Monday, September 21, 2015

James Madison by Richard Brookhiser

James Madison by Richard Brookhiser sheds light on the not always exciting or racy framer of the Constitution and fourth president of the United States.Brookhiser paints a portrait of a man both idealistic and practical, caught somewhere in the middle of the reality of how things are, and his dreams of how things should be.  

This is fitting with Madison’s position among Americas first leaders: he was young during the revolution, and was among the second wave of leaders to came after the mighty Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton.   Yet he was never completely overshadowed by them, even if he did not share their gifts.   He lacked Washington’s martial prowess, Adams’ aristocratic bearing, Jefferson’s philosopher’s detachment, or Hamilton’s business acumen. 

Or, if he had these qualities, they were always measured against the men who came before.  In that sense, Madison gets shafted in the historical record.  But in quite another the Madison which Brookhiser provides us is often a small man, concerned with petty ideas and political dealings. Brookhiser stresses that he was America's first true politician.

So, we get many Madisons in Brookhiser’s biography.  This, perhaps, is the greatest measure of this man complex man.  His ideas evolved over time to meet the exigencies of the moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment