Madison and Jefferson
“[A] monumental dual biography . . . a distinguished work, combining deep research, a pleasing narrative style and an abundance of fresh insights, a rare combination.”—The Dallas Morning News
The third and fourth presidents have long been considered proper gentlemen, with Thomas Jefferson’s genius overshadowing James Madison’s judgment and common sense. But in this revelatory book about their crucial partnership, both are seen as men of their times, hardboiled operatives in a gritty world of primal politics where they struggled for supremacy for more than fifty years. With a thrilling and unprecedented account of early America as its backdrop, Madison and Jefferson reveals these founding fathers as privileged young men in a land marked by tribal identities rather than a united national personality. Esteemed historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg capture Madison’s hidden role—he acted in effect as a campaign manager—in Jefferson’s career. In riveting detail, the authors chart the courses of two very different presidencies: Jefferson’s driven by force of personality, Madison’s sustained by a militancy that history has been reluctant to ascribe to him.
Supported by a wealth of original sources—newspapers, letters, diaries, pamphlets—Madison and Jefferson is a watershed account of the most important political friendship in American history.
“Enough colorful characters for a miniseries, loaded with backstabbing (and frontstabbing too).”—Newsday
“An important, thoughtful, and gracefully written political history.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This thick but satisfyingly rich dual biography promotes Madison from junior partner to full-fledged colleague of the "more magnetic" Jefferson. According to the authors, Madison's popular image peaked in 1789 as "father of the Constitution." But Burstein (Jefferson's Secrets) and Isenberg (Fallen Founder), both LSU history professors, see him as a canny, effective politician for four decades, from the Continental Congress through his two terms as America's fourth president. An adviser to Governor Jefferson of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, Madison was a leading congressman when Jefferson served as Washington's secretary of state, and vigorously supported Jefferson in the ultimately unsuccessful struggle against federalist Alexander Hamilton's influence. As scholarly as Jefferson but more politically astute, the authors say, Madison was less inclined to hold grudges and make enemies. In modern terms, he was Jefferson's campaign manager in 1796 and 1800; as Jefferson's secretary of state he strongly influenced his leader's policies before moving on to his own equally strong presidency. An important, thoughtful, and gracefully written political history from the viewpoint of the young nation's two most intellectual founding fathers. 16 pages of b&w photos, 1 map.