Wednesday, February 4, 2009

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights or Five Years of My Life

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights

Author: Richard Labunski

Today we hold the Constitution in such high regard that we can hardly imagine how hotly contested was its adoption. Now Richard Labunski offers a dramatic account of a time when the entire American experiment hung in the balance, only to be saved by the most unlikely of heroes--the diminutive and exceedingly shy James Madison.
Here is a vividly written account of not one but several major political struggles which changed the course of American history. Labunski takes us inside the sweltering converted theater in Richmond, where for three grueling weeks, the soft-spoken Madison and the charismatic Patrick Henry fought over whether Virginia should ratify the Constitution. Madison won the day by a handful of votes, mollifying Anti-Federalist fears by promising to add a bill of rights to the Constitution. To do this, Madison would have to win a seat in the First Congress, which he did by a tiny margin, allowing him to attend the First Congress and sponsor the Bill of Rights.
Packed with colorful details about life in early America, this compelling and important narrative is the first serious book about Madison written in many years. It will return this under-appreciated patriot to his rightful place among the Founding Fathers and shed new light on a key turning point in our nation's history.

The New York Times - Gary Rosen

A virtue of Labunski's account is the generous attention he gives to Anti-Federalist luminaries like Henry, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee - figures too often overlooked in our reverential regard for the founding. For those used to thinking of the Bill of Rights as carved in stone, it is also instructive to see just how large a role accident played in its creation. The 10 amendments familiar to us started off as 17 in the House and were reduced to 12 by the Senate. The first two of these - on the size of the House and Congressional pay - didn't pass muster in the states, and so the third recommended amendment became, as if by fate, our famous First.

Publishers Weekly

It will come as little surprise to learn that Poe is a veteran Broadway performer: in reading Labunski's chronicle of James Madison's efforts to ratify the Constitution and pass the Bill of Rights, his voice echoes with effortless assurance, carrying into the virtual back row of any room. Thankfully, Poe mostly avoids the vocal equivalent of theatrical preening and posing. His reading is careful, unassuming and avoids wholly unnecessary showboating. Labunski's narrative revolves around Madison's struggle with fellow Virginian Patrick Henry over ratification, and Poe does a fine job of conveying the steadily ratcheting tension of their battle. Poe colors Labunski's tale with an appropriate array of significant pauses, emphases and hushed mock-whispers, bringing his book to life without resorting to overworked theatrical tricks. He may be a stage veteran, but Poe's reading is anything but stagy. Simultaneous release with the Oxford hardcover (Reviews, May 8). (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

James Madison played an important role in both the development of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of its first ten amendments, i.e., the Bill of Rights. Relying on primary sources, Labunski (Sch. of Journalism & Telecommunications, Univ. of Kentucky: The Second Constitutional Convention: How the American People Can Take Back Their Government) carefully and lucidly examines how Madison and his political supporters and opponents (mostly Anti-Federalists) shaped the initial parameters of the Constitution and then further expressed their constitutional philosophies in the amendments that followed. Seven of the ten chapters focus on activities prior to the introduction of the Bill of Rights. In his thorough coverage of the activities of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Labunski offers intriguing discussions of constitutional debates and provides an understanding of the political and social context of the early constitutional polity. He finds that Madison and other Federalists used strategies that would ensure adoption of constitutional ideas in both Virginia and other parts of the nation. He then goes on to examine Madison's transformation from opponent of amendments to the Constitution to a central advocate in the U.S. House of Representatives for passage of what would become the Bill of Rights. A highly recommended analysis that will be useful for public and academic libraries. Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents:
1The Philadelphia Convention3
2The reluctant candidate24
3The road to Richmond48
4The Virginia ratifying convention67
5The ratification vote96
6The anti-federalists fight back120
7The election147
8Madison introduces the Bill of Rights178
9Congress proposes the Bill of Rights213
10Ratification of the Bill of Rights242

Go to: Angel behind the Rocking Chair or Congratulations You Have Cancer

Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo

Author: Murat Kurnaz

In October 2001, nineteen-year-old Murat Kurnaz traveled to Pakistan to visit a madrassa. During a security check a few weeks after his arrival, he was arrested without explanation and for a bounty of $3,000, the Pakistani police sold him to U.S. forces. He was first taken to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was severely mistreated, and then two months later he was flown to Guantanamo as Prisoner #61. For more than 1,600 days, he was tortured and lived through hell.  He was kept in a cage and endured daily interrogations, solitary confinement, and sleep deprivation. Finally, in August 2006, Kurnaz was released, with  acknowledgment of his innocence. Told with lucidity, accuracy, and wisdom, Kurnaz's story is both sobering and poignant--an important testimony about our turbulent times when innocent people get caught in the crossfire of the war on terrorism.

The Washington Post - Juliet Wittman

Kurnaz's account of his imprisonment is almost unbearably painful to read, precisely because his tone is so measured and low-key. He endured beatings, waterboarding, electric shock, isolation and the disruption of all sense of time and space. He was asked the same meaningless questions again and again…It is tempting to think of Kurnaz's story as exaggerated, but almost everything he describes jibes with the reports of other detainees and of human rights groups. This is a book politicians should read, and it should inspire anguished soul-searching among the rest of us.

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