Book Review: The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President by Noah Feldman

The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President

The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President by Noah Feldman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I didn’t realize when I bought Noah Feldman’s The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President what a timely read it would be. It isn’t as much a biography of Madison as much as it is an exploration of his political career, from “Father of the Constitution” to partisan politician to wartime President. It was a political career that saw Madison go from an idealist to a realist. It saw him go from someone who opposed partisanship to someone who helped usher in partisanship. One could see Madison’s changes in mind as opportunistic or hypocritical, but he always seemed to have the good of the country rather than personal gain in mind. The changes he went through were more like evolution in thought. The Three Lives isn’t a hagiography, though. Feldman points out where Madison made mistakes and points out his shortcoming regarding slavery several times. Through examining the three lives of Madison, Feldman shows us that although Madison is not the most famous father, he is arguably our most important; without him, there was no Constitution, and we likely wouldn’t have the form of government that we do now.

I was reading this book throughout the recent 35-day government shutdown and I couldn’t help but wonder what Madison would have made of it (in my opinion, I think Madison would think that the President is trying to usurp the power of Congress and find his actions unconstitutional). I truly found The Three Lives of James Madison to be a thought-provoking, enlightening read that informs the present. I would highly recommend it to everyone for a better understanding of how our government came to be and how it was shaped early on.



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