The Presidency of James Madison

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University Press of Kansas, 1990 - Biography & Autobiography - 233 pages
Henry Adams portrayed James Madison as a weak president who lacked both decisiveness and administrative skills. For a century, most historians accepted Adams's assessment.

In this new study of the fourth presidency, distinguished historian Robert Allen Rutland paints a more complicated portrait. Rutland, former editor-in-chief of the Madison Papers, sees Madison as a bookish, practical statesman who worked furiously to avoid conflicts in his cabinet and in Congress. When he finally realized England would not be swayed by economic pressure, he boldly led the nation into a second war for independence that allowed the United States to emerge with a renewed sense of dignity and purpose.

Madison made some serious errors in judgment, according to Rutland. In time, though, he filled his cabinet with competent men, and, by some unexpected vetoes, renewed his commitment to republican ideals within a constitutional framework. During his last years in office Madison helped fashion a government that would luxuriate during the Era of Good Feeling and withstand the hard knocks of Andrew Jackson's democratic surge.

Rutland's lively narrative covers all major events of the Madison administration, including the War of 1812 and the push for national expansion. It provides a fresh interpretation not only of the contribution of Madison's presidency, but also of the "master builder of the Constitution" himself. Madison emerges neither as the weakling painted by Henry Adams nor as a demigod, but rather as a man who attempted to be the president envisioned at the Constitutional Convention and who achieved his highest priority, to strengthen the Union.

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The presidency of James Madison

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This is a fine addition to the publisher's valuable "American Presidency'' series. Rutland, who has written four other books on Madison and edited his papers, knows the whole man better than any other ... Read full review

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This book covers the Presidency of James Madison. Rutland has good insight into the U.S.'s 4th President. Madison is portrayed as Jefferson's heir to the Presidency. The book covers Madison's Presidency througout the War of 1812. Although well written with solid political analysis of the early 19th Century politics and intrigue, the chronology tends to meander making the book hard to follow throughout the narration. With that said the book is solidly footnoted and well researched. 


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About the author (1990)

Rutland is Research Professor of History at the University of Tulsa.

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