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Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution Paperback – February 9, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
In Plain, Honest Men, Richard Beeman gives the reader a glimpse of the process that produced one of the most beloved documents in the world. If beloved, it is equally misunderstood, misquoted, and misused. While Beeman's book won't prevent the various ills associated with the Constitution, and it won't make Constitutional scholars of us, it will provide an eye opening account of its creation and the personalities of the men who created it. I found Plain, Honest Men to be one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years. Yes, in places it is a page turner.
I also now understand some of the debates over issues like ownership of guns. As much as I am grateful for the existence of the Constitution, it is not a perfect document. Witness the current debates over the issue of gun control, or the separation of church and state. Can you have too much freedom of speech? All of these questions are debated now because of the contents of the Constitution we have. If those issues are confusing to us, the shocker is that they were confusing to the writers of the Constitution. There was very little agreement then on any of the issues. The Constitution we have is a creation of compromise. Understanding what Beeman conveys won't make these issues any clearer, but it will clarify the monumental event that the Constitution's creation was and is. Beeman also provides unique glimpses into the personalities like Robert Morris, George Washington, and James Madison and how they each helped to shape the document we have.
Americans should read Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. When you're finished, read the real document.
Peace to all.
This popular, but also scholarly, treatment of the Constitutional Convention is thorough, balanced, and should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to really understand what went on during the three-month-long convention in Philadelphia. The proceedings of the Convention were not well documented (James Madison's amazing journal is the only comprehensive account; there is no other comparable source [least of all the official secretary's sketchy notes], and in many cases there are not corroborating reports that would enable verification of accounts. Hence, "what went on" is often open to interpretation, both as to the intent of the speaker/interest group and as to the precise content.
Given those persistent challenges, Beeman is scrupulously fair in fully describing both what is known, and in most instances to convey the factors that qualify or prevent firm conclusions as to meaning or intent. More than this, no historian should be expected to investigate and convey.
Others have given this book three stars, and have claimed that they find in it bias and apologies for "judicial activism." I find nothing of the sort, and such qualified approval simply reveals a tendency to seek "political correctness" (as defined by the reviewer) in the text.
Beeman's treatment is first-rate, reliable, even-handed, and will help readers to understand that ALL points of view were vigorously and fully shared during the convention. Any other characterization of this book is, in my opinion, based not on fact but on uninformed opinion.
I fully enjoyed this book as part of my reading program on the Constitution, and recommend it without reservation to the thoughtful inquirer.
As the author notes, the Articles of Confederation was little more than a "league" of sovereign states, who after the Revolutionary War had very little incentive to cooperate. But many of the leading citizens of these states were quite worried about the states' vulnerabilities to a variety of threats, both foreign and domestic, including their own state legislatures which were, in their view, too democratic. It was a real dilemma: how to create a stronger central government while respecting the sovereignty of the states.
James Madison of Virginia was by the far the leading advocate for a constitutional convention to resolve these weaknesses. In fact, he got a jump on all other attendees by proposing a new, powerful national government in his fifteen point Virginia Plan, which was the starting point for debate in the convention.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very well researched and good narrative .. Provides an excellent pprespective of a magnificent event in the history of modern civilization ..Published 2 months ago by miguel r
Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris, called the delegates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia “demi-gods”, but this comprehensive and authoritative book by... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Nathaniel A. Jackson
"Plain, Honest Men" is eloquently written, heavily researched, and an important work on the history of the creation our Constitution. Highly recommended!Published 5 months ago by CJG
Straightforward and informative. We were indeed that such men existed at this critical time and it is a shame we do not have such men today.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
It's not the most exciting topic one could imagine. And yet I never once wondered how many pages I still would have to read in order to finish the book. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Brian Mustain
What makes this book and the Collier brothers books on the Constitution Convention so compelling is that it blows away so many of the incorrect myths we hold today about the... Read morePublished 11 months ago by rustberg
This book should be a prerequisite before anyone starts mouthing off on political beliefs. It demonstrates how this successful nation started off with a most imperfect Constitution... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Geoff Isles