The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action


The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action examines the events surrounding the development of the U.S. Constitution. Setting these events within the context of the colonial conflict with Britain and the experience with state constitutions under the Articles of Confederation, John R. Vile discusses the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the major plans and proposals that delegates offered, and the arguments that delegates made both in the Convention...

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The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action

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The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action examines the events surrounding the development of the U.S. Constitution. Setting these events within the context of the colonial conflict with Britain and the experience with state constitutions under the Articles of Confederation, John R. Vile discusses the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the major plans and proposals that delegates offered, and the arguments that delegates made both in the Convention and in subsequent state ratifying debates that ultimately led to the adoption of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Vile contends that the Convention and subsequent ratifying conventions were not mere exercises in political theory but practical attempts to formulate a workable government that all the states would ratify. Focusing chiefly on records of debates at the Convention, the book is a legal brief, identifying key facts, issues, arguments, and compromises, and providing a unique window into the contestation surrounding this keystone American political moment. This book is perfect for scholars and students in the field of American political history and development.

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Editorial Reviews

Works on the 1787 Constitutional Convention are thick on the ground and include scholarly treatments....Vile's monograph raises the question, why another account' Vile (Middle Tennessee State Univ.) hopes to provide an account that will not only enlighten contemporary audiences as to what happened and why, but just as importantly, ask readers to pay attention to the way most delegates approached the task of addressing fundamental political issues. That way involved meeting arguments with argument, a willingness to compromise, and a belief that "unattainable perfection was the enemy of an attainable good"—thus the subtitle, Practical Virtue in Action. Given the intransigence of contemporary politicians, a more timely justification would be hard to find. A clearly written, well-organized distillation of Vile's extensive research on the US Constitution. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduate students.
Brannon P. Denning
The Framing of our Constitution is a story that every American ought to know by heart and John Vile’s The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution tellsthat wonderful story very well.His emphasis on the‘practical virtue’ of the Framers is a welcomeone at a time in our own politicalhistory when principle is regarded as the antithesis of compromise.
David Schultz
What the United States Constitution means is a matter of legal and increasingly contentious political dispute. Often invoked in these debates are what the framers of the document intended. The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action offers an excellent summary of the context for the drafting of the Constitution as well as critical examination of the drafting of the document at the Philadelphia Convention. Written by one of the leading contemporary constitutional scholars, John R. Vile demonstrates how the Framers combined scholarship and experience to produce America’s Constitution. For students, faculty, and others who want to grasp what the Constitution meant to the framers, this book is an excellent first stop and essential read.
Seth Barrett Tillman
Sober, measured, scholarly, carefully chosen language – there are the hallmarks of Professor Vile’s publications on the framing of the United States Constitution. Vile’s newest contribution, Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution, draws from the primary documents from this period, but the author is equally at home with the wisdom of academia (political science, history, and law) and with judicial decisions expounding on the Constitution. This book is a good fit for any library reference collection and for any student starting a module or course of study in American civilization or government. Highly recommended.
Kenneth L. Penegar
Writing and Ratification of the United States Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action by John R. Vile is a wise and practical book of scholarship. A pleasure to read, the book provides a concise compendium of the issues and the personalities of those at the center of the central enterprise of the American experiment in self-government.

Lawyers will recognize Vile’s work as an accessible and well-crafted ‘legislative history’ of the very foundational law of the republic, which in 1787 could scarcely be imagined. Students of history and politics will find the vivid details of intense controversies that confronted the states, its leaders and their citizens alike under the makeshift arrangement of the Articles of Confederation.

What readers will not find in this important book is one grand theory or a dominant philosophy manifest in the deliberations that yielded the core Constitution. Rather, the careful tracing of the proceedings in Philadelphia beautifully confirms that there was compromise and statesmanship at every turn. The principal consideration by the delegates as a whole was to yield a more perfect union than the one they had. They could not know for certain that they had achieved that goal, but they dared to try.

