Barton professor’s book focuses on Madison and Jefferson

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Jeff Broadwater's book was released this week.
Jeff Broadwater's book was released this week.
Contributed photo

Comprehending the complicated relationships of both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is no easy task, but author Jeff Broadwater embraces the opportunity to shed light on both relationships and how they are inextricably intertwined in his latest book, “Jefferson, Madison and the Making of the Constitution.” Broadwater is a professor emeritus of history at Barton College.

Published by the University of North Carolina Press in Chapel Hill, the book is scheduled for release this week.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and Madison, “Father of the Constitution,” were two of the most important founders of the United States as well as the closest of political allies. Yet historians have often seen a tension between the idealistic rhetoric of the Declaration and the more pedestrian language of the Constitution. Moreover, to some, the adoption of the Constitution represented a repudiation of the democratic values of the Revolution.

In this book, Broadwater explores the evolution of the constitutional thought of these two seminal American figures, from the beginning of the American Revolution through the adoption of the Bill of Rights. In explaining how the two political compatriots could have produced such seemingly dissimilar documents but then come to a common constitutional ground, Broadwater reveals how their collaboration — and their disagreements — influenced the full range of constitutional questions during this early period of the American republic.

“We can go a long way … by considering together the evolution of Jefferson’s and Madison’s constitutional thought from roughly the adoption of the Declaration of Independence to the ratification of the Constitution and the passage of the Bill of Rights,” Broadwater writes in the book’s preface. “Admittedly, Jefferson and Madison were only two among the many people who played a part in the American founding, but no other two had larger roles in the events that unfolded between 1776 and 1789.” Ultimately, they came to agree, as Broadwater writes later in the book, “that the achievements of the American Revolution could not be preserved without a constitutional revolution.”

Todd Estes at Oakland University refers to Broadwater’s new book as “innovative and engrossing,” while underscoring how this work “illuminates the friendship between Jefferson and Madison and then uses that connection to probe thoughtfully the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

James Read at College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University notes, “Well-researched, finely written, and persuasive in its argument, Broadwater’s book succeeds in shedding fresh light on both Jefferson and Madison.”

Broadwater is the author of several additional books including “George Mason, Forgotten Founder,” “James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation,” “Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal” and “Eisenhower and the Anti-Communist Crusade.”

In May, the University of North Carolina Press released a book Broadwater co-edited with Troy Kickler of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History titled “North Carolina’s Revolutionary Founders.” Additionally, he has written numerous articles, essays, book reviews and papers, and presented many public lectures.

Broadwater’s book is available in hardcover and as an e-book through the University of North Carolina Press at https://unc.longleafservices.org/, and through Amazon and many bookstores.