James Mehdison

Finally made it through Ralph Ketcham’s James Madison: A Biography. Presidential biographies usually take longer to get through than other books, but I clamored for the end of this one. It’s funny how the POTUS books I’ve read thus far usually take on the characteristics of their subjects: Edmund Morris’ Theodore Roosevelt trilogy was expansive yet gripping; McCullough’s John Adams fiery and forthright; Cooper’s Woodrow Wilson stately and academic. It makes sense, then, that Ketcham’s book was as bookish and rational as Madison was.

This was a man who was present at every key moment in the young nation’s history, from the famous (the Declaration and Constitution) to the infamous (fleeing the White House from the British in the War of 1812). Ketcham certainly had a lot to say about these events, as well as the intellectual forbearers and philosophies that accompanied Madison throughout his adult life, but decidedly little about the man himself. Perhaps that’s an expectation only modern readers have, to get to know the emotional lives of those we read about as much as their public ones. But, to me, without some deep insight into the subject I’m dedicating my time to, pages of analysis of events and goings-on quickly become a chore.

Or maybe I just need a break from presidential biographies.

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