Follow by Email

Friday, September 26, 2014

James Madison and the Making of America by Kevin R. C. Gutzman. A Review.

 
Image Courtesy St. Martin's Press.
 
 
“In general, Madison was only human, in that he wanted to have been consistent even when he had not been.”  Kevin R. C. Gutzman.

 

In James Madison and the Making of America published by St. Martin’s Press (2012), author and historian Kevin R. C. Gutzman energetically debunks the mythical James Madison.  Here, Madison is not the “Father of the Constitution” but a man who felt the Constitution was simply a step above the Articles of the Confederation.  He is not the promoter of the Bill of Rights but a man who found them unnecessary.  He has less faith in the virtue of men and finds them “brutish.”  Indeed, he is not a demi-god but merely a man.

A few important points to note in this book:

·        Madison favors a national government over a federal government.  Unlike his famous friend, Thomas Jefferson, Madison prefers an “energetic government.”  Yet, once the Constitution is ratified, Madison supports the federal government because that is the idea that was "sold" to the People.

·         Madison feels the main purpose of having a Bill of Rights is to “allay the fears of moderate men” but he does “not consider a bill of rights desirable in itself.” 

·         Madison and Alexander Hamilton “jointly” collaborate on The Federalist-that is far from writing them remotely, the two men assist each other in drafting the papers.  (Gutzman dissects Federalist No. 9 and Federalist No. 10 specifically to argue his point). 

·         Madison’s belief in religious freedom is a reflection of his Princeton education where he develops his understanding of human nature and this understanding eventually leads to the creation of the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom, an important but often overlooked contribution of his political career.  (Notably, Gutzman is not saying that Madison feels government is superior to religion but that Madison finds religion so important that he feels it should be kept separate from government (and the “brutes”) to safeguard its significance).

·         Overshadowed by Thomas Jefferson, Madison is a prime contributor (if not the creator) to the formation of the Republican Party.*  (Gutzman tackles the growing rift between the Federalists and the Republicans, and the Alien and Sedition Laws).

Although not quite a full-fledged biography of our fourth president, the book is essential to understanding Madison’s contributions and accomplishments as a political figure.  Gutzman’s expert knowledge and extensive research play an integral part in the book.  Those looking for a flowery description of Madison’s presence at his wife’s extravagant Washington soirees or his preference in dress may find James Madison and the Making of America challenging but those interested in a serious study of Madison’s complex character and the creation of our Republic will find much to appreciate in this remarkable book.
 
 


Gutzman, Kevin R. C.  James Madison and the Making of America.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2012.
*Not today’s GOP.
 
 
 
 

 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel by David Limbaugh. A Review.

 
Image Courtesy Regnery Publishing

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

In his latest book, Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel, released by Regnery Publishing (2014), author David Limbaugh records his personal journey through life as a skeptic to a steadfast believer and now an apologetic for Jesus Christ.  Limbaugh meticulously uses his training as a lawyer to investigate and analyze many of the arguments made by skeptics against Christ.  He tackles Christ’s humanity and divinity, biblical prophecy, pain and suffering, and scientific evidence to make a strong case for Christianity by using his own personal experiences and weaving them with solid research based on historical, scientific, archeological, literary, and theological evidence. 

Limbaugh acknowledges that Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel covers only a fraction of questions skeptics (and some Christians) have about Christianity but he notes that, “these questions have answers, and in some cases, while they may not wholly satisfy, they will give…a better understanding…that there are plausible explanations….”  Indeed, it is Limbaugh’s focused attention to the specific questions he addresses in his book that encourage further discussion on Christianity between Christians and skeptics alike.  Through it all, he encourages skeptics to study the Bible with an open mind so they too may experience Christ’s saving grace as he did, “…examining the evidence, or reason alone can’t save us.  It can only get us to the point of faith.  In the end, no matter how much our intellect tells us that Christianity’s truth claims are valid, for salvation we must surrender and place our trust in Christ, and that’s a matter of the will, not the intellect.” 

Limbaugh writes purposefully and his strong narrative carries the reader from one page to the next with ease making the book a scholarly, yet, enjoyable read.  The book consists of thirteen chapters and a conclusion with fifty-two pages of invaluable notes for further research and examination.  Although Limbaugh aims his book towards skeptics, it is also an excellent resource for Christians. 



“John 3:16 (Spreading the Word).” In Open Biblehttp://www.openbible.info/topics/spreading_the_word  (accessed September 7, 2014).

Limbaugh, David.  Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel.  Washington D.C.:  Regnery Publishing, 2014.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thank You and Stay Tuned

To my wonderful readers:

Lately, I have not posted as much on my BLOG because I am working on my book. Writing requires time and attention; this is even truer when working on non-fiction because it entails a thorough research of the subject matter.  I am reading primary sources (and a few secondary sources) from the 18th century many of which also require physical excursions to various locations throughout the country.  In my spare time (if there is such a thing), I am also working on my art.  All of this has made it more difficult to keep up with my BLOG as of late but I hope to return to it more regularly upon the completion of my book...that is until I begin my research for the next book.


I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who has supported me by sticking with me.  I hope you will come back to discover what I am writing about.





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jefferson’s Advice for Good Living

                                                     *Miniature of Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull. Image courtesy Monticello.org collections.

On February 21, 1825, Thomas Jefferson gave “Counsel to a Namesake.”  Written to Thomas Jefferson Smith, the letter noted A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life.  The following is an excerpt:

1.  Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.
2.  Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3.  Never spend your money before you have it.
4.  Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5.  Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
6.  We never repent of having eaten too little.
7.  Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8.  How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9.  Take things always by their smooth handle.

10.  When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.



Monday, July 14, 2014

A Government of Force or A Government of Laws? by Alexander Hamilton

On August 28, 1794, Alexander Hamilton wrote Tully No. III asking the American People what secured America:

“If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic?  The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws-the first growing out of the last.”

He indicates that by honoring the Constitution We the People keep “caballers, intriguers, and demagogues…from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.”

Hamilton then addresses the two forms of government:

“Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions, a government of FORCE and a government of LAWS; the first is the definition of despotism-the last, of liberty.”

Hamilton notes that “those, therefore, who preach doctrines, or set examples, which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws, lead us from freedom to slavery; they incapacitate us for a GOVERNMENT OF LAWS, and consequently prepare the way for one of FORCE, for mankind MUST HAVE GOVERNMENT OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER.”

Finally, Hamilton agrees that when the Constitution is in jeopardy, the People must act to defend its principles:


“There are indeed great and urgent cases where the bounds of the constitution are manifestly transgressed, or its constitutional authorities are so exercised as to produce unequivocal oppression on the community, and to render resistance justifiable.”