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Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788
Paperback: $30.00
608 pages
ISBN: 9780684868547
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
List Price: $30.00
Price: $18.00
You Save: $12.00 (40%)
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By Pauling Maier

When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was a reason to doubt whether that would happen. Some Americans denounced the constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July.

Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper storied advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and countries across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation.

Although many books have been written about the Constitutional convention, this is the first major history of ratification. It draws on a vast new collection of documents and tells the story with masterful attention to detail in a dynamic narrative. Each state’s experience was different, and Maier gives each its due even as she focuses on the four critical states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, whose approval of the constitution was crucial to its success.

The hundreds of delegates to the ratifying conventions took their responsibility seriously, and their careful inspection of the Constitution can tell us much today about a document whose meaning continues to be subject to interpretation.