THE GREAT REHEARSAL by Carl Van Doren
Kirkus Star

THE GREAT REHEARSAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Once again, Carl Van Doren has presented one facet of our history with such an intimate quality of an inside seat at proceedings, that he makes what might have been heavy going, wonderful entertainment and sound history as well. This might almost be compared to Byrnes' Speaking Frankly in its revealing record of another conference, vital to our history -- the Constitutional Convention, here called by its proper name, the Federal Convention summoned to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead of revision, the statesmen and patriots and leaders of the infant republic determined on a new constitution. They sat behind closed doors (and the intensity of feeling about secrecy of procedure has recurrent today). They not as a peaceful, wise, all-knowing group, pictured today when we think of the fathers of our country"", but as human beings, with their pettinesses their frailties, their emotions, their passions, their sectionalism. He realize the slender thread by which a nation was created -- a nation rather than a loose federation of sovereign states. We follow the passage at arms attendant on questions of representation, election, relative powers, term of office. We see the fear of tyranny vying with the fear of anarchy. We glimpse the half-comprehended realization that the new country would grow to the west- the dominance of the Atlantic seaboard imperilled. We find recurrent reference to slave trade, slave representation, slaves as property (not to be counted in population) and slaves as human beings (to swell the numbers on which representation would be based). Finances- taxes- coinage- foreign relations --the judiciary -- things we have come to accept as having been from the start, hewn out of men's minds. We accept the inevitability of compromises (proved sound by time), as the Virginia Plan was attacked, the New Jersey Plan presented in opposition, the Connecticut Plan offered to balance the difficulties. And throughout, the personalties come to life,-Washington, grave, aware of his probable role, modest; Franklin, wise in his philosophical approach, Randolph, Hamilton, Mason, and many others -- in human guise, fearful for the country they had brought into being. During the period when the new constitution met the test in state after state- the contributing factors- the securing of the necessary nine and the scramble of the others to follow- and the safety device of the Bill of Rights -- all give one pause in surveying today's problems of an international modus vivendi, offering so many not dissimilar problems....Not a book for candidacy to best seller lists, but a book you can recommend unreservedly to every thoughtful reader who is interested in American history, past and present. Documents in Appendix.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1947
ISBN: 1406725757
Publisher: Viking