Richard Beeman…offers a scholarly yet lively account of the Constitutional Convention that emphasizes the craftiness and craftsmanship that went into each of the compromises. This saga has been often told, most recently in David O. Stewart's novelistic narrative The Summer of 1787, but Beeman's work is distinguished by a gently judicious tone that allows us to appreciate, and draw some lessons from, the delicate balances that emerged out of that passion-filled Philadelphia crucible.
The New York Times
A day-by-day account of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia can't yield up much drama or fireworks, or even much sparkling talk, at least as recorded by a few participants, especially James Madison. But in this masterful account, Beeman (Patrick Henry), a noted historian of the late 18th century, does his best to dramatize the writing of the American Constitution. As the convention's hot summer weeks rolled on, tensions built, agreements were reached and compromises (especially, alas, about slavery) were made. Beeman gives each decision, each vote, the weight it deserves and, in brief sketches, brings the delegates alive. The result may not be an exciting story, but, after all, it concerns the writing of the world's longest-lived written national constitution. It's also a story freighted with world-historical significance-and one as well told here as can be imagined. This account is now the most authoritative, up-to-date treatment of the Constitutional Convention since Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia over 40 years ago. It's unlikely to be surpassed. Illus., map. (Mar. 17)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Beeman (history, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth Century America) here again delves deeply into the tumultuous world of 18th-century politics, constructing a work of first-rate scholarship. Not since Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia(1966) has there been such a superb, comprehensive account of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Beeman's lucid prose takes readers beyond the modern mythical perceptions of the founders and into a turbulent world of fierce backroom debates and deal making. Through excellent use of available primary and secondary sources, Beeman skillfully traces the debates over representation in Congress, the powers of the executive, and the lamentable compromises over slavery. While avoiding the usually controversial issues such as economic motives, as examined in Woody Holton's Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution and original intent, as in Jack Rakove's Original Meanings, Beeman provides readers with an understanding of just how fragile the consensus emerging from Philadelphia really was. Those seeking a more concise treatment of the convention should try David Stewart's Summer of 1787, but Beeman is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
A judicious history of "one of the most important gatherings in modern history."Talk of "demigods" and "miracles" surely flatters the Framers and their posterity, but it fails meaningfully to explain what transpired in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. Beeman (History/Univ. of Pennsylvania; The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, 2004, etc.) eschews the heroic version of the story in favor of a hard-eyed narrative that in no way diminishes the Framers' achievement. He efficiently establishes the historical context-the shadow of Shays Rebellion, a Congress unable to raise money to pay the nation's debts-in which the delegates met for the limited purpose of considering changes to the Articles of Confederation. The thumbnail sketches of the delegates-including the bombastic Luther Martin, the imperious Gouverneur Morris, the learned James Wilson, the strange Roger Sherman, the even stranger Elbridge Gerry and many others-usefully illustrate the degree to which individual personalities and backgrounds shaped the result. Principally, however, Beeman concentrates on the business of the convention. In a motion-by-motion, day-by-day, debate-by-debate fashion, he re-creates the hard bargaining over issues, including proportional versus equal representation; the nature of the presidency; the composition of the electoral college; divided sovereignty between the states and the federal government; and even the seemingly simple matter of the creation of a federal district, which some delegates feared would become a "sanctuary of the blackest crimes." In demythologizing the event-he criticizes the sainted Madison, and he gently upbraids the delegates for their moralobtuseness over slavery and for their refusal to concede the need for a Bill of Rights-Beeman also effectively evokes the sheer drudgery of it all, the weariness and tedium that threatened to overwhelm those who toiled though that humid Philadelphia summer. Masterfully told American history for the scholar and general reader alike. Author tour to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. Agent: John Wright/John Wright Literary Associates
"In sprightly, engaging prose and with a sure, steady scholarly hand, Rick Beeman has given us a vivid account of the most vital chapter of our early history: the making of the Constitution. This is a terrific book."—Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
"Beeman eschews the heroic version of the story in favor of a hard-eyed narrative that in no way diminishes the Framers' achievement. . . . In a motion-by-motion, day-by-day, debate-by-debate fashion, he re-creates the [delegates'] hard bargaining. . . . Masterfully told American history for the scholar and general reader alike."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"While some have boasted it as a work from Heaven, others have given it a less righteous origin. I have many reasons to believe that it is the work of plain, honest men."—Gouverneur Morris
"Authoritative and readable . . . Beeman's work is distiguished by a gently judicious tone that allows us to appreciate, and draw some lessons from, the delicate balances that emerged out of that passion-filled Philadelphia crucible." —Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review
"The fullest and most authoritative account of the Constitutional Convention ever written." – Gordon S. Wood, author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution
"Engrossing . . . This minute-by-minute account introduces us to a world, and time, where everything was at stake."—Chicago Tribune, editor's choice
"A stunning achievement . . . easily the best and most comprehensive treatment of its subject ever written."—Weekly Standard