The Political Philosophy of James Madison
Among the founders, James Madison wielded the greatest influence in drafting the Constitution of 1789. In this book, Garrett Ward Sheldon offers a concise synthesis of Madison's political philosophy in the context of the social and political history of his day.
Tracing the history of Madison's thought to his early education in Protestant theology, Sheldon argues that it was a fear of the potential "tyranny of the majority" over individual rights, along with a firmly Calvinist suspicion of the motives of sinful men, that led him to support a constitution creating a strong central government with power over state laws. In this way, Madison aimed to protect individual liberties and provide checks to "spiteful" human interests and selfish parochial prejudices. Among the topics Sheldon covers are Madison's Princeton education, his contributions to the Federalist Papers, his arguments in defense of states' rights on behalf of Virginia, his views on federal power during his terms as secretary of state and president, and, in his later years, his defense of the Union against those Southerners who advocated nullification.
About the Author
Garrett Ward Sheldon is the John Morton Beaty Professor of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He is the author of The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, also available from Johns Hopkins.
"Elegant in [its] brevity. In this book Sheldon interweaves Madison's intellectual development with his political career: the one the warp, the one the weft, of his mind... His greatest contribution is to emphasize John Witherspoon's Scottish Presbyterian influence during Madison's undergraduate days at Princeton. The Calvinist doctrine of depravity sits uneasily in the supposedly rationalist world of Revolutionary America, but Madison's recognition of man's sinful nature shaped his political strategy."
"Garrett Ward Sheldon argues that James Madison's political beliefs were heavily influenced by his religious beliefs. Sheldon goes so far as to say that Madison's political beliefs cannot be understood at all apart from his theology. To make this argument, Sheldon describes Madison's Calvinist upbringing and education and shows how this background provided the basis for his political ideas throughout his life, from the Revolutionary period through the nullification debates after his presidency... As an account of the link between Madison's religion and his political beliefs, the book is illuminating and persuasive."
"This book provides a clear, sympathetic summary of the intellectual origins of much of the constitutional structure that continues to frame American political life."
"[Sheldon] does an excellent job of synthesizing and reconciling recent scholarship on Madison."
"A much needed crisp and comprehensive overview of the political theorizing that emerges from the whole of Madison's long and complex intellectual and civic life. This book will complement Sheldon's similarly useful introduction to the entire thoughtful life of Jefferson."
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