WITNESSES AT THE CREATION: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution by Richard B. Morris

WITNESSES AT THE CREATION: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For those who think there was no action between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, highly readable proof that they're wrong. Witnesses at the Creation looks at the indoor battlegrounds--the post-revolutionary struggles of the Confederation through the constitutional and state ratifying conventions as they intersected the careers of three of the most influential men of the period--outspoken but brilliant Alexander Hamilton, polished and diplomatic John Jay, and scholarly James Madison, co-authors of the influential Federalist. Not much gossip or popular biography here (although Hamilton's somewhat scandalous beginnings in the West Indies provide some highlights in that vein early on). The real interest is in the politicking: to achieve a lasting peace with England (Morris is at his best describing Jay's diplomatic frustrations and triumphs in Spain and France), to cope with economic depression and the studied indifference of a still unfriendly Europe, and finally, to forge a viable system of government. Morris maintains the right blend of social and political storytelling so that the reader never loses sight of either the actual life of the time or the political trends that grew out of them, and he gives a clear picture of the many interests that had to be served not only in the early days of the republic, but through the Civil War. Designed as an illustrated companion volume to a forthcoming TV series, occasional annoying voice-overs come through (""One can imagine a typical review of current cases conducted by Hamilton"" or ""One could imagine [Sally Jay] holding up a glass and proposing. . .""), but for the most part the facts are thematically organized and permitted to speak, often eloquently, for themselves.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston