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|The book I reviewed was 1787: The Grand Convention by Clinton Rossiter. In it
he Breaks down before during and after the convention into four parts: The
Setting, The Men, The Event, and The Consequences. In the Beginning Mr. Rossiter
sets up for us a country that was going trough sever growing pains was without
some serious help would not become the world power that it is today. The
congressional form of common government that was formed during the Articles of
Confederation, though not a failure, where not a success either. In order to
finish what had begun with the revolution the great minds and characters of that
time must band together and set aside the many differences they had in order to
become one powerful government instead of a band of bickering siblings. Although
Mr. Rossiter states that they did not come to Philadelphia because they all
agreed they wanted to form a new structure for they government, they did feel
that something had to be done or else the country that they fought so hard for
to become free, would fail.
Set up for the readers also were the wonderful and easy to understand breakup of all the men who were going to the convention. All of which were well-to-do men with businesses, prior political experience, and degrees from various University’s from all over the New World. As going over the names and descriptions of the Framers of the Constitution we are forced to agree with the author and others as well who say this group is the crème de la crème of the political business and military world like Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Franklin. I must also admit though that those names were the only ones I had heard and recognized. What this book is good for it to fill in many of the spots that were missing in High School and Elementary school classes. The people who are only given 1 paragraph or a few sentences in to describe their personalities come to life in this book. For which we all must applaud Mr. Rossiter for being able to piece this pivotal moment in our history so well from notes and letters taken from the great men of this era.
By far the most important part of this book was the description of the event itself that went on for many months from May 14th to September 17th. We are thrown into the center of these decisive few months where we can see how these different personalities were able to work together. To people who are reading this book as their first real insight into the Convention of 1787 like I was would be very surprised to know that they truly did not like each other and were their only to get their own points across and were really not prepared at first to listen to compromise. The section with the convention really did a fantastic job in showing just how hard some people wanted to work for the constitution and how little others did, and how some went just to cause trouble. It really did a good job to show that these men were far from the demigods that political scientists and most school books made them out to be. Or it could just very well just be what usually happens then someone dies. You always mention the good things but never the bad. For instance, if you ask someone whose live is researching Edmund Randolph’s career in politcs might online mention that he made some phenomenal contributions to the constitution but only with a little prodding with mention that he was one of only three people who did not sign the final draft before it went of for ratification.
One thing that I found especially interesting was that when the constitution was supposed to begin very few people were on time. Which was when I began to realize that people no matter what the might say when everything was said and done, though they did not find this meeting to be a waste of time did not see what this could accomplish. Some were just happy to make a couple of small changed to the Articles of Confederation while others wanted to start from scratch.
Also was the fact that Hamilton was there for such a small percentage of the actual convention, I remember learning a few years back that he was a major member in getting everyone together, so I just assumed that he was also there for almost every day of it like Madison and Washington, but from what I could ascertain from the book, it looks like he was there for only about 10% of it. And as Mr. Rossiter said, he was by far the biggest disappointment out of everyone who attended the convention.
Something that still amazes me is how the attendance rate was so small for the conventions and how Rhode Island did not even show up. It really makes you have to wonder how a nation what had such distrust for each other during that late 1700’s into the civil war can be so strong and united in this day and age. The only thing I can think of that would allow people right Rhode Island to be forgiven in their lack of interest in the Constitution was that they were there for the struggle during the Revolutionary War.
The last thing that I learned was how after they created the constitution and it was ratified was how most of them died with serious debt. Which once again simply proves that these men were not the invincible people that history has made them out to be. They all did not have perfect attendance; they did not have so much money so that they could buy all the land they wanted. Most of them showed up once in a while and in the case of William Patterson after he recommended the New Jersey plan he rarely showed up. And in the case of James Wilson, he died in jail because of problems he was having with his creditors.
I would recommend this book to be read by students who want to learn about the truth of the constitution, rather than the Mickey Mouse version that we are fed as young children. We can learn about how the only reason we know so much about the Convention was because of the notes of Madison and how despite what we were taught before the convention did not go smoothly and in numerous cases was stopped in its tracts. Mr. Rossiter is able to keep your attention by giving you just enough quotes sprinkled into the heaps of info so that u do not feel like there is just too much to absorb. The one problem I had with the book was that at times it seemed all I was reading were last names of people whom, though important, made the reading slow and tedious.