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The Amazing True Story of the Election That Saved the ConstitutionIn 1789 James Madison and James Monroe ran against each other for Congress—the only time that two future presidents have contested a congressional seatBut what was at stake as author Chris DeRose reveals in Founding Rivals Madison vs Monroe the Bill of Rights and the Election That Saved a Nation was than personal ambition This was a race that determined the future of the Constitution the Bill of Rights the very definition of the United States of AmericaFriends and political allies for most of their lives Madison was the Constitution’s principal author Monroe one of its leading opponents Monroe thought the Constitution gave the federal government too much power and failed to guarantee fundamental rights Madison believed that without the Constitution the United States would not surviveIt was the most important congressional race in American history important than all but a few presidential elections and yet it is one that historians have virtually ignored In Founding Rivals DeRose himself a political strategist who has fought campaigns in Madison and Monroe’s district relives the campaign retraces the candidates’ footsteps and offers the first insightful comprehensive history of this high stakes political battleDeRose revealsHow Madison’s election ensured the passage of a Bill of Rights—and howMonroe’s election would have ensured its failureHow Madison came from behind to win a narrow victory by a margin of only 336 votes in a district gerrymandered against himHow the Bill of Rights emerged as a campaign promise to Virginia’s evangelical ChristiansWhy Madison’s defeat might have led to a new Constitutional Convention—and the breakup of the United States Founding Rivals tells the extraordinary neglected story of two of America’s most important Founding Fathers Brought to life by unparalleled research it is one of the most provocative books of American political history you will read this year

10 thoughts on “Founding Rivals

  1. says:

    The future of the young United States hangs in the balance as two friends and rising statesmen travel the roads of eight Virginia counties to become a member of the first Congress under the newly adopted Constitution depending on who is elected the new Constitution will succeed or fail Founding Rivals Madison vs Monroe—The Bill of Rights and The Election That Saved A Nation by Chris DeRose follows the lives of future Presidents James Madison and James Monroe lead up to the election the two men faced off in Virginia’s 5th Congressional district and why the result was important for the future of the nationThe lives of the young Virginians James Madison and James Monroe were both different; one was sickly and served in legislatures during the Revolution while the other was healthy and a soldier during the war But there were similarities as well as both were wholeheartedly behind the success of the new nation and deeply troubled about the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation wanting those similar of mind to come together to bring changes After the failed Annapolis Convention Madison coaxed George Washington out of retirement to the Philadelphia Convention and the result was a new Constitution that was sent to the states for ratification Monroe though wanting a better government than the Articles found the new Constitution too much and joined other Anti Federalists in Virginia hoping to reject the new document in the face of Madison and the Federalists The heated Virginia Ratification Convention went back and forth before Virginia passed the new Constitution but the Anti Federalists stuck back in next session of the House of Delegates putting Madison in a seemingly Anti Federalist district and convinced Monroe to stand for election against him If Monroe were to win the Federalists who would be the majority would be without a leader and not support any amendments ie the Bill of Rights that Monroe and the Anti Federalists wanted thus possibly leading to a second Constitutional convention that would undo the new government However Madison’s victory came about because of his support for a Bill of Rights especially his long support of religious freedom for dissenters in VirginiaComing in around 275 pages Chris DeRose’s first book was a nice read with good research and nice structure to show the parallel lives of his subjects before their history defining election Yet the fact that the vast majority of my synopsis focused on the last half of the book shows that while DeRose had a nice structure he didn’t use his space well Several times throughout the book DeRose would insert his opinion on what he believed Madison or Monroe were thinking at some moment in time which came off looking amateurish that fact that wasn’t helped when DeRose would also insert asides alluding to current as of 2011 political event several times as wellOverall Founding Rivals is a nice look into the early lives of James Madison and James Monroe along with a crucial election they stood for with the new Constitution in the balanced While Chris DeRose did admirable work it is still his first book and in several places it is never evident Yet with this caution it is still a good read for history buffs especially interested in this critical period in American history

