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Signing Their Rights Away [Kindle Edition]

Denise Kiernan , Joseph D'Agnese
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Unfold Book Jacket for a Full-Color Reproduction of the U.S. Constitution

With their book Signing Their Lives Away, Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese introduced readers to the 56 statesmen (and occasional scoundrels!) who signed the Declaration of Independence. Now they’ve turned their attention to the 39 men who met in the summer of 1787 and put their names to the U.S. Constitution.

Signing Their Rights Away
chronicles a moment in American history when our elected officials knew how to compromise—and put aside personal gain for the greater good of the nation. These men were just as quirky and flawed as the elected officials we have today: Hugh Williamson believed in aliens, Robert Morris went to prison, Jonathan Dayton stole $18,000 from Congress, and Thomas Mifflin was ruined by alcohol. Yet somehow these imperfect men managed to craft the world’s most perfect Constitution. With 39 mini-biographies and a reversible dust jacket that
unfolds into a poster of the original document, Signing Their Rights Away offers an entertaining and enlightening narrative for history buffs of all ages.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


"It's no secret that I love reading history and occasionally a book comes along that provides an unusual insight beyond the standard telling of a given event. Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution." --Bookviews

“…this is both educational and entertaining.”—Booklist

“Kiernan and D'Agnese, who also wrote Signing their Lives Away, have provided another volume that should appeal to all political and history buffs.”—McClatchy Newspapers

“This little book is entertaining, easy to read, and above all, informative. It’s a brilliant piece of work and a must-have for any history-buff’s library...”—PoliticusUSA

“An extraordinarily fascinating study of America's lesser-known founding fathers alongside the more well-known ones, Signing Their Rights Away is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended contribution to public and college library shelves.”—Midwest Book Review (Reviewer’s Choice)

“It’s no secret that I love reading history and occasionally a book comes along that provides an unusual insight beyond the standard telling of a given event. Signing Their Rights a truly fascinating story that puts their achievement in perspective.”—Bookviews

“Kiernan and D’Agnese make both this period and the men who pulled off this incredible achievement exciting and entertaining...This is exceptional historical reporting that is informative, enlightening, and accessible. Anyone with even a remote interest in our rich national history should purchase this highly recommended book...”—Larry Cox, King Features Syndicate

“[The authors]...maintain a refreshing reverence for the Constitution itself. Rather than ask readers to believe that an ‘assembly of demigods’ (Jefferson's words) wrote the Constitution, Ms. Kiernan and Mr. D’Agnese challenge the notion that the group that crafted this document of enduring genius was uniquely brilliant or visionary. If this raises the question of how exactly the miracle was accomplished, it should at least give readers some hope for our own seemingly uninspired political era.” —The Wall Street Journal

“...entertainingly written...”—School Library Journal, starred review

About the Author

Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese are the authors of Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame & Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence. They have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, Saveur, Reader’s Digest, Discover, and other national publications. D’Agnese’s work has twice been included in the anthology “Best American Science Writing.” Both are winners of Educational Press Association awards. They live in North Carolina. Visit them online at

Product Details

  • File Size: 2420 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (September 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4XGMC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,420 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Forefathers August 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Signing Their Rights Away reviews the lives of many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States. This is a fine glimpse at our founding fathers.

Kiernan and D'Agnese write in a pleasant colorful style that reads easy and occasionally delights. The authors clearly illustrate that the Founding Fathers of the United States were normal human men of their time.

Among the founding fathers were two who died in duels, one who was ruined by drink, and another who became a fugitive. Among the fathers, was one international celebrity, another a famous poet, and a third who was considered an expert in political theory and philosophy. This is a group of imperfect men who managed to design the United States Constitution.

The mini biographies are often delightful. We learn that John Dickinson was a patriot admired by Thomas Jefferson despite Dickinson's refusing to sign the Declaration of Independence. Further we discover that Dickinson rose from private to general in the continental army and eventually served as Governor of both Delaware and Pennsylvania (simultaneously for several months).

George Washington lived with a poor family when he was young, but when he worked he saved money and purchased land. During the Constitutional Convention (where he served as President) instead of arguing issues during sessions, he gently persuaded members at social functions and dinners. In that sense, he established lessons in politics, despite claiming he was unacquainted with political science.

