Sunday, October 23, 2005
Today I am recommending Drew McCoy's The Last of the Fathers which is a very thought provoking account of James Madison's retirement years. This is an interesting subject because he was the only major founding father still alive after John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826. He would see the political struggles of the next decade and be drawn into them in various ways, but mainly through his role as mentor to three of the younger generation, William Cabell Rives, Nicholas Trist, and Edward Coles. The ways these three men carried Madison's ideas into the middle of the nineteenth century and their relationship with the Sage of Montpelier are fascinating. The final chapters on Madison's personal struggle with slavery are really very well written and shed light on how he had developed his thinking on the subject from a young man desperately searching for a way to be free of Virginia slave society to a retired gentleman of Virginia's planting elite. Reads surprisinly fast for a scholarly work of history. As far as I know this is the only book written specifically on this very important, if little known, period of Madison's life.