Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World
Prices for book: Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World
Book ISBN: 9780465002641
Author(s): Michael I. Meyerson
Document type: Trade Cloth
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Three cheers for abolitionists Jay and Hamilton; some info that is seldom mentioned
My husband writes the following: It is seldom mentioned that the first chief justice John Jay was a member of a New York anti-slavery society, as was Hamilton.
It is not said often that Hamilton was involved in the writing of Washington's farewell address.
Madison loses credibility in my eyes for being a slaveholder.
A reviewer of this book named Jon Burrows said that America was supposed to be a "republic." However the constitution states that "each state shall be guaranteed a republican form. I do not see where it says that about the entire nation.
I differ somewhat with the title as well. Democracy is only 'safe' when people agree not to loot and kill one another. It's safe as long as the majority does not decide to enslave the minority, an evil episode in the histories of all kingdoms, empires, and nations. Not just the U.S.
Democracy is only safe when it is not bellicose or imperial. Same with so-called 'republics.' And that's even if you think there's a dime worth of difference between them.
I'm not yet finished reading the book.
However, the feud between Madison and Hamilton is something I also never hear about. It has certain similiarities how political discourse is done to this very day, and the intellectual wars, and info wars of our time.
I may have to re-write this review later, but the book is very informative thus far. Thank you.
Candi L. Bruneau (Amazon.com)
Written Like a College Text....
There are much better books out there on Madison, Hamilton and the entire process that produced to this Great Nation.
If you are a student, or recently graduated, then this book will be right up your alley.
For those of us that are a "bit" older, it is not very well written nor is it easy to read and follow. Much of it feels disjointed.
As a student of those times I have read a lot of books from numerous authors about this glorious time in American History. While I can not fault the facts presented in this book, it is not an easy read.
Kenneth Hume (Amazon.com)
The American Revolution, rallied and solidified by The Federalist!
As we contemplate the dawn of the computer age, the rivalries between the mainstream media and bloggers, the rise of the security state and telecommuting, perhaps a case could be made that the American Revolution occurred in an antique and irrelevant land.
Not so, not so! Meyerson's Blueprint is very timely. While his title is a clever play on Coolidges "Make the World Safe for Democracy"and others have accused Blueprint of attempting to `pound modern square pegs into olden round holes' I saw his approach as quite cohesive in this regard. Many of the elements that percolated through society at the time of the American Revolution challenge us now--Only the cast of characters has changed.
Indeed, so evocative were Blueprint's observations of the era, it might be interesting to read it in an historical setting, such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia or on the grounds at Monticello, Jefferson's home. The portraits of Hamilton and Madison were well drawn. Liberty's Blueprint gives many details of the times, the issues, the reasons why The Federalist were written, as well as the dynamics between its authors.
Such details as these are presented:
The original purpose to which the Federalists were circulated--to assist in the passage of the US Constitution of 1787 (and the opposition there-to!).
For instance, Patrick Henry's disdain for the thing (a new tyranny).
The authors desire for anonymity (!)
Madison's exhaustive study of democracies ancient and modern-(confederations don't work as without central authority, petty rivalries rue the day).
All these are telling details.
While the book stands up well on its own, it has piqued my interest for further study. I'm now off to get hold of a bound copy of The Federalist Papers.
Ted Magnuson (Amazon.com)
A Good Introduction to The Federalist Papers
During the summer of 1787, Alexander Hamilton began a series of essays designed to convince reluctant voters in New York to ratify the newly-proposed United States Constitution. He enlisted the aid of John Jay, who soon became ill and made limited contributions to the series. In the autumn of 1787, Hamilton turned to his old friend, James Madison of Virginia, who was serving in Congress in New York City at the time. Madison agreed to collaborate on the project. The result was the collection of essays known as The Federalist Papers. Although conceived with a specific temporal goal in mind -- the ratification of the Constitution -- The Federalist Papers has become, together with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, a revered statement of the American political experiement. The work remains studied for its defense and explanation of American constitutionalism and for its insights into government and human nature. It has deservedly become a timeless classic.
In "Liberty's Blueprint" (2008), Michael Meyerson gives a readable overview of The Federalist Papers, including its authors, creation, and content. Myerson is a Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law who uses The Federalist Papers to teach courses in Constitutional Law. His students are fortunate to have him as a guide.
