Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are Professors of History at Louisiana State University. Burstein is the author of seven other books, including Jefferson’s Secrets and The Passions of Andrew Jackson. Isenberg is also the author of Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr and Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America. Students of political culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they previously collaborated on a study of death in early America: Mortal Remains (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).
James Madison is the least humanized of the founders, Jefferson the most controversial. In Madison and Jefferson, a thorough reinterpretation of founding era politics, the authors have given Madison his due as a hard-nosed political partisan. He wrote scathing pieces in national newspapers; as Washington’s chief adviser in 1789, he initiated the first presidential administration and then went on to undermine it a few short years later, working with Jefferson to establish the first opposition political party. Jefferson, the more expressive in letters and public documents, did not always agree with Madison’s approaches, but his affection for his political partner remained undiminished over their fifty-year association. As Virginians, they often privileged their state’s interests over the cause of Union, while at the same time eagerly pursuing policies of western expansion and settlement, equally aggressive in their designs against European interests in North America. The story of their long friendship is a critical, if understudied, factor in the evolution of America’s modern partisan environment.