Lynne Cheney’s James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, a biography of the 4th President of the United States, is a comprehensive look at one of the most important yet unknown of America’s founders. The book begins with highlights from Madison’s childhood, his college days, and his battle with epilepsy. It continues with his views on the War for Independence, the writing of the Constitution, the Presidency, and the War of 1812. This is perhaps the most important recent work done on the man who had the greatest influence on the political structure of our Republic.
James Madison is a well-written, well-researched, and scholarly book. Cheney does a masterful job at presenting the subject’s views in his own words with little intrusion. That is, Cheney refrains from editorializing. Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Patrick Henry, Madison’s contemporaries, were given the same platform when necessary. As a result, the reader must get a feel for the language to understand the political theory being discussed.
To his credit, and because of his own research, Madison understood the role of government and its implications better than anyone in his day and could articulate them effectively. He was able to build a consensus of his fellow Founders who had strong and differing opinions themselves, and through his work in The Federalist, he explained the importance of the republican system of government to the American people. He also had the intellectual honesty to change his mind when he thought there was a better way for the country.
Apart from his scholarly brilliance, his surprisingly warm personality, his insatiable thirst for knowledge and, most importantly, his obvious love and affection for Dolley, his wife, make this book entertaining and enjoyable. James Madison is a must-have for those interested in early American History. It is also an essential work in regards to government philosophy and political theory. Mrs. Cheney should be applauded for her efforts to make our history accessible for this and future generations. I give James Madison: A Life Reconsidered five stars.
I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review