"Liberty's Blueprint" is intended for the lay reader. The sections of the book in which Myerson discusses The Federalist Papers and its use or misuse in current judicial decisionmaking seem to me to a sidetrack to the main purpose of the study. In his Preface, Myerson explains that he had several goals in writing the book. The first goal was to present the most important teachings of The Federalist Papers to a modern audience and to show how "wise and educated men" were able to engage in "rational political debate" in supporting or in criticizing the proposed Federal constitution. There is a deep sense in Myerson's book of the importance of both wisdom and rationality in conducting political affairs.
A second goal of Myerson's study was to use The Federalist Papers to show how and when the views of the Framers should be used in constitutional interpretation. He engages in discussions of "originalist" and "non-originalist" theories of Constitutional interpretation to arrive at a "partial originalist" position in which the Constitution might be interpreted in an originalist manner with The Federalist Papers as a guide while the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment might require a different manner of interpretation. His treatment of interpretive theory is somewhat out of place in this book and takes away from his study of The Federalist Papers itself.
Myerson's third goal in his book was to "explore the lives of the authors of The Federalist and shed light on the unusual personal bond between Madison and Hamilton." Myerson here succeeds beautifully. The first half of his book is a twin biography of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and how they came to cooperate in producing their masterwork of political thought. The two Founders were much unlike. Hamilton was born out of wedlock in the Carribean and rose through his own efforts to become the confidant of George Washington and a power of the commercial interests of the new Nation. He was also a notorious womanizer. James Madison was quiet and diminutive but to the manor born as part of the Virginia aristocracy. Madison was scholarly and intellectual but also a shrewd partisan politician. The two men had become friends well before the Constitutional Convention. They both were somewhat disappointed with the Constitution that resulted but put aside their disagreements with the final product to work agressively for its ratification. Following the ratification of the Constitution and under the administration of President Washington, Hamilton and Madison's personal friendship disintegrated as the two became bitter political enemies. Hamilton's Federalism and Madison's Republicanism became prototypes of political divisions that continue in the United States. Myerson's story of Hamilton, Madison, and The Federalist Papers makes compelling reading.
The final goal of Myerson's study is to show that the ultimate falling-out of Hamilton and Madison teaches that "it is folly to ignore the wisdom of those with whom one disagrees." Hamilton and Madison each have much to teach. Unlike Hamilton and Madison, contemporary Americans would do well to learn from those with whom they disagree and to work together. Hamilton and Madison did so in The Federalist Papers with results that transcend the enmity that later developed between them.
Besides the story of Hamilton and Madison, Myerson succeeds well when he gives a short, close reading of Madison's Federalist # 10, which has become the most famous essay in the collection. He also offers an excellent concluding chapter on The Federalist Papers and its views on human nature. The authors recognized the frailties of human beings and the passions, emotions, and tendencies towards self-centeredness to which they were subject. They tried to channel these frailties in creating a workable form of government. But they also recognized the possiblity of education, virtue and disinterestedness in human endeavor. These qualities too they tried to utilize in both creating and explaining the American experiment in government.
Readers who are new to The Federalist Papers will find Myerson's book an excellent introduction. A good step after reading this book would be to turn to some of the excellent Amazon reader reviews of The Federalist Papers. Then the reader may be inspired to explore this work of American political thought for him or herself.
Robin Friedman (Amazon.com)
Excellent Blend of History And Legal Analysis
In a nice blend of history, biography, and legal analysis, law professor Meyerson examines the dynamic, though short-lived, friendship and literary collaboration between two of the Constitutional Convention's greatest minds. The Federalist is considered America's greatest work of political philosophy, although it was a polemical work that presented only one side in New York's intense ratification debate of 1788 ("Brutus" was the brilliant but now-forgotten champion of the anti-Federalists). Madison, who later became principal author of the Bill of Rights, ironically thought the first Amendments of little importance, but essential for placating the anti-Federalists; one of the most frequent complaints of the Constitution's opponents was that the charter had no bill of rights. While making the case that the Federalist Papers are important as a guide to the Constitution, Meyerson shows that they are not holy writ, not an infallible guide to the intent of the Founders, and at times not even internally consistent. Still, they are the best record we have of what the Founders may have meant by the sometimes elusive language of the nation's charter. On balance, Meyerson has produced a thoughtful and absorbing guide to the Papers and the great thinkers and turbulent times that produced them.
Michael G. Radigan (Amazon.com)
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