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A Perfect Union

Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


An extraordinary American comes to life in this vivid, groundbreaking portrait of the early days of the republic—and the birth of modern politics

When the roar of the Revolution had finally died down, a new generation of American politicians was summoned to the Potomac to assemble the nation's newly minted capital. Into that unsteady atmosphere, which would soon enough erupt into another conflict with Britain in 1812, Dolley Madison arrived, alongside her husband, James. Within a few years, she had mastered both the social and political intricacies of the city, and by her death in 1849 was the most celebrated person in Washington. And yet, to most Americans, she's best known for saving a portrait from the burning White House, or as the namesake for a line of ice cream.
Why did her contemporaries give so much adulation to a lady so little known today? In A Perfect Union, Catherine Allgor reveals that while Dolley's gender prevented her from openly playing politics, those very constraints of womanhood allowed her to construct an American democratic ruling style, and to achieve her husband's political goals. And the way that she did so—by emphasizing cooperation over coercion, building bridges instead of bunkers—has left us with not only an important story about our past but a model for a modern form of politics.

Introducing a major new American historian, A Perfect Union is both an illuminating portrait of an unsung founder of our democracy, and a vivid account of a little-explored time in our history.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 23, 2006 – In this elegant biography, award-winning historian Allgor (Parlor Politics) makes the case that not only was Dolley Madison incredibly popular with the American people—"Everybody loves Mrs. Madison" Henry Clay once said—the wife of America's fourth president was also a "master politician." Dolley was a skilled hostess, and everyone in Washington coveted an invitation to her table. She knew the etiquette of polite society and used it to political advantage. She worked as a de facto campaign manager when her husband sought the presidency, inventing fictive kin and feigning family connections to potential allies. Even her interior decorating was politically savvy: though she favored French decor at home in Virginia, she chose American-made furniture for the White House. There's no anachronism here: Allgor doesn't turn Dolley into a proto-feminist, nor the marriage—which was respectful and deeply affectionate—into a bastion of egalitarianism. Yet when Allgor describes the Madisons as "political partner," one can't help thinking of the Clintons. The erudition and charm of this biography are rivaled only by that of its subject, which makes it disappointing that the decades after Madison's presidency are dispatched in a skimpy two chapters and epilogue. 10-city author tour.
A Perfect Union
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Apr 01, 2007
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 512 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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