This is a prizewinning highly personal biography.
Even though James Madison disliked and publicly condemned slavery, this slave-owning president and Virginia planter does not get high marks from most modern historians for his stance on that issue; indeed, his support for extending slavery into the Western territories has led some critics to call him a pro-slavery expansionist. To Harvard historian McCoy, ``the Sage of Montpelier'' was a prisoner of his republican idealism, tragically tied to the conventions of his native soil. This apologetic, revisionist biographical study will stir up controversy among scholars. For the general reader, its focus on Madison's years of retirement (from 1817 until his death in 1836) gives us a prescient sage leery of the ``nullifiers'' who touted states' inherent right to secede from the union. The mature Madison was haunted by the specter of an industrializing society faced with the prospect of mass unemployment and a poor, propertyless class--problems that plague us today. Illustrations. (Apr.)