John Vile’s book provides an understated but eloquent vindication of the pragmatism the Founders brought to their work and challenges our current generation of leaders to find such common ground once more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442217683
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/13/2012
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 1,038,569
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Vile is professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro. He is the author and coeditor of numerous books, including Encyclopedia of the First Amendment as well as Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, Proposed Amendments, and Amending Issues, 1789-1995; The Constitutional Convention of 1787; Great American Lawyers; Great American Judges, and Essential Supreme Court Decisions among others.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Revolution and the Articles of Confederation Set the Stage
The Colonial Background • The Developing Split with England • The Declaration of Independence • Developments in the States • The Articles of Confederation • The Confluence of State and National Influences • The Annapolis Convention • Shay’s Rebellion • The Stage is Set

Chapter 2: The Convention Begins and Randolph Introduces the Virginia Plan
Delegates Assemble • A Collective Portrait of the Delegates • Delegations from the Eastern (Northern, or New England) States • Delegations from the Middle States • Delegations from the Southern States • Selecting Officers and Recording Debates • Rules of the Convention • Randolph Introduces the Virginia Plan • Clarifying What the Virginia Plan Was Proposing to do • Discussion of the Proposed Congress • Discussion of the Proposed Executive • Discussions of the Proposed Judiciary and Related Matters • Further Discussions of the Proposed Legislature Wax Philosophical • Discussion of the Proposed Council of Revision • Discussion of the Proposed Second House • Discussion of the Proposed Congressional Negative of State Laws • Choosing the Executive • Apportioning Congress: A Preview of Things to Come • The End of the Beginning • Report of the Committee of the Whole

Chapter 3: Paterson and Hamilton Offer Alternative Plans
Introduction of the New Jersey Plan • The Initial Defense of the New Jersey Plan • Further Discussion of the New Jersey Plan • Alexander Hamilton Speaks • Hamilton’s Plan • Reception of Hamilton’s Proposals • Madison’s Speech

Chapter 4: Delegates Debate the Report of the Committee of the Whole
Renewed Discussion of the Report of the Committee of the Whole • Bicameralism and Federalism • Terms of the First House • Congressional Pay • Minimum Age for Members of the First House • Concerns Over a Revolving Door • Charles Pinckney’s Speech • Discussion of the Second House • Terms of Senators • Franklin Suggest Prayer • Further Discussion of State Representation in Congress • Gunning Bedford’s Bombshell • A Committee Tries Its Hand at Compromise • Discussion of Committee Proposals • Creation of a Committee on Original Apportionment of Congress • Further Discussion of Congress • Report of the Committee on Original Apportionment of Congress • The Convention Creates Another Committee to Reconsider Original Apportionment • Counting Slaves by Fractions • The Great Compromise

Chapter 5: From the Great Compromise to the Committee of Detail
The Convention Rejects the Proposed Congressional Negative of State Laws • Selection of the Executive • Executive Term Lengths • Discussion of the Judiciary • Guaranteeing State Governments • Renewed Discussion of the Executive • Impeachment • The Council of Revision • Judicial Selection • Oaths • Ratification of the Constitution • Representation in the Senate • Legislative Selection of the Executive Reconsidered • Executive Re-eligibility and Term Lengths • Property and Anti-Debtor Qualifications for Legislators • Location of the Capital

Chapter 6: Debates Over Report of the Committee of Detail
Principles Applied by the Committee of Detail • An Outline of the Report from the Committee of Detail • Provisions Relative to Congress • Congressional Meeting Times • Voting Qualifications • Qualifications for the House of Representatives • Slavery and Related Issues • Filling Senatorial Vacancies • Durational Citizenship Requirements • Congressional Oversight of Federal Elections • Property Qualifications for Members of Congress • Quorums and Other Congressional Matters • Years of Citizenship for Members of the First House • The Origination of Money Bills • Eligibility of Members of Congress to Other Jobs • Pay for Members of Congress • Council of Revision and Veto Powers • Congressional Powers • First Report from the Committee on State Debts and Militia • Importation and Taxation of Slaves • Protections for Civil Liberties • Governing the Militia and Negating State Laws • Treaties • The Executive Branch • Importation and Taxation of Slaves Reconsidered • Treaties Reconsidered • Pardons and Militia • Judicial Powers • Prohibitions on the States • Supermajorities and Commercial Regulations • The Admission of New States •
State Ratification of the Constitution • More Committees • Report by the Committee on Postponed Matters • Further Proposals and Debates Relative to the Committee on Postponed Matters • Constitutional Amendments and Their Ratification

Chapter 7: Wrapping Up Business, Signing, and Ratifying
Congressional Majorities Needed to Override an Executive Veto • Proposals for a Bill of Rights • Tinkering with the Constitution from the Committee of Style and Arrangement • Reservations About the Document • The Signing of the Constitution • Outline of the Constitution • Ratification of the Constitution • Federalists and Antifederalists • State Conventions Meet • Adoption of the Bill of Rights • The Post-Civil War Amendments • The Importance of the Convention and Its Aftermath

Selected Bibliography

Selected Documents
The Declaration of Independence • The Articles of Confederation • The Constitution of the United States • The Virginia Plan • The New Jersey Plan • Federalist No. 10


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