I write about episodes that are not well understood yet are centrally important to America’s development as a nation. My forthcoming book on James Madison — Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America – fits that category. Look at all of Madison’s amazing achievements, including his work on the Constitution, writing the Federalist Papers, creating the Bill of Rights, founding America’s first political party, supervising the Louisiana Purchase, and leading the nation as its first war president in the War of 1812. Yet he’s often ignored in favor of larger, noisier historical figures. A big reason for that was his preference for working with others toward common goals, not worrying about who got the credit. That gift for partnership — with Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, and his wife Dolley — made him a very different kind of leader and one with much to teach Americans today. The book will be released on February 10, 2015.
Then there’s Aaron Burr and his Western expedition, the subject of American Emperor, Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America. Too many wrote of Burr’s Western expeditions after he left the vice presidency in 1804 with a verbal shrug – “ whatever he was up to.” That intrigued me. Burr almost took the presidency from Thomas Jefferson and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, a story the New York Times was still covering 207 years later. How could his activities be such a mystery? The truth I found is complex: Burr — the bad boy of the Founding — organized an expedition with at least five possible outcomes, only to be thwarted by enemies and disastrous luck. He landed in a Richmond courtroom, facing the gallows on treason charges inspired by his nemesis, Jefferson. Chief Justice John Marshall Burr’s hide yet left him aching for conquest. Sometimes close to delusion, his adventures were like those of no other American. The Society of the Cincinnati awarded me their History Prize for 2013 “based on your body of work with particular emphasis on American Emperor.”
My law practice drew me to my first book, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. While briefing a case to the Supreme Court, I read Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention, all 500-plus pages. I was knocked out by the drama, wisdom, and occasional depressing blunders of the fifty-five Framers. So I wrote The Summer of 1787. The New York Times liked it, and it hit the Washington Post bestseller list, won the Washington Writing Award for Best Book of 2007, and made several “best books” lists for 2007.
Looking for another moment when the Constitution determined the nation’s fate, I wrote Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. My interest in impeachment began with defending Judge Walter Nixon in his Senate impeachment trial in 1989. After the Civil War, America’s challenges were immense. How to heal the wounds left by a murderous war, yet protect four million freed slaves? Andrew Johnson, a stubborn racist, fumbled those daunting challenges. The Radical Republicans, fiercely led by Thaddeus Stevens, fought to defend the freedmen’s rights by driving Johnson from office, producing an impeachment trial in which there were no winners. The book explores evidence of bribery in the Senate vote. It received gratifying reviews and made several bestseller lists.
In late August 2013, Kensington Publishing released my first novel. The Lincoln Deception explores the secrets behind the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy. In 1900, Dr. Jamie Fraser of Cadiz, Ohio hears a deathbed confession from the man who prosecuted the Booth conspirators, then sets off to uncover the truth about the Lincoln assassination. He’s joined by Speed Cook, the last black man to play major league baseball and an assertive “race man.” Fraser and Cook unearth long-neglected facts about the conspiracy, pursued by a secret organization that will stop at nothing to stop them and to preserve the Lincoln deception. Publishers Weekly has called it “an impressive debut novel.” The Wilson Deception, a sequel set at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I and featuring the same main characters, will be released in the second half of 2015.
As a trial and appellate lawyer for more than 25 years, I have defended accused criminals, challenged government actions as unconstitutional, and have argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. My writing life began as a reporter for the Staten Island Advance and included a decade of monthly columns for the American Bar Association Journal on the Supreme Court. I write frequently on legal topics; a few of those pieces are linked on the “Other Writings” page, along with a short story that was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Opinion and commentary have appeared in the Washington Post, on the Echoes page of Bloomberg View, History News Network, Military History Quarterly, and American Heritage.
I also head the Washington Independent Review of Books, which posts new content daily. Please check it out — www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com.
SHORT FORM BIO, FOR SPEAKER INTRODUCTIONS:
After practicing law for many years, David O. Stewart began to write history, too. His first book, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, was a Washington Post bestseller and won the Washington Writing Award as Best Book of 2007. Two years later, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, was a Davis-Kidd Bestseller and was called “by all means the best account of this troubled episode” by Professor David Donald of Harvard. The Society of the Cincinnati awarded David its 2013 History Prize for American Emperor, Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, an examination of Burr’s Western expedition, which shook the nation’s foundations at a time when those foundations were none too solid. The Lincoln Deception, an historical mystery about the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, was released in late August 2013. Bloomberg View called it the best historical novel of the year, while Publishers Weekly called it an “impressive debut novel.” Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, will be released on February 10, 2015, while The Wilson Deception, a sequel to his novel, will issue in the second half of 2015. David also is president of the Washington Independent Review of Books, an online book review.
Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, New York City
News from Maryland’s finest public official, Nancy Floreen (also my wife), can be found at http://nancyfloreen.blogspot.com. And updates about the real writing talent in the family can be found at my son’s website, www.matt-stewart.com. Matt Stewart’s novel, The French Revolution, was long-listed for the 2011 Indies Choice awards and was listed as a Best Book of 2010 by the San Francisco Chronicle.