In This Review

James Madison
James Madison
By Richard Brookhiser
Basic Books, 2011, 304 pp

James Madison was among the most secretive of the Founding Fathers; Brookhiser’s engaging biography gives readers a deeper understanding of who he was and what he thought. Brookhiser clearly shares many of the criticisms historians have long made of Madison’s fumbling leadership in the White House -- blaming Madison, for example, for the feckless trade embargo enacted during the Jefferson administration, in which Madison served as secretary of state. But for Madison the constitutionalist and Madison the party manager, Brookhiser has nothing but praise. In particular, he credits Madison with understanding that factions and parties were a positive force in a young democracy. That insight made him a much better politician than rivals who disapproved of partisanship on principle.