I had actually read this book a few years back, but was a little ashamed to realize I remembered almost nothing. While this book was extremely interesting, it gave me very little insight into Madison’s actual presidency, as the entire focus is on his role in the Constitutional Convention. This in itself was fascinating though – Madison’s original draft proposal is surprisingly close to what ultimately was adopted, and seeing his passion and commitment to it was really interesting. There were so many leaders at the time that were seemingly content to float along on the Articles of Confederation, and Madison had to work so hard just to “get the party started” on moving forward as a single nation instead of a loose confederation.
The book was billed as about Hamilton AND Madison, but the focus was definitely on Madison. There were also lots of tidbits about the other major players, especially George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, though there was often a tieback to these characters’ relationships with Madison. The only complaint I have is that many of these “tidbits” seemed a bit random – it was like if the author discovered an amusing little anecdote about a historical figure’s life, he would just throw it in there for fun, and it was sometimes a little distracting.
We never have any idea how things might have changed if certain decisions were made differently in the past, but I think it’s safe to say that without James Madison, the U.S. government as we know it would not exist. 🙂