  2. says:

    While by no means an expert on the Founding Fathers or the creation of the United States Constitution I chose to tackle this book to further flesh out the story surrounding the founding of America and the entrenched rules by which it would run DeRose examines the lives of the two Virginia Jameses Madison and Monroe as well as the influential roles they played in the early stages of American independence This book examines their clashes teamwork and the efforts both put into creating what would be the US Constitution during the late 18th century While they were able to work together to shape the latter years of colonial North America where Monroe could play a key role in the Continental Congress it was the formal election of 1789 that shaped America with Monroe and Madison running against one another Madison was the firm constitutionalist and was like Alexander Hamilton well versed in the nuances of the legal language surrounding the rules of the state DeRose argues that the aforementioned election was a major turning point in the state and American history since Madison won and went on to Congress to present amendments to the constitutional document eventually called the Bill of Rights Without these changes America would have easily been sunk into a uagmire and civil unrest would surely have led to a war within the states with the ink still wet on the new US Constitution DeRose effectively shows how it was Madison's openness to freedoms and the hands off approach when it came to religion that kept the thirteen colonies sated and permitted the eventually expansion of the Union Had Monroe claimed victory none of that would have come to pass leaving Washington that the likely sole president of the offshoot Union which might have collapsed in on itself A powerful set of arguments surrounding these key moments in early American history the only time two men who would be future presidents suared off in a congressional election leaves the reader to learn much from DeRose's researchOver the last number of months I have immersed myself in biographies and academic pieces on the founding of America and the constitutional infancy of the country While it has been a pleasurable experience I did learn a thing or two along the way which DeRose presents well throughout; none of this was easy or uick to occur The development of a new state especially as it tosses off the shackles of its colonial oppressor comes with great difficulty and reuires the strength of men dedicated to forging fundamental paths to ensure a positive end result DeRose uses a wonderful cross section of research and presents it in such a way that the layperson is not lost in the argument or the narrative While there are sure to be sections of the larger story that can get dense DeRose does his best to keep things move effectively While a piece of non fiction would rarely get comments on the characters involved I would be remiss if I did not mention how lively Madison and Monroe appear throughout which goes to the author's ability to pull biographical pieces together that will both entertain and educate the curious reader The narrative and chapter breaks allow the story to flow as seamlessly as possible building things up at a decent pace while not over indulging in minutiae A wonderful effort to tell the most important of constitutional stories to Americans in such a way that any reader could understand the significance of events and these two actors in the larger historical stage Kudos Mr DeRose for this great piece You highlighted the best and worst parts of these two men giving the reader just enough to form their own conclusionsLikehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at

  3. says:

    Fantastic book Even as someone who already knows a lot about America's founding days I learned a lot from this book The book is easy to understand and flows naturally It includes plenty of conversations from Madison and Monroe and ties them into the respective paragraphs with fluidityI never knew just how crucial this congressional election between James Madison and James Monroe was but now I do It truly changed the future of the United States and indeed changed the future of the world The success of the United States Constitution was what convinced nations all over the world to adopt democratic constitutions similar to it Without the passage of the Bill of Rights the United States would have collapsed and dissolved into anarchy depriving the world a shining example of republicanism at its best The result would be that countries all over the world would have continued believing that monarchy and tyranny are the only viable forms of governmentMadison's election and his successful pioneering of the Bill of Rights in the Federalist controlled House of Representatives ensured that the US would remain that shining example of representative democracy and underpinned America's rise to global leadership as an indispensable nation

  4. says:

    This is an entertaining and informative book and my three star rating is not meant to take away from the author's work or effort However it's somewhat anticlimactic and at times reads like an overview of early American history rather than a novel look at the relationship between the two Jameses With the understanding that working from letters and records of the constitutional conventions makes it harder to bring a period to life I nevertheless would have liked insights on the men as individuals friends and rivals and less rote recital of the early history of our country

