Synopses & Reviews
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.
"At a time that feels to many like the twilight of the Republic, it is heartening to go back to the dawn and watch the authors of the Constitution struggle to create a democracy that would endure. In The Summer of 1787, David O. Stewart re-creates this moment with fidelity, great feeling, and insight. His book renews our appreciation of one of the masterpieces of Western civilization and reminds us, as Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention, that it was one thing to found a republic -- and quite another to keep it."
"Crafting the Constitution was one of the most amazing collaborations in human history. David O. Stewart's book is both a gripping narrative on how it was done and a useful guide to how we should regard that wonderful document today."
"The summer of 1787 may be more than two centuries in our past, but David O. Stewart makes it wonderfully vivid in this fresh and gripping account of America's constitutional birth pangs. Instead of periwigged demigods, Stewart introduces us to fifty-five white males, whose talent for compromise planted the seeds of representative democracy in their garden of privilege. This tale offers the perfect antidote to our own sound-bite and focus-group politics."
"In this engaging story of the momentous but little-understood summer that gave us the Constitution, David O. Stewart deftly reminds us what a close-run thing America was -- and still is. Stewart's is an important work, written with insight and verve."
"David O. Stewart's spirited The Summer of 1787 explores a time when brilliant men -- along with colleagues less acute but often louder -- hammered out the template for the United States of America. With indelible vignettes and anecdotes, Stewart reminds us why those four months in Philadelphia can still shake the world."
"David O. Stewart made clearer to me than ever the tensions and bargains that produced our Constitution at the Convention of 1787. Especially the bargain over slavery, with all its terrible, lasting consequences. It is an irresistible drama."
About the Author
David O. Stewart turned to writing after more than a quarter century of law practice in Washington, D.C., defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. His first book about the writing of the Constitution, The Summer of 1787, grew out of Supreme Court case he was working on. It was aWashington Post bestseller and won the Washington Writing Prize for Best Book of 2007. Impeached had its roots in a judicial impeachment trial Stewart defended before the United States Senate, in 1989, and then argued to the Supreme Court. His most recent book, American Emperor, tells this astonishing tale, which traces Aaron Burr’s descent from made man to political pariah to imperialist adventurer. For more information about the author, go to DavidOStewart.com.
Table of Contents
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