The world’s attention has been on American politics and American government for the last few months. The reference to the American Constitution and its founders has been constant. Indeed, understanding the impeachment process and the choice of a supreme court judge requires some knowledge of the constitution and its contributors. Professor Garrett Ward Sheldon has written a book about James Madison, one of the writers of the constitution. His book, The Political Philosophy of James Madison, is favourably reviewed below.
Summary of The Political Philosophy of James Madison by Garrett Ward Sheldon
Admin, Gen Z Conservative, 11 February 2021
The Political Philosophy of James Madison is, as you might expect, about Madison’s political beliefs and how he came to them. Given that he was a Founding Father, the author of the Constitution, an author of The Federalist Papers, and one of the pre-eminent Virginians from the early American time period, understanding how he thought and what he envisioned for America is singularly important.
To help the reader understand Madison’s political thoughts, Sheldon begins with a brief introduction to it and the ideas that will be discussed. According to him, Madison’s political views changed over time, shifting between aspects of American nationalism, Lockean liberalism, and Classical Republicanism, yet were held together and coherent because of their grounding in Protestant Christianity, specifically Calvinist culture and theology.
Additionally, although being associated with Jefferson, who had, at times, radical views on liberty, and being a key opponent of the Federalist Party, Madison was no anarchist; while his views on what measure of national control was acceptable, he never shifted away from the basic premise that the national government should remain, to some degree, supreme.
After that brief introduction to Madison and his political ideas, Sheldon shifts to the first real chapter of The Political Philosophy of James Madison, which is on the intellectual underpinnings of James Madison’s political thoughts. To Sheldon, the root of many of those thoughts was Calvinist theology and his belief that it and reason complemented each other. For example, Madison’s writings, even later in life, reflected his Calvinist upbringing; they lacked the rhetorical flair of Jefferson and were instead well-grounded and ordered.