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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.