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The Mind of James Madison
The Legacy of Classical Republicanism

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  • Date Published: May 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108404983

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About the Authors
  • This book provides a compelling and incisive portrait of James Madison the scholar and political philosopher. Through extensive historical research and analysis of Madison's heretofore underappreciated 1791 “Notes on Government,” Madison's scholarly contributions are cast in a new light, yielding a richer, more comprehensive understanding of his political thought than ever before. Tracing Madison's intellectual investigations of republics and philosophers, both ancient and modern, this book invites the reader to understand the pioneering ideas of the greatest American scholar of politics and republicanism – and, in the process, to discover anew the vast possibilities and potential of that great experiment in self-government known as the American republic.

    • Offers groundbreaking research on James Madison and the philosophical foundations of the Constitution
    • Includes James Madison's 1791 'Notes on Government' published in its entirety and fully annotated for the first time
    • Contains James Madison's party press essays published together in their entirety for the first time
    Read more


    • Winner, 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Colleen Sheehan places James Madison's 'Notes on Government' in the history of political thought and thus further reveals Madison as a political philosopher and not just a partisan tactician. In addition to this important discovery, she has included Madison's 'Notes' in a book that is now indispensable for seminars in American political thought and the early republic."
    Jeremy D. Bailey, Ross M. Lence Distinguished Teaching Chair, University of Houston

    "This pathbreaking study significantly advances our understanding and appreciation of Madison as political theorist. Combining meticulous scholarly sleuthing and uncommon literary grace, Colleen Sheehan has recovered a Madison we have never seen so clearly before. In her thoroughly engaging, rigorously contextual analysis of Madison's long-neglected 'Notes on Government' - her own annotated versions of which form the core of a lengthy documentary appendix - Sheehan has made Madison the thinker more exciting and relevant than ever."
    Drew R. McCoy, Jacob and Frances Hiatt Professor of History, Clark University

    "James Madison sketched the outlines of his political thought in his 'Notes on Government' and Colleen Sheehan fills in the blanks in this authoritative new edition. Sheehan's brilliant account of what the Founding Scholar had in mind as he engaged with ancient and modern philosophers in his quest to vindicate America's republican experiment is a major contribution to scholarship."
    Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello), University of Virginia, and author of The Mind of Thomas Jefferson

    "This is the most important book published on James Madison in my lifetime. It makes available to the general public for the first time in its original form a little book, known as 'Notes on Government', that Madison began drafting, as a sequel to 'The Federalist', while he was a Congressman in the early 1790s. Moreover, it makes this unfinished treatise available in a critical edition with detailed notes citing the passages from earlier works that Madison references; and, as a supplement, it provides an elaborate, readable introduction, tracing the evolution of Madison’s thinking and analyzing this neglected work. Scholars will find this book indispensable. Students of the American founding and of American government more generally will be forced to rethink."
    Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College

    "In this new study of the political essays written by James Madison in the early 1790s, Colleen Sheehan offers us an exciting exploration of the development of his thinking after the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars have often been perplexed by these essays. Sheehan is one of the first to set them in their proper context."
    J. C. A. Stagg, University of Virginia

    "Since Colleen A. Sheehan is one of the few reigning experts on the political thought of James Madison, anything she writes on Madison is important. But this book is more than important; it is extraordinary, both for the originality and depth of its research and for the clarity and incisiveness of its arguments. A tour de force of scholarship."
    Gordon S. Wood, Brown University

    "This is the best book in a long time on the thought of James Madison … Sheehan provides an excellent summary of what Madison learned as he put together the political essays he wrote with Jefferson's help and encouragement in 1792, affording a brilliant and richly extended understanding of the mind of Madison as he lived the American statesman's most profound and productive years."
    Ralph Ketcham, The Journal of American History

    'Thinking about how public opinion formed in that shifting environment would be an important historical project, and one that might benefit from Sheehan’s deep and nuanced analysis of Madison.' Tom Cutterham, History of Political Thought

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108404983
    • length: 293 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I:
    1. An itinerant scholar in Mr Jefferson's library
    Excursus: travels with Anacharsis
    2. Circumstantial influences on government
    3. The power of public opinion
    4. The federal republican polity
    5. Postscript
    Part II:
    6. 'Notes on Government'
    7. Additional notes on government
    8. Madison's convention notes and his letter of October 24, 1787, to Thomas Jefferson
    9. Party press essays.

  • Author

    Colleen A. Sheehan, Villanova University, Pennsylvania
    Colleen A. Sheehan is Professor of Politics and director of the Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses in American political thought and politics, and in literature. She has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is currently a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. She is author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government (Cambridge, 2009), coeditor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists, 1787–1788 (1998), and author of numerous articles on the American founding and eighteenth-century political and moral thought, which have appeared in journals such as the William and Mary Quarterly, the American Political Science Review, the Review of Politics, and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal.


    • Winner, 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

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