Wood provides an insightful analysis of years of scholarship surrounding Madison's legacy. His examination of the two schools of thought: one arguing that Madison shifted fundamentally between the 1780s and 90s and the other, less popular, arguing that he was in fact, the same Madison. The disconnect has been labeled "the Madison Problem" and rightly so, the importance of understanding the thoughts of James Madison do matter. Heralded by many scholars as perhaps one of the only great American political thinkers, Madison's ideas provide a crucial glance into the construction of the Constitution as well as the first years of our nation that has defined it.
I find Woods' argument rather convincing. It seems to me that Madison had this view of government that dwelled between the two political camps we use to describe the 18th century politics: federalist and states-centric. I believe that Madison found his experiences in the Virginia legislature frustrating and it very much shaped his distrust of the "masses" and helped to shape the strong powers of the Congress and government today. On the other hand, he considered the dictatorial and unbridled reign of European monarchs (and limited parliaments) and shuddered at the thought. In modern terms, his view would have been labeled something along the lines of a states' rights activist but in the time, which is crucial to note, his thoughts were one of a deliberate statesman, dedicated to an united America but with severe checks against the European-style government the colonists had just been liberated from.
My point is this: I agree with Woods' conclusion on the steadfast nature of Madison's political thought. I believe he had a very specific vision for government, one that fell neither to the whims of the people nor the central government. He is the very image of stability.
[Last edited Dec 18, 2012 03:30:57]