, so lackluster and ineffectual in his tenure as president?

In this concise and readable examination of Madison's life and career, Garry Wills outlines the confluence of unfortunate circumstance, misplaced temperament, and outright poor judgement that bogged down Madison's presidency. Though a brilliant theoretician and effective legislator and collaborator, he was not a natural leader of men, and the absence of leadership was keenly felt during wartime. In fact, the War of 1812 was the first foreign war fought under the Constitution, and Madison was forced to adjust many of the assumptions he had made during the drafting of that document. He had to confront hard, practical issues such as public morale, internal security, relations with Congress, and the independence of the military. Though now remembered in part for fleeing the capital as it was under siege, Madison saw his administration come close to a close with his popularity on the rise.

Madison's later life, neatly traced by Wills, was also of consequence. For two decades after he left office, he remained tightly bound to the political life of the nation, happily playing the role of popular elder statesman, curiously prefiguring so many of our recent presidents.

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Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and cultural critic, and a professor of history at Northwestern University. A recipient of the National Book Award, his many books include Lincoln at Gettysburg, Reagan's America, Witches and Jesuits, and a biography of Saint Augustine. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is arguably the preeminent political historian of our time. For more than half a century, he has been a cornerstone figure in the intellectual life of the nation and a fixture on the political scene. He served as special assistant to John F. Kennedy;
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  • James Madison by Garry Wills--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from bestselling historian Garry Wills' biography James Madison. Explore Madison's rise to prominence in the colonies through his role in the creation if the Articles of Confederation and the first Constitutional Congress. Madison oversaw the first foreign war under the constitution, and had to confront issues such as public morale, internal security, relations with Congress, and the independence of the military.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Garry Wills; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

  • Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and cultural critic, and a professor of history at Northwestern University. A recipient of the National Book Award, his many books include Lincoln at Gettysburg, Reagan's America, Witches and Jesuits, and a biography of Saint Augustine. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

    Series editor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. is arguably the preeminent political historian of our time. For more than half a century, he has been a cornerstone figure in the intellectual life of the nation and a fixture on the political scene. He served as special assistant to John F. Kennedy; won two Pulitzer Prizes for The Age of Jackson (1946) and A Thousand Days (1966); and in 1998 received the National Humanities Medal. He published the first volume of his autobiography, A Life in the Twentieth Century, in 2000.
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