Monday, May 12, 2008

The Summer of 1787

I HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT OF HISTORY as a riveting story, not as a dry recitation of dates and facts. The story of how the U. S. Constitution was written is one such story and it is marvelously told by David O. Steward’s The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution.

From fishing rights on the Potomac River to Shays’ Rebellion, Steward tells the fascinating story of the events leading up to what we now call the Constitutional Convention and the dramatic interplay among men of diverse backgrounds whose work in Philadelphia laid the bedrock that our nation was built upon.

School children are taught only the bare bones of what happened in Independence Hall that long summer of 1787. Steward, however, paints a much fuller portrait of what transpired. The Summer of 1787 tells the story of men, some great, some not, who argued the meaning and purpose of government and in doing so took on the great political and cultural questions of the day. Men, who only years earlier had declared that all men were created equal, now wrestled with the question of slavery and representation in Congress, as well as other issues that would tear them apart. It was not an easy task and in the end they did not all agree.

Many students tend to think that because the Founding Fathers were all united in their desire for independence, they were also united in the shape and direction of the new nation should take. Nothing could be further from reality, and Stewart delves into the character of the men and issues that met in that convention hall to tell a gripping, fast-paced, and well researched story of the birth of the nation.

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