JAMES MADISON: A LIFE RECONSIDERED by Lynne Cheney

“For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.”

JAMES MADISON: A LIFE RECONSIDERED, marks the fourth book in my quest to read biographies of each U.S. president. It has been a slow-going project, interspersed as it is within my regular diet of fantasy fiction, but so far it has been an enjoyable project, especially as I read about our Founding Fathers and the birth of the nation from a variety of viewpoints.

Of the first four presidents, I probably knew the least about James Madison, and Cheney faced a challenge in bringing Madison to life. Washington had his leadership in the Revolutionary War, Adams his humanizing relationship with his wife, and Thomas Jefferson his wide-ranging brilliance combined with scandal. Madison was no warrior, wasn’t as famous as Jefferson, and he destroyed most of his correspondence with his wife Dolley.

Nonetheless, Cheney does a great job of bringing Madison to life without unduly placing him on a pedestal. The result is a well-researched, interesting depiction of a president who played a key role in the early days of our nation and gave as much thought as anyone as to how to build a government that would serve the people and bring order to states with a wide range of agendas, cultures and ideas.

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