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Kevin R. C. Gutzman

Historian and Constitutional Scholar

Travels From

Connecticut


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BIO

Kevin R. C. Gutzman is the New York Times best-selling author of four works of historical scholarship, including James Madison and the Making of America. The book, published by St. Martin’s in 2013, looks beyond the way James Madison is traditionally seen — as “The Father of the Constitution” — to find a more complex and sometimes contradictory portrait of this influential Founding Father and the ways in which he impacted the spirit of today’s United States.

 

 

Professor of history at Western Connecticut State University, Gutzman holds a bachelor’s degree, a master of public affairs degree, and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as an MA and a PhD in American history from the University of Virginia.

 

 

Happy to be a former attorney, Gutzman devotes his intellectual energy to teaching courses in the Revolutionary and constitutional history of the United States, to writing books and articles in these fields, and to public speaking on related topics.

 

 

Kevin Gutzman speaks to groups large and small on a variety of historical and current-events topics.


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BOOKS

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press

In James Madison and the Making of America, historian Kevin Gutzman looks beyond the way James Madison is traditionally seen -- as "The Father of the...

SPEECHES

James Madison & The American Ideal of Religious Liberty: I would describe the experience early in his life that made Madison into an advocate of religious freedom, then tell how he took the lead in writing the idea into the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom into law, and sending the First Amendment from Congress to the states for their ratification. Finally, I will explain how President Madison twice vetoed bills on the basis of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, whose meaning he spelled out in his veto messages. So far as Madison was concerned, American religious liberty extended to all varieties of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and unbelievers -- in a word, to all.

James Madison: His Life & His Legacy: Madison's active and highly eventful political and intellectual life is the subject of this talk. Key points include his background in the Virginia planter aristocracy, education at Princeton under a leading liberty advocate (and eventual signer of the Declaration of Independence), role in writing Virginia's fundamental law, leadership of the Federalist cause during the Revolutionary period, role in bringing on and leading the Philadelphia Convention, prominent part in getting the Constitution ratified, sponssorship of the Bill of Rights, active opposition to the Washington and Adams Administrations, and leadership role in Jefferson's and his own.

What Kind of Constitution?: Here, I chronicle the process leading to the creation of the Constitution, the explanation that was sold to the people during the ratification contest of 1787-88, and what has happened to it since.

Madisonian Origins of the War of 1812: The War of 1812 marked the complete failure of Madison's three decades long project to substitute free trade for military might at the center of international relations. Both he and Jefferson believed that the chief intellectual breakthrough of the Enlightenment in the area of international relations was the notion that free trade, which Jefferson called a "natural right," would yield a new era of peace and harmony among nations. On dethroning John Adams, they implemented a policy of military builddown and commercial coercion. To their surprise, neither Britain nor France responded favorably to this 12-year experiment. In the end, Madison called on Congress to declare war on Britain. The resulting War of 1812, a military debacle, left the White House and Capitol in flames -- but somehow, despite Madison's poor war leadership, the Republic survived.

Thomas Jefferson & James Madison: Liberty in Theory and Practice: In this talk, I examine the tandem careers of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. From freedom of religion to freedom of speech, from limited government to states' rights, from low taxes to free trade, with an emphasis on the necessity of peace to the maintenance of republican government and with several detours through questions related to constitutional structure along the way, the central elements of American liberty all have roots in the careers of Jefferson and Madison. This talk explores those careers with liberty as the focus.

James Madison's Philadelphia Convention: A Study in Disappointment: James Madison is often called "The Father of the Constitution." In reality, however, key elements of his vision for the Constitution did not survive that august assemblage. He predicted soon thereafter that the country would need a new one within a few years. In this talk, I will describe Madison's and his fellow Virginia delegates' Virginia Plan, contrast it to the Constitution, and explain why he found the Constitution disappointing. In conclusion, I will consider the question in what sense Madison was truly The Father of the Constitution.

James Madison and the Bill of Rights: "A Tub to the Whale": James Madison took the lead in persuading the First Congress to recommend twelve proposed amendments to the states for their ratification. Ultimately, ten of them became the Bill of Rights and one, 201 years later, became the 27th Amendment. Yet, Madison accepted the argument in the Philadelphia Convention that a bill of rights was a bad idea, and he continued to insist that it was for months thereafter. Only a combination of several prominent Virginia politician/friends' insistence and his voters' desires led Madison to change his tune. Even then, his favorite amendment proposal rejected by Congress, Madison did not see the Bill of Rights as particularly significant. Neither in the 18th nor in the 19th century did it have notable effect.


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RECENT VIDEOS

  • Kevin R.C. Gutzman on BookTV

  • Kevin R.C. Gutzman – James Madison and American Constitutionalism

REVIEWS

Praise for James Madison and the Making of America
"A well-considered and written biography of this gifted Founding Father's many contributions to the early republic."
-Kirkus

"The serious reader who wants a detailed account of James Madison's long public career, drawn from primary sources, will find Kevin Gutzman's book deeply rewarding.  The author's treatments of Virginia's ratification convention and the drafting of the Bill of Rights are particularly valuable.”
-Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

"Kevin Gutzman's beautifully written and insightful account of James Madison's fascinating life promises to become the standard biography of this great Founding Father."
-Edward G. Lengel, Professor and Editor-in-Chief – The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia and author of Inventing George Washington:  America's Founder, In Myth and Memory



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