Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation

Chris DeRose. Regnery, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59698-192-8
Two future presidents battle—albeit mildly—over the new Constitution in this illuminating historical study, though its premise is somewhat trumped-up. Lawyer and political consultant DeRose revisits the post-Revolutionary controversy over replacing the rickety Articles of Confederation with the robust Constitution of 1787. This was an era, like our own, of financial exigency—unable to extract revenue from the states, the weak Confederation Congress faced insurmountable debts and mutinies by unpaid soldiers. This forced a showdown between partisans and foes of strong government; and a searching reexamination of democracy in which reasoned argument defeated demagoguery. DeRose gives a lucid analysis of the issues and the hard-fought struggle to ratify the Constitution in Virginia, home of constitutional godfather James Madison, and his erstwhile ally turned anti-Federalist opponent James Monroe, who ran against him in the crucial 1789 congressional election. The book's central "rivalry” is lopsided; Madison, brilliant theorist and subtle politician, dominates the story, while Monroe seems a bit player. Still, their relationship makes a serviceable peg for an engaging account of the Republic's contentious framing. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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