Wilson_05-1990
Reviews

Little Jimmy's Last Hurrah

"A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman, of the next generation."
—James Freeman Clarke

James Madison was not "The Father of the Constitution." I know you were probably taught that in school. I myself am guilty of having foisted that old truism of the history classroom off on countless sullen but gullible undergraduates. That comes of my believing what I was told, until firsthand investigation and reflection taught me better. What Madison is the father of is every trimming and time-serving politician who ever played the middle against both ends, obscured the real issues with verbiage, and bent the Constitution to fit his own abstract conceptions of government.

All of Madison's prominence was owed to three factors—an over-facile pen; his family connections and friendship with Jefferson; and his staying power (though he considered himself too frail to take part in the War of Independence in his 20's, he lived to be 85, being the last surviving member of the Philadelphia Convention and leaving the most extensive notes of the proceedings of that closed-door affair).

Far from being the prominent member of the Convention that he portrayed himself to be, having pushed himself in by means of his father's great holdings in one part of Virginia, he found his overly grandiose and overly abstract schemes swiftly shunted...

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