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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
James Madison
By Richard Hildreth (1807–1865)
 
From the ‘History of the United States’

SO far as Madison was concerned, had the majority for Calhoun’s [internal improvements] bill been more decided and more Southern, his scruples might perhaps have been less.  1
  The political character of the retiring President sprang naturally enough from his intellectual temperament and his personal and party relations. Phlegmatic in his constitution, moderate in all his feelings and passions, he possessed remarkable acuteness, and an ingenuity sufficient to invest with the most persuasive plausibility whichsoever side of a question he espoused. But he wanted the decision, the energy, the commanding firmness necessary in a leader. More a rhetorician than a ruler, he was made only for second places, and therefore never was but second, even when he seemed to be first. A Federalist from natural largeness of views, he became a Jeffersonian Republican because that became the predominating policy of Virginia. A peace man in his heart and judgment, he became a war man to secure his re-election to the Presidency, and because that seemed to be the prevailing bias of the Republican party. Having been, in the course of a long career, on both sides of almost every political question, he made friends among all parties, anxious to avail themselves, whenever they could, of his able support, escaping thereby much of that searching criticism so freely applied, with the unmitigated severity of party hatred, to his more decided and consistent compatriots and rivals.  2
  Those ultra-Federal Democrats who rose, by his compliance, upon the ruins of the old Republican party, subscription to and applause of whose headlong haste in plunging the country into the war with England became for so many years the absolute test of political orthodoxy, found it their policy to drop a pious veil over the convenient weaknesses of a man who, in consenting against his own better judgment to become in their hands a firebrand of war, was guilty of the greatest political wrong and crime which it is possible for the head of a nation to commit. Could they even fail to load with applauses one whose Federalism served as an excuse for theirs?  3
  Let us however do Madison the justice to add, that as he was among the first, so he was, all things considered, by far the ablest and most amiable of that large class of our national statesmen, become of late almost the only class, who, instead of devotion to the carrying out of any favorite ideas or measures of their own, put up their talents, like mercenary lawyers as too many of them are, to be sold to the highest bidder; espousing on every question that side which for the moment seems to offer the surest road to applause and promotion.  4
 
 
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