The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding

Front Cover
University of Virginia Press, 1993 - Biography & Autobiography - 296 pages
"Good fortune offered this nation an unusual chance at ideal nation-forming and... some honorable leaders seized that chance", writes William Lee Miller in The Business of May Next, and none among the founders made more of the opportunity than did James Madison, subject of this engaging work. Madison is depicted during the critical years between 1784 and 1791, when he was so active in articulating the governmental aims of the fledgling nation that he sometimes found himself in official dialogue with himself. More than simply a historical and biographical account, the book traces Madison's political and theoretical development as a means of illuminating its larger theme, the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the American nation. With a sound grasp of his material and a refreshing style Miller reveals how Madison's research into republics and his influence on the writing of the Constitution are central to the values for which the nation stands. From an examination of Madison's notes, Miller traces Madison's early research into other republics and their weaknesses. He reveals how Madison's thinking shaped the Virginia Plan, which, in turn, shaped the United States Constitution and the nation's institutions. The author writes that Madison sought the strands of Republicanism in history and gave republican ideals new and lasting institutional expression. He shows how the making of republican institutions became a collaboration, and how the newly created institutions contained within themselves provision for their own continuing alteration and for the involvement and influence of collective humanity down through the years. Miller follows Madison through the Constitutional Convention("the business of May next") to the great national argument on behalf of the Constitution, notably through the Federalist papers. Of particular interest are his discussions of the constitutional deliberations over religious freedom and the institution of slavery.
 

Contents

Big House in Orange County
1
A Child of the Revolution Reads Some Books
7
The People Can Act Unjustly
22
Beginning the World Anew to a Certain Extent
34
The Great Seminar in Print or Founding Scribblers
43
The Business of May Next
44
The Inadvertent Origins of the American Presidency
78
Supreme Law Unfinished Parts
93
The Peculiar Federalist Paper
171
Traveling toward the Constitution or Never Turn the Hands Backward
185
Rocking Cradles in Virginia
194
Was the United States Founded on Selfishness?
217
No Just Government Should Refuse
235
As Sincerely Devoted to Liberty 217 235
244
Bulwarks and Palladiums
260
Acknowledgments
275

Sundays Excepted
105
Other Persons
117
Many Hands
142
The Cloudy Medium of Words
153
Notes
281
Sources
289
Index
293
Copyright

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About the author (1993)

William Lee Miller is White Burkette Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The First Liberty: Religion and the American Republic.