Monday, May 19, 2008

The Summer of 1787

This was a fascinating book about the writing of the US Constitution. I learned a lot. You never think about the amount of compromise that has to go into a document like the Constitution. This book dwelt particularly on the compromises on slavery. I don't know if it was as important an issue as the author made it out to be. Sometimes the book had the feel of something the author wanted to emphasize so he looked for all of the references to this one thing.
The process itself was so influenced by the personalities involved. The author gave each person a little biographical section at a time when that person became important in the debate. I now need to find a copy of The Federalist Papers. These are essays that John Adams wrote in support of the Constitution while the states were voting on ratification.
The thing that was most interesting to me was the role that Ben Franklin played in the proceedings. He was one of Pennsylvania's delegates, though he wasn't able to attend much because of his health. But when he was there he was always able to calm tempers, turn an unfruitful debate or propose something so outrageous that the delegate got back on track. He sacrificed some ideas he wanted to smooth the path of conciliation. He stated he didn't much care what was in the Constitution as long as there was a Constitution. I don't think that many people can be that clear about their goals, knowing which things to sacrifice for the whole.

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. David O. Stewart. Simon & Schuster. 2007


Jeanette said...

This sounds interesting. I took a class in college about the constitution and we spent several weeks studying the convention and the process of the states accepting the constitution. I will have to check this book out.

jendoop said...

It does sound like a great book, DH would enjoy it.
A few months ago we went to Constitution Hall the guide pointed out a specific chair seated at the head position in the room. It was one of the few pieces of original furniture and had a sunburst pattern on the back of the chair. It is said that Ben Franklin saw that design and wondered if it was a setting sun or rising sun and how that was a symbol of the new republic they were trying to create. Neat imagery.