CRF Blog

James Madison’s Zigzag Path

by Bill Hayes

In James Madison’s Zigzag Path for the New York Times Book Review, Susan Dunn reviews The Three Lives of James Madison by Noah Feldman.

As the Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman demonstrates in his illuminating and absorbing political biography, “The Three Lives of James Madison,” Madison would remain in ongoing dialogue and conflict with himself for the rest of his life. Feldman explores Madison’s reactive and improvisational thinking as it played out in the three uniquely consequential roles, or “lives,” he had — as constitutional architect and co-author with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of the “Federalist Papers,” political partisan and wartime president. The new nation, an idea still in progress, would inevitably call for reassessment, flexibility and innovation, and Feldman skillfully navigates the zigzag path of Madison’s recalibrations. Except for his position on the issue of slavery, which Madison’s allegiance to his planter class would cause him to consistently blur in a fog of words, he adjusted his theoretical ideas and practice of politics to the continuous flux of events. [more]