One of the forefathers detailed was William Blount, a scoundrel. William was basically a criminal. He was accused of stealing the payroll when he was paymaster (he claimed someone misplaced the 300,000 pounds) .
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quick, informative, and well done. July 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book gives you a 2-3 page biography of the original signers of the Constitution with a focus on the rumors or tabloid aspects of their lives. It doesn't go that in depth however, you only get 2-3 pages (Except for George Washington who of course gets a couple additional pages). But that seems to be enough for this delighful light read. If any of the characters within interest you enough you can hunt down a more detailed biography.
The book comes with a complete copy of the Constitution and some additional facts at the back of the book.
This book is not really for serious history fans but again it was an entertaining read but I would not repeat anything I read as a fact with out further investigating.
The only unintending problem with books like this is that many people will read this and only this concerning these men and declare themselves experts and repeat everything they read here (distorting even this over time) making a nuisance of themselves...much like History Channel viewers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neat reference work November 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As one of the foundation documents of the American Republic, the Constitution is an object of respect bordering on reverence. For the past 222 years it's formed the basis of the government of the United States. It has an aura of timelessness about it, as if it miraculously appeared as a gift from on high.

Yet the Constitution was written by mere mortals, sweltering in a Philadelphia summer. Many of them acknowledged that what they'd created was imperfect, but it was the best they could hope for. SIGNING THEIR RIGHTS AWAY gives contemporary readers some insight into the men who argued and compromised in 1787 and created the Constitution.

The book starts with a brief introduction that recaps the circumstances surrounding the Constitutional Convention and provides the backdrop for the rest of the book: a series of short portraits of the 39 men who signed the Constitution. Grouped by state, these brief (3-4 page) bios are informative and occasionally cheeky-more than a few signers were touched by scandal at one point or another.

It's a challenge to find as much to say about Richard Dobbs Spaight as Benjamin Franklin, but the authors do a fine job of making each signer interesting. It's not a narrative history of the Constitutional Convention, but SIGNING THEIR RIGHTS AWAY gives the reader, along the way, plenty of interesting details about the process to pique the reader's interest and hopefully inspire more reading about this crucial point in American history.

All in all, SIGNING THEIR RIGHTS AWAY is a quick and thought-provoking read. It might not be the best cover-to-cover reading experience since it lacks a driving narrative, but its structure makes it ideal for reading in short bursts or as a handy reference.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining, Informative look at America's Past August 3, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I liked this book more than I thought I would. It's very informative, interesting and sometimes funny. Where else are you going to read about an official 1787 representative getting his "knickers in a wad"?
These are real men, with all of their personal baggage trying to establish ground rules for a NEW country. One thought the Prince of Prussia could help them. (Good GRIEF)
They knew they had to make sense and order out of mishmash. Some reps gave up and went home but 39 interesting, capable, dedicated men stayed and wrote America's first Constitution.
There were some real divisions but One - Roger Sherman of Connecticut is know as the Signer Who Knew How To Compromise!!!! HELLO PRESENT CONGRESS!!! HEADS UP!!!!

It has been a LONG time since I studied American history. I didn't like it then. I really enjoyed this book because it's not just pages and pages of boring facts.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Who were the folks who took the chance, laying ...
Who were the folks who took the chance, laying their lives, fortunes, and properties on the line leading to the establishment of the US. This book gives you the background.
Published 22 days ago by Trekker01
1.0 out of 5 stars Flippant and Cynical presentation
Maybe useful as a brief synopsis of the lives of the signers. However, the writers own prejudices are plainly displayed through irrelevant comments such as pointing out that a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Walkbass
3.0 out of 5 stars Good information, but...
This little book is full of good information but is also loaded with trite phrases, dated slang and weak attempts at humor. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Charles Owens
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast reading & Interesting!
Easy-to-read, humorous but respectful short biographies of the signers of the Constitution. Very interesting information about lesser known signers as well as the more known ones!
Published 13 months ago by Cat Lady
5.0 out of 5 stars The real history of America
It never ceases to amaze me how little I know about the real history of America. In their book "Signing Their Rights Away", Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese give us the real... Read more
Published on August 24, 2012 by Christopher Obert
4.0 out of 5 stars Great dip into history through the eyes of the men who made it
This easily accessible, fun book is a quick view into the lives of the men who crafted our nation's founding documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Read more
Published on May 27, 2012 by James Hiller
4.0 out of 5 stars Handy little introduction to 'The Signers'
I often lament the fact that American History is short-changed in our school systems. Signing Their Rights Away gives a handy introduction to the Signers of the Declaration of... Read more
Published on May 23, 2012 by LINDA SUNKLE-PIERUCKI
5.0 out of 5 stars You thought today's politicians were bad!
I cannot say that I've ever been a big fan of studying American History, yet I found this book to be incredibly entertaining. Read more
Published on April 9, 2012 by Farm Chick
4.0 out of 5 stars Signing Their Lives Away
I liked the short snatches w/ portraits about each signer. The title of the book was misleading. Only a few signed their lives away, but it was the title that drew me in. Read more
Published on March 15, 2012 by Elyn
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, quick overview of Constitution signers
After reading "Signing Their Lives Away" about the signers of the Declaration of Independence and finding it interesting, when I had the opportunity to read "Signing Their Right... Read more
Published on January 13, 2012 by J. Hauer
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