Excerpt from The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Summer of 1787

The Men Who Invented the Constitution

by David O. Stewart

The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2008, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Wilson won election to the Continental Congress in 1775. He was learned and hardworking, and his law practice flourished. He won Pennsylvania's land dispute with Connecticut and represented the king of France in America. He helped organize the Bank of North America in 1781, then defended the bank against populist attacks. As a member of the Confederation Congress in the 1780s, he unsuccessfully tried to strengthen its power to tax and command state militias. With Washington and some other delegates, he shared a weakness -- more like a fever in Wilson's case -- for speculation in frontier lands. For Wilson, the fever would prove fatal.

Tall, well dressed, and solidly built, his auburn hair fashionably powdered, Wilson radiated a lowering intensity while inspiring little affection. Speaking often in favor of a stronger central government, he led (in the words of one delegate) "not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning." His accent and formal deportment brought him the mocking nickname "James de Caledonia." One lawyer described Wilson's voice as "powerful, though not melodious; his cadences judiciously though somewhat artificially regulated," while "his manner was rather imposing than persuasive."

An early biographer recorded that his features "were far from disagreeable; and they sometimes bore the appearance of sternness, owing to his extreme nearness of sight." He peered through thick spectacles, one contemporary noted, "like a surveyor through a compass." Another said the Scot's "lofty carriage" was adopted to prevent his eyewear from sliding off his nose.

No one questioned Wilson's toughness. In 1778, he tenaciously defended two Quakers against charges of complicity with the British. The lingering effects of that controversy, along with his opposition to price controls, made him a target of militiamen disgruntled over the sacrifices they made while others profiteered. Rather than flee from a militia parade in 1779, Wilson and some allies barricaded themselves in his house. From what became known as "Fort Wilson," they engaged in a musket battle -- indeed, some think the gentlemen inside the house started the shooting -- that cost the lives of four soldiers and two of Fort Wilson's defenders.

Where Wilson was determined and disciplined, Gouverneur Morris (no relation to Robert Morris) was all flamboyance and talent. Called "Tall Boy" by some, Morris at thirty-five rivaled Washington in height and bearing, and was valued by hostesses as a bachelor and a charming raconteur. A female admirer reported that during a three-day wedding party, Morris "kept us in a continual smile (I dare not say laughter for all the world but you may admit it in the back room)." Happy to share his opinions on any subject, Morris suffered fools not at all. A Frenchman in 1782 found Morris "to possess the most spirit and nerve amongst those I met at Philadelphia," but predicted "that his superiority, which he has taken no pains to conceal, will prevent his ever occupying an important place."

Morris's magnetic presence was made more dramatic by the oaken peg leg below his left knee. Seven years earlier, he had lost the lower part of the leg in a carriage accident just a few blocks from the State House. Owing to his rakish reputation, many assumed the injury occurred in flight from a jealous husband. Contemporaries suggested that the loss in no way reduced his appeal to women.

Morris's ebullience permeates the tale (possibly apocryphal) of his assurance to Hamilton that the great Washington was not so austere as often thought. Hamilton, the story goes, proposed that Morris prove his point by delivering a matey slap to the General's back at an impending social occasion. Morris duly administered the casual greeting, which moved the General's customary reserve from cool to arctic, to Hamilton's delight and Morris's instant dismay.

Copyright © 2007 by David O. Stewart

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Salt Houses
    Salt Houses
    by Hala Alyan
    Salt Houses is the story of a Palestinian family living in Nablus; it begins on the eve of the ...
  • Book Jacket: The End of Eddy
    The End of Eddy
    by Edouard Louis
    The End of Eddy has been a publishing phenomenon in Édouard Louis' native France, where it...
  • Book Jacket: If We Were Villains
    If We Were Villains
    by M L. Rio
    22 out of 28 of our reviewers rated If We Were Villains four or five stars, giving it an overall ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Extraordinary Adventures
    by Daniel Wallace

    A large-hearted and optimistic novel that is witty, winsome, and wise.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a library, we've changed their lives ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's A S B Every M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -