Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, by Pauline Maier ($12.91)

Discussion by Steve Clemons.

Amazon:

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history. –Gilbert Taylor –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Ratificationis a gripping and eye-opening read. Maier is a member of that rare breed of historians who write vividly and with a flair for depicting dramatic events.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Delightful and engrossing.”

—Richard Brookhiser, The New York Times Book Review

“Magisterial . . . it is unlikely that anyone will duplicate what Maier has done.”

—Gordon Wood, The New Republic

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