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The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution (Simon & Schuster America Collection)

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Summer of 1787 takes us into the sweltering room in which the founding fathers struggled for four months to produce the Constitution: the flawed but enduring document that would define the nation—then and now.

George Washington presided, James Madison kept the notes, Benjamin Franklin offered wisdom and humor at crucial times. The Summer of 1787 traces the struggles within the Philadelphia Convention as the delegates hammered out the charter for the world’s first constitutional democracy. Relying on the words of the delegates themselves to explore the Convention’s sharp conflicts and hard bargaining, David O. Stewart lays out the passions and contradictions of the, often, painful process of writing the Constitution.

It was a desperate balancing act. Revolutionary principles required that the people have power, but could the people be trusted? Would a stronger central government leave room for the states? Would the small states accept a Congress in which seats were allotted according to population rather than to each sovereign state? And what of slavery? The supercharged debates over America’s original sin led to the most creative and most disappointing political deals of the Convention.

The room was crowded with colorful and passionate characters, some known—Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Edmund Randolph—and others largely forgotten. At different points during that sultry summer, more than half of the delegates threatened to walk out, and some actually did, but Washington’s quiet leadership and the delegates’ inspired compromises held the Convention together.

In a country continually arguing over the document’s original intent, it is fascinating to watch these powerful characters struggle toward consensus—often reluctantly—to write a flawed but living and breathing document that could evolve with the nation.

About the Author

David O. Stewart is the author of the highly acclaimed The Summer of 1987: The Men Who Invented the Constitution and Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Jackson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

The Delegates

The United States in 1787

CHAPTER ONE It Started at Mount Vernon: March 1785

CHAPTER TWO Blood on the Snow: Winter 1787

CHAPTER THREE "A House on Fire": Spring 1787

CHAPTER FOUR Demigods and Coxcombs Assemble: May 1787

CHAPTER FIVE Virginia Leads: May 25-June 1

CHAPTER SIX Wilson's Bargain: May 31-June 10

CHAPTER SEVEN Three-Fifths of a Human Being: June 11

CHAPTER EIGHT Festina Lente: June 12-19

CHAPTER NINE To the Brink: June 21-July 10

CHAPTER TEN The Small States Win: July 11-17

CHAPTER ELEVEN The Touch of a Feather: July 9-14

CHAPTER TWELVE The Ipswich Miracle: July 13

CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Presidential Muddle: July 17-26

CHAPTER FOURTEEN Rutledge Hijacks the Constitution: July 27-August 6

CHAPTER FIFTEEN Back to Work: August 6

CHAPTER SIXTEEN The Curse of Heaven: August 8-29

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN David Brearley's Presidency: August 24-September 7

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Loyal Opposition: August 31

CHAPTER NINETEEN With All Its Faults: September 8-17

CHAPTER TWENTY Happiness, Perpetual and Otherwise: July 4, 1788

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Making Amends

Appendix 1: The Elector System

Appendix 2: The Constitution of 1787

Notes

Further Reading

Acknowledgments

Index

What Our Readers Are Saying

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OneMansView, August 4, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Constitutional Convention basics (3.75*s)

This book focuses almost entirely on the four-month-long proceedings of the US Constitutional Convention beginning in May, 1787, covering in more or less chronological order the debates over very contentious constitutional issues, and showing who among the fifty-five delegates, either through strength of personality or argument, were most influential in impacting the final result. To add color to his story, the author provides some brief takes on the broader social milieu of Philadelphia. While the book does provide basic background on such issues as large vs. small states, slavery, the pros and cons of the options proposed for the structure of Congress and the Presidency, and over all democratic possibilities, it tends to be more descriptive than deeply analytical. It is not an intellectual origins book.

