The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention

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9780810888647: The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention

Few events in the history of the United States were of greater consequence than the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Although most histories have focused on the issues and compromises that dominated the debates, the exchanges were also shaped by the dynamic personalities of the fifty-five delegates who attended from twelve of the thirteen states.

In The Men Who Made the Constitution, constitutional scholar John R. Vile explores the lives and contributions of all delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, including those who left before the Convention ended and those who stayed until the last day but refused to sign. Each biography records the delegate’s birth, education, previous positions or public service roles, homes, family life, life after the Convention, death, and resting place. Drawing directly from Convention debates and a vast array of secondary sources, Vile covers the positions of each delegate at the Convention on both major and minor issues and describes his service on committees and afterward at state ratification conventions.

The Men Who Made the Constitution includes a bibliography of key sources, engravings of delegates for whom portraits were created, a quiz on key facts, and a transcript of the Constitution of the United States. This work is the perfect reference for students and scholars, as well as professional and amateur historians, of colonial and early American history, constitutional law, and American jurisprudence.

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About the Author:

John R. Vile is professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University, and he is the author and editor of dozens of books on the U.S. Constitution and related matters including The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America’s Founding, The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment, The Encyclopedia of the Fourth Amendment, and The Writing and Ratification of the U.S. Constitution: Practical Virtue in Action.

Review:

Vile previously wrote The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding (2005). He uses the biographical sketches in that encyclopedia as the basis for essays in this new work about the 55 men who served as delegates to the Constitutional Convention–whether or not they signed the document on September 17, 1787. Vile adds biographical information and detailed descriptions of each delegate's documented actions and opinions on the issues debated in the convention. He emphasizes delegates' views on the role and powers of Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary, and also federalism, a standing army, compromise plans related to federal-state powers, slavery, and individual rights. The alphabetically arranged essays include 'further reading' suggestions. Among his sources, Vile relies heavily on Max Farrand's edited The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, a key compilation of documents, notes, and proceedings of the convention written by James Madison. He does not provide much interpretation or evaluation concerning delegates' influence, but instead offers a unique, descriptive guide to their convention participation and sources for further study. A glossary, quiz, and the text of the Constitution conclude the work. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers. (CHOICE)

Not only [does this book] provide valuable insights about the men—they were all men—who made the Constitution, but it also help[s] us understand that political disagreement was the midwife who delivered our Republic. As a kind of companion volume to his The Constitutional Convention 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of American’s Founding (see ARBA 2006, entry 446), Vile regales us with more of his encyclopedic knowledge and lucubration in this volume about the delegates who debated our founding and signed, or refused to sign, the final draft. The arrangement is simple. Following a 20-page informative introduction about the conditions that provided the setting for this famous historical moment, the delegates are listed alphabetically. The entries are uniform as to content but the length varies with respect to the individual’s importance at the debate. Thus, while most entries are 3-5 pages in length, Hamilton’s runs 10 pages, Gerry’s (of Massachusetts) runs 15. Gerry, by the way, refused to not sign (one of three) although he had already signed both the Declaration and the Articles. The content of each entry is also uniform: biographical sketch, life in congress, life after the convention, and a brief 'further reading' bibliography. The introduction alone is worth reading, but the entries, too, are most entertaining and illuminating. Brief excursions in this tome will reward readers with not only valuable information about our country’s founding document, but also a better grasp about how debate was once really a contact sport. (American Reference Books Annual)

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