is mostly a creation of much laterntimes — the New Deal era especiallyn— when politicians have found his ambiguousnand protean Constitutionnamenable to their purposes.nMadison was not in any sense angreat thinker. In JefiFerson’s letters andnwritings we can find hundreds of quotablenand striking thoughts; in all ofnMadison’s vast squibblings, very litde.nOf all the Founding Fathers, he, becausenof his superficiality, lends himselfnthe most readily to modernization andnliberalization. That is why he is calledn”The Father of the Constitution.”nThroughout his life, as is amplyndocumented here though to a differentnimport than I am placing on it, he didnall in his power to prevent issues fromnbeing clarified and settled, which is thenclassic attitude of the politician as opposednto the statesman. First allied withnHamilton in the attempt to secure anstrongly centralized government, henshifted to an alliance with Jefferson tonthe opposite end. In his later years,nwhich are covered by this book, duringnthe nullification crisis he secretlynplayed both sides for all they werenworth. First, he denied that the interpositionnof South Carolina against thentariff was the same thing as had beenninitiated (if not consummated) bynVirginia and Kentucky in 1798-99,nwhich was a falsehood. (In responsenJefferson’s son-in-law produced thenoriginal draft of the Kentucky Resolutionsnin Jefferson’s hand, which was anneven stronger assertion of state sovereigntynthan what was actually adopted.)nMadison attacked nullification forngoing too far, and then he attacked itsnopponents for going too far the othernway. This might be considered, as it isnby Professor McCoy, to be a noblenpursuit of “balance” among viewpoints.nIt might also be considerednlying and cowardice.nThere were in the early Republicnonly two honest positions to take. Onenwas to side with Hamilton, Marshall,nand Webster in the pursuit of a vigorousncentralized government. Thenother choice was to follow Jefferson,nJohn Taylor, and Calhoun in defendingnthe agrarian republic. Congressionalnsovereignty versus state sovereignty;na commercial progressive society versusnan agrarian one. (There was no questionnthat the overwhelming majority ofnpeople preferred the Jeffersonian ver­nsion at first, if not later.) Both thesenpositions were forthright and patriotic,ninvolving a sincere vision of the futurenof America.nMadison’s response — exactly thatnof the vile cunning politician and thentimid scholar in any situation — was tontake both positions at once: dividednsovereignty, whatever that is, and an”balance” of interests. He was followednin this by a host of cunning politicians,nespecially Martin Van Buren, the realnarchitect of modern American democracyn(and not his unwitting cover,nAndrew Jackson). The practical resultnwas to confuse the issues hopelessly, tonprevent their clarification and peacefulnsolution, and to render the nationalndiscourse forever into a deceitful gamenthat avoided real issues.nSince Madison’s later career wasnspent on the Jeffersonian side, he didnthe most extensive damage to thatnside—by professing to uphold its principlesnwhile constantly cutting thenground frpm under them. His role innthe slavery controversy was the same.nHe condemned slavery in principle,nand also condemned its opposite, antislavery.nI should make it clear that I amnconveying my view of Madison, notnProfessor McCoy’s. He is a good dealnmore scholarly, sympathetic, and temperatenin his evaluation than I am,nthough he is certainly aware, and exploresnin detail and with insight, somenof the ambiguities I have mentioned.nThis book deals with Madison’s laternyears (he left the White House inn1817 and lived until 1836) and withncertain of his disciples of the nextngeneration, whose careers and ideas arentraced up to the Civil War and beyond.nThus the book is not about the earlynRepublic, but is a study of antebellumnAmerica and particularly of the slaverynissue, which Madison and his heirsnfailed totally to cope with. This middlenperiod of American history is in manynways the most important and the leastnunderstood part of our past, and thisnbook is an honest, original, and penetratingnlook at some aspects of it.nOne of the most interesting unaskednquestions in American history is whatnhappened to Virginia after its centralnand premier role in the Revolution andnthe eariy Republic. It retained for a longntime its prestige, and any significantnnnVirginia politician was ipso facto annational figure, but after Monroe itnfailed to make any creative or evennimportant contribution to our politicalnhistory. This was something that Calhounnoften pointed out: if Virginianwould only get its act together and takenits proper place at the head of thenUnion, most problems could be solved.nMcCoy does not answer the questionn”why not” fully, but he asks it andncontributes to its answer.nThere are several reasons why mostnAmerican historians have not asked thenquestion. One is that they lack sufficientnhistorical imagination for it tonhave occurred to them. A more importantnreason is that modern Americansnare simply emotionally incapable ofnrecognizing the fact that a preponderancenof their great Founders and earlynleaders were, in their primary socialnidentity. Southern slaveholders. Thusnthey are condemned always to puerilenand superficial misunderstandings ofntheir own history. For some reason it isneasier to put this fact out of mind inndealing with the early period than withnthe antebellum period, although, innfact, slavery was quite as salient innAmerican life in 1787, if not more so,nthan in 1860. McCoy is too good anhistorian to avoid the hard issues, however.nMadison spent his entire life as anslaveholder, and a major one, althoughnlike Jefferson and some other —nthough not all — of the Southern leadersnof the early Republic, he wasntheoretically opposed to it. He wasnnever able, and, McCoy suggests, notnreally willing, to do anything about it,nwhich, obviously, was a great tragedy.nMuch of the book is concerned withnthree followers of Madison in the nextngeneration who also failed to makenmuch headway: Edward Coles, NicholasnP. Trist, and William Cabell Rives.nThus we have an intimate firsthandnview of the Madisonian legacy in thenimmediate post-Madisonian period.nAll three of these figures were Virginiansnof the planter class. Colesnmoved to Illinois, emancipated hisnslaves, and played an important part innaverting the real possibility of slaverynbeing introduced legally into Illinois.nThereafter he became increasingly bitternand marginalized. Having, henthought, attempted to implement thenMadisonian desire for emancipation,nMAY 1990/29n