Episode 235: The Great Little Madison
If there’s one thing Americans know about James Madison, it might be that he was the shortest American President, ever–just 5’4”, or that he was married to Dolley Madison, who was not only a first lady but the baker of snack cakes. If they know a little bit more about James, then they know that he is remarkably, even dangerously, contradictory: an author of The Federalist Papers, the “Father of the Constitution”, who also penned the dangerous doctrine of nullification, and opposed his friend Alexander Hamilton at every step of the way; a creator of political parties who as a practical politician was one of the worst presidents in history, presiding over the half-baked disaster of the War of 1812 before slinking off the executive stage.
With us to demonstrate how a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing—indeed, perhaps one of the most dangerous things of all–is Jay Cost, author of James Madison: America’s First Politician, a book which is not only about Madison, but about the political culture that he more than anyone else put into place, the ideas he set in motion—and those that he ignored. Jay Cost is the Gerald R. Ford Nonresidential Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This is his fourth book.