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James Madison

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,363 ratings  ·  120 reviews
James Madison led one of the most influential and prolific lives in American history, and his story—although all too often overshadowed by his more celebrated contemporaries—is integral to that of the nation. Madison helped to shape our country as perhaps no other Founder: collaborating on the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights, resisting government overreach by asse ...more
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Published December 12th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published September 1st 2011)
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Over the past year, I've added something to my bucket list. Before I die, I plan to read at least one book on every US president, in order of the dates of their presidencies. I have read a number out of order, having read several books on Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton over the past few years. But, this book on James Madison follows Chernow's Washington, McCullough's John Adams, and Ellis's Jefferson, American Sphinx.

While Brookhiser's biography of Madison provides
Brian Pate
Brookhiser focused on Madison as a thinker. And he was a great one. The first half of the book explained Madison's reasoning in the debates over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Not a terribly exciting read, but important nonetheless.

Apart from a general lack of readability, my main criticism is how Brookhiser approached Madison's life. There are times in the book that I wondered, "Where did Madison go? I wonder what he's up to during this time?" It felt like a history of the USA with an
Jimmy Reagan
Prolific writer Richard Brookhiser tackles President James Madison in this short biography. Though the writing skills I have come to respect in Brookhiser are present, this volume is not quite as good as the others of his that I have read. As a biography, I did not think it was as good as David Stewart’s “Madison’s Gift” either.

The book begins with a riveting retelling of the British marching on Washington during his time as President. Then, it backed up and took the story chronologically. When
Daniel Farabaugh
The author of this book seems to suffer from a failing of a lot of biographers. He likes his topic too much. Brookhiser spends much of this book trying to come up with ways to justify the incosistancies, failures, and failings of his subject. He glosses over the fact that Hamilton's economic policies that Madison worked so hard to destroy ended up being so successful that Madison's own party reinstated them. He claims that philosophers do not need to be consistant when trying to explain away tha ...more
Ric White
A much briefer biography than others I have read, that doesn't mean this biography pulls back on the content. I would consider James Madison to be one of our more underrated founding fathers. While Washington and Jefferson may have been much bigger names in front of the public eye, Madison actually did a lot of work for them behind the scenes. Madison wrote the majority of Washington's inaugural and farewell speeches, and while Jefferson is well-known as the writer of the Declaration of Independ ...more
Interesting on Madison not just as the father of the Constitution (and as Brookhiser points out, many others deserve credit for that--his "midwife of the constitution" is more accurate), but as the father of modern politics--of party ("faction"), public opinion, and compromise. Which is for good and ill. Also nice how he embodied how much the new Constitution was a brilliant leap of imagination (folks like John Adams couldn't step too far beyond monarchy, wanting the office of president, and oth ...more
"James Madison" by Richard Brookhiser is a biography about the 4th president of the United States, James Madison. The author guides us through Madison's life and many of his accomplishments, as well as failures. The introduction gives the reader a good idea of how Brookhiser feels about James Madison and its pretty clear that he admires him greatly. As the story progresses onward, Madison's early life is detailed, where he at first worked on a plantation growing tobacco, all the way up until hi ...more
Arsenio Santos
This biography never delves into any particular event, opting to cover a lot of ground as quickly as possible. Worse, there's not much of the personality of the President, either. The result is a book that feels more like a Wikipedia entry (and, for certain situations, the Wikipedia page is more informative).
David Buccola
A typical white washing of one of our Founding Fathers.
While I enjoyed this book overall, I was left feeling like I was never granted access to the mind and motivation of Madison. I wanted too see more of the world from his eyes, not merely to read more about his role in events.
This book reads like a poorly written high school research paper. The author interjects what he suspects that Madison, Jefferson, and others are thinking without any real purpose or proof. I did not enjoy this book.
Evan Brandt
For those who know little about our fourth president, this is a good start.

I knew some, so it was helpful, but I finished the book wanting more.

This is ironic as I bought it at Montpelier after much soul-searching about how big a book I wanted. I overheard the book store manager telling another patron that the older, more traditional biography was "dense."

I'm happy with the choice I made but I will confess I found it a little too breezy. It could have used a little more density.

I find Madison fa
Doreen Petersen
Not a bad read but would have preferred more information on what or who made Madison the man and president he was.
The founding generation of America had a myriad of characters within its makeup. Washington was the general who became the "father of a nation", Adams its principled bulldog, Jefferson its inspiring voice and then you had Madison who was an unlikely member. Short (barely 5ft), sickly, shy, he would rise to be known as the deal maker of early American politics and come to bare the association of "father of the constitution."
Richard Brookhiser does not bog down with details of biography but gets
Barely scratches the surface of Madison's political life.
Cynthia Rennolds
Small in stature with a fine mind.

Madison seemed hard for me to get to know. This biography does a fine job in outlining his accomplishments and comparing him to his contemporaries, yet I never felt I got to know the man. It may be less a fault of the biographer and more an aspect of Madison himself. I am reading the Presidents in order and while this book was lighter in number of pages then some books on earlier Presidents I still found it comprehensive and interesting. On to Monroe.
Willie Krischke
Brookhiser isn't just a biographer and historian, he's a political theorist in his own right. As such, reading this biography is a little more like taking a class on Madison from an intelligent and opinionated political science professor. He's not just going to teach, he's going to tell you what he thinks, too.