  5. says:

    Having listened to the last third of the book twice I might have titled the book slightly differently There is much less time spent on the Bill of Rights than on the background of these two men the Constitutional Convention and a specific election I expected to hear of Madison's original drafts for the Bill of Rights in particular regarding the 2nd Amendment

  6. says:

    An unusual not all politics story of both of these gentlemen If your interested in the story of our country I recommend

  7. says:

    The nature of people has not changed much since the late 18th century when politicians with diverse opinions and desires schemed to see their views accomplished Some disagreements were between those who genuinely seemed to have laudable intentions Others were selfishly motivatedThis book is a great look at the art of compromise that had a distinct impact on our country

  8. says:

    An interesting monograph; scholarly accessible and only occasionally pedantic

  9. says:

    The best way to approach this book is to see it as an example of a big porch attached to a little house Big porches should not only attract visitors they should draw them in to explore what should be a big house filled with many things A big porch attached to a small house is always a disappointmentThe vast majority of it is interesting especially in terms of the friendship which developed between Madison and Monroe But the author's argument that the election of 1789 and the pivotal role which Madison played in drafting the Bill of Rights ultimately prove peripheral to the overall book This is sad The Bill of Rights receives little coverage little analysis of the individual component parts is present This is a serious omission because it deprives us of insight into the concerns of the individual statesDeRose enthusiastically argues that Madison's election to the first Congress under the new Constitution was critical to the success not only of the document but also to the new Federal government it created He hints here and there that things would have fallen apart had the election in Virginia sent Monroe to Congress But he is very unclear as to why he believes this Was it simply a matter of Monroe's Anti Federalist sympathies? Did Anti Federalists truly present a potential majority in the new Congress sufficient enough to scuttle the whole project?Not all is lost DeRose devotes considerable time and space to illustrating the faults and failings of the Articles of Confederation United States historians have long recognized Madison's role in the drafting of the Constitution DeRose helpfully gives us insight into Monroe's role in Virginia's debates over ratification But as for the Constitution itself DeRose maddeningly glides over significant issues For example the 35 Compromise is summed up in a single sentence with no real examination of the representation and taxation issues at stake for both Northern and Southern states The particulars of the Virginia Plan receive far consideration than the New Jersey Plan again depriving the reader or amateur historian of insight into the concerns at stake In fact the entire New Jersey Plan is dismissed with the comment that it closely followed the Articles of Confederation The reader is left clueless as to what DeRose means by thisAll of this exhibits a particular rhetorical strategy adopted by DeRose unless Madison or Monroe left their fingerprints on the matter the matter is dismissed as less relevant At what point then does this cross over from history into hagiagraphy? DeRose seems at times to sense he is moving dangerously close and observes multiple times that Madison did not consider the Constitution to be divinely ordained or without flaws This is a helpful corrective against those who feel that the Constitution was sent down from heaven The reality is uite different it is the result of compromises attempts to reconcile deep differences over the nature of the body politic and the social contract and in the case of slavery puntingWere I looking for a book which would outline the relationship between Madison and Monroe perhaps even one which would help students understand the Articles of Confederation this book would be a recommendation But it is not a source I would turn to for deeper insight into the Constitution or even the Bill of Rights Despite promise of the title and introduction the big porch designed to draw the reader in once the reader gets through the front door there's not much of a house here to explore

  10. says:

    This book reveals the long forgotten but significant election that would send James Madison to Congress from Virginia's 5th Congressional district While I consider myself an amateur student of history this story was unknown by me It was the first election after the ratification of the Constitution The author persuasively contends had Madison not won we would not have had the Bill of Rights His opponent was his good friend James Monroe Then a Federalist Madison had let the effort to secure Virginia's ratification of the Constituion The Anti Federalists led by Patrick Henry hoped to force significant revsions by sending their people to the First Congress The significant contributions that both Madison and Monroe made to the nation's founding are detailed