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Reviews of The Summer of 1787 by David Stewart

The Summer of 1787

The Men Who Invented the Constitution

by David O. Stewart

The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart X
The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2008, 368 pages

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Book Summary

The successful creation of the Constitution is a suspense story. The Summer of 1787 takes us into the sweltering room in which delegates struggled for four months to produce the flawed but enduring document that would define the nation -- then and now.

George Washington presided, James Madison kept the notes, Benjamin Franklin offered wisdom and humor at crucial times. The Summer of 1787 traces the struggles within the Philadelphia Convention as the delegates hammered out the charter for the world's first constitutional democracy. Relying on the words of the delegates themselves to explore the Convention's sharp conflicts and hard bargaining, David O. Stewart lays out the passions and contradictions of the often painful process of writing the Constitution.

It was a desperate balancing act. Revolutionary principles required that the people have power, but could the people be trusted? Would a stronger central government leave room for the states? Would the small states accept a Congress in which seats were alloted according to population rather than to each sovereign state? And what of slavery? The supercharged debates over America's original sin led to the most creative and most disappointing political deals of the Convention.

The room was crowded with colorful and passionate characters, some known -- Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Edmund Randolph -- and others largely forgotten. At different points during that sultry summer, more than half of the delegates threatened to walk out, and some actually did, but Washington's quiet leadership and the delegates' inspired compromises held the Convention together.

In a country continually arguing over the document's original intent, it is fascinating to watch these powerful characters struggle toward consensus -- often reluctantly -- to write a flawed but living and breathing document that could evolve with the nation.

Chapter Four

Demigods and Coxcombs Assemble
MAY 1787

James Madison reached Philadelphia on May 3, ten whole days before any other delegate (except for the ones who lived there), and eleven days before the Convention was scheduled to begin. His early arrival reflected both his eagerness and his lifelong habit of exacting preparation. Always gentle with his health when he could be, the Virginian gave himself ample time to recover from the grinding stagecoach ride from New York, where he had been representing Virginia in the Confederation Congress.

Although Philadelphia was the nation's largest city, home to about 40,000 people, lodging was at a premium. In addition to the Federal Convention (as it was called), the city was hosting a gathering of Presbyterian ministers from around the country. Also in town was the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of Continental Army officers that some feared as a political force. The Pennsylvania Herald took pride in the ...

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Reviews

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Like James L Swanson's Manhunt, Stewart's emphasis is on the day to day narrative, not on analysis. He covers the Constitutional Convention in chronological order, grouping particular events and stages into individual chapters. What clearly comes across is the enormity of the task faced by 55 men of diverse opinion and ability to find common ground for 13 states, each with their own vested interests, already established in the flawed Articles of Confederation. We see the tensions and difficult compromises, such as slavery and the three-fifths rule; the acute minds offering clarity, but also the more obtuse or just plain belligerent countering with confusion...continued

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Media Reviews

New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
[D]oes not shed a lot of new light on that momentous process. David O. Stewart, a lawyer specializing in constitutional law cases, has written a narrative that is far more descriptive than analytic .... given the many constitutional issues being debated today the reader often wishes that the author had used his expertise to illuminate the origin and significance of key passages in the Constitution .... Still, Mr. Stewart has done a nimble job of retelling a familiar story ...

Library Journal
Stewart ably describes the political and economic challenges of forming a new nation, exploring how particular individuals created strategies to allow states to put aside their parochial interests and form a national government that would respect the rights of citizens. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Stewart's excellent book will appeal to those looking for descriptive history at its best, not for a fresh take on the subject.

Booklist - Jay Freeman
In Stewart's view, the true genius of these founders was their understanding that free, popular government must be based upon compromise. General readers will find this work stimulating.

Kirkus Reviews
A careful account of how the Founders fashioned America's central document....[a] highly readable narrative.

Author Blurb Patricia O'Toole, author of When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House and The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends
At a time that feels to many like the twilight of the Republic, it is heartening to go back to the dawn and watch the authors of the Constitution struggle to create a democracy that would endure. In The Summer of 1787, David O. Stewart re-creates this moment with fidelity, great feeling, and insight. His book renews our appreciation of one of the masterpieces of Western civilization and reminds us, as Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention, that it was one thing to found a republic -- and quite another to keep it.

Author Blurb Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin and Einstein
Crafting the Constitution was one of the most amazing collaborations in human history. David O. Stewart's book is both a gripping narrative on how it was done and a useful guide to how we should.

Reader Reviews

Edward Kimmel

Opportunity to talk to your children
This was a great story book. We read it to our children (ages 11 and 12). What a story! What a learning experience! What an opportunity to talk to you kids about why America is who it is! It is not a book you would just ask your kids to read;...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

David O'Stewart has been a trial lawyer for twenty-five years. He began writing before law school as a reporter for the Staten Island Advance. He also wrote a monthly column on the Supreme Court for the American Bar Association Journal for almost ten years. In recent years he has turned to fiction, publishing a short story, When They Did It, in New Millennium Writings that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He has recently completed a novel, as yet unpublished, and is working on a follow-up to ...

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