Brilliant Solution

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-10-01
  • Publisher: Mariner Books

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We know--and love--the story of the American Revolution, from the Declaration of Independence to Cornwallis's defeat. But the Articles of Confederation, our first government, was a disaster. This crisis caused a group of men to journey to Philadelphia in 1787 to create a lasting and more stable government. The lawyers and politicians, some famous and others just ordinary men, had no great expectations for the document they were fashioning. Somehow, in the amalgam of ideas, argument, and compromise, a great thing happened: A constitution and a form of government were created that have served us well. Carol Berkin tells the story of that amazing summer in Philadelphia, and makes you feel as if you were there, listening to the arguments, getting to know the framers, and appreciating the difficult and critical decisions being made. Retelling a story that is more hallowed than understood, Berkin brings us into the world of eighteenth-century America and shows us the human side of a great accomplishment.

Author Biography

Carol Berkin is a professor of American history and deputy executive officer in the history Ph.D. program at the City University of New York and Baruch College.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
The Call for a Conventionp. 11
Making Mr. Madison Waitp. 30
A Gathering of Demigodsp. 48
The Perils of Powerp. 68
Schisms, Threats, and Compromisesp. 96
Debating the Presidency Once Againp. 116
The Convention Endsp. 149
The Battle for Ratificationp. 169
The Inauguration of President George Washingtonp. 191
Epiloguep. 205
The Delegates to the Constitutional Conventionp. 211
The Articles of Confederationp. 262
The United States Constitutionp. 277
A Note on Sourcesp. 298
Acknowledgmentsp. 301
Indexp. 303
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.


CHAPTER ONEThe Call for a Convention"Our present federal government is a name, a shadow"THE YEAR WAS 1786. It was the tenth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the third year of life in a new nation, but political leaders everywhere feared there was little cause to celebrate. Dark clouds and a suffocating gloom seemed to have settled over the country, and these men understood that something had gone terribly wrong. From his plantation in Virginia, George Washington lamented the steady stream of diplomatic humiliations suffered by the young Republic. Fellow Virginian James Madison talked gravely of mortal diseases afflicting the confederacy. In New Jersey William Livingston confided to a friend his doubt that the Republic could survive another decade. From Massachusetts the bookseller turned Revolutionary strategist, Henry Knox, declared, "Our present federal government is a name, a shadow, without power, or effect." And feisty, outspoken John Adams, serving as the American minister to Great Britain, observed his nation's circumstances with more than his usual pessimism. The United States, he declared, was doing more harm to itself than the British army had ever done. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Monroe, Robert Morris-in short, men from every state-agreed that a serious crisis had settled upon the nation. The question was could they do anything to save their country?It seemed like only yesterday that these same men, along with Americans everywhere, had greeted the future brightly. In 1783 Americans had looked forward confidently to reaping the benefits of independence. British political oppression, with its threat to natural rights and traditional liberties, had come to an end, and with it the challenge to America's most dearly held principle, "No taxation without representation." In every colony turned state, lawmaking was safely in the hands of a representative assembly, and a guarantee of citizens' rights was written into most state constitutions. British economic oppression had ended as well. Free from the restraints imposed by British navigation, or trade, laws, American shippers, farmers, and planters looked forward to selling tobacco and wheat directly to foreign nations, and entrepreneurs looked forward to manufacturing finished products for sale to markets abroad. New Englanders were equally optimistic, for John Adams's dogged persistence had won them the right to fish the outer banks of Newfoundland. Independence also meant that the rich farmlands west of the Appalachians were at last open to settlement, good news for ordinary farmers and perhaps even better news for major speculators like George Washington, the Lees of Virginia, and even Benjamin Franklin, who owned shares in large land companies.Unfortunately, each of these blessings soon proved to have a darker side. True, the restrictions and injustices suffered in the colonial era had been eliminated but so, too, had many of the advantages of membersh

Excerpted from A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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