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Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The…
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Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and The Election…

by Chris DeRose

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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 nation.

The 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 (i.e. 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 Virginia.

Coming 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 well.

Overall 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. ( )
  mattries37315 | Jan 5, 2019 |
While the subtitle of this book focuses on "the election that saved a nation," this is only a relatively small part of the book (two of the 16 chapters). And other than the election's impact, I found that specific topic the most tedious. This is because it focuses (as it should) on counties and votes. I was more interested in the ideological differences between the two, which is well covered.

Overall, however, I found the book to be well written and enjoyable. The contention between Madison and Monroe was nowhere near that of say Adams and Jefferson. So if you're looking for a slug fest between two great minds, you won't find it here (not a reflection of the book, just a fact). There were really only two primary differences between the two when it came to the Constitution: a bill of rights (amendments) and taxes. Madison did an end-around on Monroe regarding amendments which pretty much left the one issue.

But before any of that comes up in the book, Chris DeRose covers both men's early lives, public services (Madison's in politics, Monroe's in the Revolutionary War, then politics), and friendship.

I did enjoy learning more about both men, although Madison gets the lion's share of the coverage as his role was far more important (at least when it comes to the Constitution and Bill of Rights). Also, the book covers little to nothing about their respective presidential administrations, which is fine—it's not the topic of the book, just a heads up to prospective readers.

Still, it's a fine, quick read about two important Founders. ( )
  Jarratt | Apr 22, 2018 |
DeRose absolutely captivated me. It is amazing that a story one knows so well can be re-told in a book where one is excited and anticipates the simple act of turning the page. De Rose clearly favors Madison yet in doing so he does not denigrate Monroe. The writing of this book is clear and easy to grasp. ( )
  DeaconBernie | Sep 1, 2013 |
Great read. Quick moving with subchapters providing short vignettes and keeping the action moving from scene to scene.
  Oceanspan | May 28, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159698192X, Hardcover)

The Amazing True Story of the Election That Saved the Constitution

In 1789, James Madison and James Monroe ran against each other for Congress—the only time that two future presidents have contested a congressional seat.

But 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 more 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 America.

Friends 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 survive.

It was the most important congressional race in American history, more 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 battle.

DeRose reveals:
How Madison’s election ensured the passage of a Bill of Rights—and how
Monroe’s election would have ensured its failure
How Madison came from behind to win a narrow victory (by a margin of only 336 votes) in a district gerrymandered against him
How the Bill of Rights emerged as a campaign promise to Virginia’s evangelical Christians
Why 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

DeRose tells the never-before-told story of the 1789 congressional election in Virginia's 5th district and of the two men who fought it: James Madison and James Monroe. They were friends and political allies for most of their lives, but their paths diverged when they found themselves at odds with each other in the battle over the Constitution.… (more)

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