For instance:

“It is astonishing how many people, otherwise intelligent but amateurs in politics, do not understand the importance of counting votes ahead of time. Yet vote counts answer
By far the shortest biography I have read so far, this is compelling and rather more detailed than I had expected. Brookhiser does an excellent job in providing analysis of Madison's actions and personality as well as describing the significant events of his life and career.

What made this particularly special to me as a biography is how judgmental and opinionated Brookhiser can be at times, and in how entertaining a fashion! Consider, for example:

“Madison's most notable colleague on the drafting
Can't say I was bowled over by this one. Brookhiser is capable relator of information, but his prose is not literary in the manner of McCullough or Ellis. I found a handful of curious copy editing decisions (sentence fragments, writing in first person) that were jarring when juxtaposed with Brookhiser's otherwise dry style. Furthermore, I found his disdain for Adams tedious -- yes, Adams was a pragmatist and a Federalist, and his ego got in the way at times, but he was a true patriot who rose to ...more
Tom Meyer
Brookhiser is both the best and the most accessible biographer of the Founders working today: his books are insightful, fun, substantive, and as willing to point out their subjects virtues as their vices.

Though stylistically the most conventional of the series -- he abandons the thematic treatments he used so effectively for both Washington and Hamilton -- his choice of subject material is extremely unorthodox: while "The Federalist & the Bill of Rights" share only a single chapter, Brookhis
This slim biography of one of the least appreciated Founders makes the case for Madison as the Father not only of the Constitution but more properly the Father of American Politics. As such, most of the text concentrates on Madison's letters and political thought, rather than on the chronology of his life. For me this was somewhat of a disappointment since I read biography for the many little interesting details of the subject's life. I was most interested in the Introduction to this book, where ...more
David Forrest
After reading excellent books about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, I looked forward to learning more about James Madison, a president I did not know much about. This book was an enjoyable history book, only if you are looking for an overview of James Madison's life that you would find in a history book. There was no in depth discussion or analysis of any of Madison's decisions or major accomplishments. His influence on the drafting of the Constitution was glossed over as well his Presidency. I ...more
I think what I was wanting from this book, going into it, and being very excited about discovering it, was a good story. I love good story-telling, fact or faction. Brookhiser gives us a lot of facts and some informative narrations, but fails massively on plain old readability. Juicy would-be stories such as the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are only a few dry paragraphs in this book, those being cold and only the most basic information. What a waste. The gossip surrounding the ...more
Martin Zook
Richard Brookhiser should have saved the waste of paper and ink it took to produce this biography.

Empire of Liberty, Gordon Wood's superb survey American history covering 1789-1815 quite literally has more detail of James Madison's considerable accomplishments than Brookhiser's excuse of a biography.

For instance, Madison, who originally opposed amending the Constitution to accommodate the Anti-Federalists objections to a strong central government, was persuaded by his neighbor Thomas Jefferson o
Gary Schantz
From the begininning I expected some personal insight into Madison's life, his contributions to the constitution, and his disagreements with his enemies. But considering what an enemy is in present times, the book had a tendency to chase after point-of-views that weren't necessarily pertinent to the constitution, the bill of rights or any other issues which had to be resolved.

After 50 pages, I foud myself wondering if whether or not I needed to read more books about how the declaration of indepe

“James Madison” is Richard Brookhiser’s 2011 biography of our fourth president, and is the most recent of his dozen or so books. Brookhiser’s first biography, on George Washington, was published in 1996. Since then has written about Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and William F. Buckley Jr., among others. Brookhiser is currently a senior editor at National Review.

At only 250 pages of text, “James Madison” has been described by some as merely a “whirl
David Williams
James Madison is one of those figures who seem to always be at the edge in discussions about historical characters. Some may know of him as the “Father of the Constitution” or as the fourth President of the United States. Few actually know much about the man himself. In this biography Richard Brookhiser seeks to show us that character.
Madison was a small man, barely five feet tall, leaving him dwarfed by the tall Virginians George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He was not a powerful speaker, b
This is the first treatment I’ve read of James Madison (President # 4 1808-1816), and contrary to other reviews I’ve seen, I found it to be a great read. Unlike others, I enjoyed Brookhiser’s stripped down writing style. There is no over treatment here or dull explanations in a blow by blow recounting of Madison’s days. Instead, Brookhiser narrowly focuses on Madison’s early political life (the founding of the country by the debate, writing, and ratification of the Constitution), his presidency ...more
Overall, a very readable and informative biography of Madison. Brookhiser places an emphasis on Madison's relationship with the other founders, particularly Washington and Jefferson which provides a fascinating insight into his character. However, at times this book feels a little incomplete and the fact that there are only two chapters - one for each term - about Madison's presidency is a little disappointing. It feels like the War of 1812 could have been explored further. Nonetheless, a very g ...more
John Harder
As I stand on my tiptoes in my attempt to reshelve Mr. Brookheiser's volume about James Madison, I can’t help but think short bookish men are greatly unappreciated. James at 5 foot nothing so towered over his contemporaries intellectually that he bagged a hot, vivacious wife, won the presidency and made anyone over 6 foot tall walk in a ditch. When I passed this book out to my fellow Oompa Loompas, it created such a rush of excitement that we cancelled having our cuffs hemmed, threw off our boos ...more
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