Despite the claim by a reviewer that this book is the first significant effort concerned with the Convention since 1966, it really is simply another version of an oft-told tale. It is very similar to Carol Berkin’s “A Brilliant Solution,” 2002, in its focus on convention proceedings. The author begins with the fecklessness of the Articles of Confederation and the precarious standing of the United States among nations as a result. To simply resolve navigation rights on the Potomac, an extra-legal meeting at Mt. Vernon, involving George Washington and George Mason and delegates from Maryland, was needed. Shay’s Rebellion in Mass, 1786, finally made evident to all of the states that widespread financial and political instability virtually demanded that a convention be held to overhaul the Articles.

The Virginians, led by James Madison, had a head start on most of the delegations and were prepared to dominate the Convention with their fifteen-part Virginia Plan. But the power of the Madison’s central government frightened the small states. In the author’s telling, James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris of Penn, Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of Conn, and John Rutledge of SC were the dominant personalities in effecting compromises. Interestingly, the convention came to the realization that contentious issues would have to be assigned to five-man or eleven-man committees to work out details to be presented to the entire Convention. Rutledge’s five-man Committee of Detail, also including Nathaniel Gorham, Ellsworth, Wilson, and Edmund Randolph, met during a Convention recess at the end of July with the assigned task of drawing up a government charter based on what had transpired to that point. In actuality, it made some rather bold proposals that, unsurprisingly, favored the southern states, but it gave the Convention focus and got it moving. The Committee on Postponed Parts, consisting of Rufus King, Sherman, John Dickinson, and Madison, meeting during the first week of September, made significant changes based on the debates of the Rutledge proposals, steering the charter close to its final form. The final version of the US Constitution was delivered to the Convention by Gouverneur Morris, the key member of the Committee of Style, on Sept 12, 1787. “We the People of the United States” were his words.

In his recap of the Convention, the author briefly points out well-known, severe shortcomings incorporated in the original version of the US Constitution. The process of electing a President, amended several times, resulted in electoral fiascos in 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000. Of course, the failure to effectively deal with slavery in 1787 - the three-fifths provision being the primary defect - resulted in a tragic national convulsion sixty-four years later and is still being felt 220 years later. It seems as though the Founding Founders much vaunted compromising avoided dealing with important and deadly serious matters.

The book is a nice overview of the Constitutional Convention on a rudimentary level. The author does on occasion inject harmless, humanizing images of delegates, such as walking down streets nodding to residents, observing pets, and thinking about Convention issues. Such asides could detract from feelings of rigorous scholarship.

In terms of an in-depth look at the Constitution, many questions beg to be asked. Did the US Constitution fulfill the promise of the Revolution, or was it stopped in its tracks. Did the Founding Fathers see the Constitution as a document to be easily amended to keep abreast of social and economic developments? For example, the Founders feared monolithic, powerful entities. How would they have countenanced the rise of huge, nation-wide corporations and their profound influence in the halls of government and in elections? How can original-intent ideologues be so certain that the Founders themselves would not encourage changing the Constitution through the years? Jefferson advocated a rewrite of the Constitution every nineteen years.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743286930
Author:
Stewart, David O.
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Subject:
Political History
Subject:
United States - 18th Century
Subject:
Constitutions
Subject:
General History
Subject:
US History - 20th Century
Subject:
US History-General
Subject:
United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Subject:
founding fathers, constitution, signing constitution, declaration of independence, independence day, american revolution, george washington, thomas jefferson, john adams, benjamin franklin, james madison, james monroe, john hancock, philadelphia conventio
Subject:
founding fathers, constitution, signing constitution, declaration of independence, independence day, american revolution, george washington, thomas jefferson, john adams, benjamin franklin, james madison, james monroe, john hancock, philadelphia conventio
Subject:
founding fathers, constitution, signing constitution, declaration of independence, independence day, american revolution, george washington, thomas jefferson, john adams, benjamin franklin, james madison, james monroe, john hancock, philadelphia conventio
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Series:
Simon & Schuster America Collection
Publication Date:
20080531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.12 in 14.21 oz

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