From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A day-by-day account of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia can't yield up much drama or fireworks, or even much sparkling talk, at least as recorded by a few participants, especially James Madison. But in this masterful account, Beeman (Patrick Henry
), a noted historian of the late 18th century, does his best to dramatize the writing of the American Constitution. As the convention's hot summer weeks rolled on, tensions built, agreements were reached and compromises (especially, alas, about slavery) were made. Beeman gives each decision, each vote, the weight it deserves and, in brief sketches, brings the delegates alive. The result may not be an exciting story, but, after all, it concerns the writing of the world's longest-lived written national constitution. It's also a story freighted with world-historical significance—and one as well told here as can be imagined. This account is now the most authoritative, up-to-date treatment of the Constitutional Convention since Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia
over 40 years ago. It's unlikely to be surpassed. Illus., map. (Mar. 17)
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The challenge of writing an account of the Constitutional Convention is that so many accounts already exist. “Do we need another narrative history of the Constitutional Convention of 1787?” asks the Washington Post. While Beeman’s book does not revolutionize the genre, it garners praise for examining the “the nuances and complexities of the compromises that the framers made” (New York Times) and for its detailed recreation of the Philadelphia debates. The most pointed complaint comes from Walter Isaacson in his otherwise positive New York Times review. He writes of Beeman’s hesitancy to include too much of his own interpretation in the book: “[S]ince he is in a far better position to make an assessment than we are, it would be nice to know what he believes.”
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