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The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 10, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Since Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia appeared in 1966, no work has challenged its classic status. Now, Stewart's work does. Briskly written, full of deft characterizations and drama, grounded firmly in the records of the Constitutional Convention and its members' letters, this is a splendid rendering of the document's creation. All the debates are here, as are all the convention's personalities. It detracts nothing from Stewart's lively story to point out that it's just that—a tale—and not an interpretation. Stewart, a constitutional lawyer in Washington, D.C., ignores the recent decades' penetrating scholarship about the Constitution's creation in favor of a fast-paced narrative of a long, hot summer's work. Only one choice mars the book. Stewart, like Bowen, wants us to see the four summer months as the only period when the Constitution was created. But as James Madison and others acknowledged soon afterward, the state ratifying conventions and the First Federal Congress, which added the Bill of Rights, also contributed to the Constitution as we know it. Stewart's excellent book will appeal to those looking for descriptive history at its best, not for a fresh take on the subject. B&w illus. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

This is, of course, a story that has been told before. But like most great stories, it is worth retelling, especially when told exceedingly well. Stewart, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, is a fine writer whose narrative unfolds like a well-structured novel. He begins with a description of the unsettled period just before the convention, as states quarreled with each other and a group of indebted farmers burned courthouses in Massachusetts. He describes the halting moves toward a Constitutional Convention that essentially were launched at a sparsely attended conference at George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. The narrative gathers steam as the convention begins in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia. Here Stewart artfully shows the roles played by the key players as they grappled with issues as varied as the rights of states and the future of slavery. In Stewart's view, the true genius of these founders was their understanding that free, popular government must be based upon compromise. General readers will find this work stimulating. Jay Freeman
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743286928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743286923
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David O. Stewart turned to writing after more than a quarter century of law practice in Washington, D.C. as a trial and appellate lawyer. 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 a Washington Post Bestseller and won the Washington Writing Prize for Best Book of 2007. His second book (Impeached), had its roots in a judicial impeachment trial he defended before the United States Senate in 1989. His next book -- American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America -- explored Burr's astounding Western expedition of 1805-07 and his treason trial before Chief Justice John Marshall. All three books have received starred prepublication reviews from Kirkus or Publishers Weekly. He has received the 2013 History Award of the Society of the Cincinnati. "Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America" debuted in February 2015.

In August 2013, Stewart began a new chapter in his writing life with the release of "The Lincoln Deception," an historical novel exploring the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy. A sequel featuring the same protagonists will appear in late September 2015. "The Wilson Deception" is set at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. A short story of his was previously nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He also is working a non-fiction study of James Madison and the remarkably influential partnerships through which he shaped American history.

Stewart lives with his wife in Maryland. Visit his website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Eric F. Facer on April 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author Philip Roth once said: "History is where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable." There is a tendency among many Americans to approach the founding of the United States with this attitude. If Washington had not led the Continental Army to victory, then someone else could just as easily have done it. And if James Madison and his colleagues had not provided the impetus for the Constitutional Convention, we somehow would have still ended up with the government we have today. Those who read Mr. Stewart's fine recounting of the events of 1787 will quickly become disabused of that notion. There was nothing inevitable about the creation of our central government.

Mr. Stewart tells a great story and he relates it succinctly and eloquently. Though his is certainly not the first telling of these events, he does a remarkable job of explaining the sectional differences among the delegates. Perhaps most illuminating are his descriptions of the personality quirks, prejudices and idiosyncrasies of the participants, all of which profoundly influenced the end product: our Constitution. And even though you know the outcome of the story, Mr. Stewart creates considerable suspense. More than once, you will remark to yourself: "How on earth did they ever agree on ANYTHING let alone a document that has served as the foundation for the greatest democratic experiment in history"?

Highly recommended.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By James McGrath Morris on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Often the "epic" moments of history that earn the attention of our best writers are battles, wars, or disasters. Luckily for us, David Stewart turned his remarkably gifted writing talents to a turning point in history where the fight was over ideas and the weapons of choice were words.

The book is spell-binding. One cannot read "The Summer of 1787" without feeling as if one were present at one of those very rare moments in history where all the forces converge to make something better of us. Anyone who reads this book will never be able to say again that history is boring. When in the hands of an author like Stewart, history reads like the best novel of today.

But more important than the fact the book is well written is that "The Summer of 1787" goes a long way to humanizing the Constitutional Convention. Sadly most Americans, because of the way our history is taught, regard the Convention as almost a religious moment when a group--appropriately nicknamed "Founding Fathers"--delivers to the public a document almost in the manner by which Moses brought the Commandments down from the mountain. Instead, Stewart shows how the final document was the result of politics and compromise. In other words, it was the product of mortals.

This is important because as long as we regard these men as God like we will continue to raise up generations of young people who feel that such accomplishments are beyond their power. Instead, we should be leading them to believe we expect greater and better things from them.

Do us all a favor and buy this book for a young person today.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Andrew I. Dayton on April 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a world where the talking heads are forever making pronouncements on the sacred status of what the founding fathers intended when they wrote the Constitution, this work will come as a refreshing revelation: our founding fathers had high ideals indeed, but they could also be horse traders and scheming politicos when they had to be, which was usually. Stewart has written a riveting tale of the colorful, larger than life characters, bizarre incidents and unintended consequences that created the world's greatest document, the Constitution. And best of all, it reads better than a novel.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Chase on August 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was an exciting telling of the events of that wonderful summer. However, I would have prefered more analyse of the events rather than straight story telling. Also for a book subtitled "The Men Who Invented the Constitution" it gives only basic biographical information of the men. The author also did not use footnotes which made it difficult to track down further information. An example of this would be the author citing another persons work, "A scholar once said..." and it wouldnt be given a reference number to the idex, so this basicly made it impossible to match up citations. Another downside is this book does not mention the judiciary. I know there was minimal debate over the judiciary at the convention, but it still deserves at least a few pages worth of ink. To conclude, those who are looking to read the basic story of how the United States constitution was made this book is for you. Those looking for deeper analyse should try another book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Frank S. Joseph on May 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
David Stewart may be a lawyer by profession, but by nature he's a born storyteller. THE SUMMER OF 1787 shows the touch of a novelist, lifting the Founding Fathers out of dry textbooks and breathing life back into them. As in a novel, I got a sense of the players as characters in a drama. As in a novel, chapters end on suspenseful notes. You may know how this story comes out, but you're on the edge of your chair all the same.

I learned something too: The antecedents of, and reasons for, the Electoral College. Before Reading THE SUMMER OF 1787, I never realized the degree to which slavery shaped its development. David Stewart's explanations and examples are clear and insightful.

THE SUMMER OF 1787 is American history the easy way. Factual and enlightening to be sure, but also fun to read. Why couldn't they have taught it this way in school?

-- The reviewer is the author of To Love Mercy, a novel.
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