From Publishers Weekly
In 1787, the fledgling American nation was in the throes of a serious economic depression, at least partly because the Articles of Confederation were too weak to make a stable republic. At the initiative of 36-year-old Virginian James Madison, delegates convened in Philadelphia that year to draft the much stronger U.S. Constitution. This book tells the convention's turbulent story in Madison's own words, drawn from the notes he took at the scene and giving us a daily blow-by-blow. Along the way, modern readers begin to understand just how much of the government's role was up for grabs. Should the executive be a single person, or was that too much like a monarchy? Would all members of Congress be elected by the people—a potentially dangerous and anarchic proposition—or would senators be appointed by the state legislatures? How would slaves be counted for government representation? Larson (a professor of history and law at the University of Georgia) and Winship (a professor of English at the University of Texas–Austin) steer readers through the fierce debates with helpful explanations and editorial asides, as well as a cogent epilogue, making this primary source far more than a tidy civics lesson. (On sale Nov. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
James Madison's record of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 has circulated since 1840 in various forms; this volume claims to be the "first abridged and annotated" edition. Addressing modern readers likely to become disoriented in the parliamentary thicket of the unexpurgated version, Larson and Winship distill the most salient differences that emerged in the convention--the representation of states in the national legislature, the form of the executive branch, and the status of slavery. The text thereby linked becomes more dramatic than the delegates' dry discussion of enumerated powers, as when at a contentious moment Benjamin Franklin unsuccessfully moved that the convention hire a minister to offer prayers. Delegates preferred nondivine assistance in their arguments, citing the history of republics, liberty's relation to human nature, or various parochial interests. Bringing forth the flow of deliberations around particular words, which regularly ignited strenuous debate, on slavery in particular, the editors instill both an understanding for the Constitution's underlying compromises and an appreciation for what a vital document Madison's record is. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved