Polemics & Exchanges

Jimmy's Last Stand

It will perhaps not become me to quibble with a review (“Little Jimmy Rides Again,” August) that says my new book, James Madison and the Making of America, may justly be “billed as the new standard on its subject.”  Yet I hope that Chronicles readers will accept a reply to Clyde Wilson’s very amusing, insightful appraisal.

Dr. Wilson achieved the remarkable feat of simultaneously lauding the book and me, laying out an appraisal of Madison himself that is highly consistent with mine, and making it seem that I had glossed over the many discrepancies between Madison’s life and the Standard Version of that life found in virtually every Madison biography.  So, for example, Wilson says that Madison did not deserve the accolade “Father of the Constitution,” likely would not have risen to political prominence if his father had not been the wealthiest man in his county, lived for another six decades after claiming that his physical infirmity would not permit him to join the Continental Army, and unjustly receives great credit for coauthoring a book—The Federalist—whose influence was closer to nil than to epochal.  I think that anyone who read James Madison and the Making of America after reading Wilson’s review would be surprised to see that my book makes all...

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