"A monumental account of a 50-year political partnership that shaped the early history of the United States.... A dual biography of uncommon merit.... A superb book that greatly deepens our understanding."
-- starred review/Top Ten non-fiction book of the Year, 2010, Kirkus Reviews
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were Virginia country gentlemen practicing hardball politics in a time of intolerance.
Contesting the near-mythological story of national creation, this book tells an unvarnished truth, getting past all high-principled rhetoric to expose the gritty, often nasty, political reality of the first decades in United States history.
The third and fourth presidents set a course for permanent political partisanship. Madison and Jefferson untangles a rich legacy, explaining how history made Jefferson into a national icon, leaving Madison a relative unknown. Yet it was Madison who initiated the presidency of George Washington and to a considerable extent orchestrated Jefferson's rise as well. For instance, at the height of his congressional career in 1796, Madison lured Jefferson from retirement to vie with John Adams for the presidency.
Rescuing the under-appreciated Madison from oversimplified portraits past, this dual political biography supplies an intense narrative of high stakes competition; it goes far in explaining why we are a politically divided people today.
"Stunning.... Burstein and Isenberg have produced a remarkably lucid account of a monumental founding friendship.... An essential read."
-- Library Journal
"A distinguished work, combining deep research, a pleasing narrative style and an abundance of fresh insights, a rare combination."
-- Dallas Morning News
"A laser-sharp view of the first fifty years of the American political experience."
-- Harvard Business Review