A MORE PERFECT UNION: The Men and Events That Made the Constitution by William Peters

A MORE PERFECT UNION: The Men and Events That Made the Constitution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A straightforward, detailed account of the day-to-day proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This is the year of the Constitution, and everybody is approaching it from a different angle. Peters, director of Yale University Films and the author of A Class Divided and other non fiction works, has chosen ""to tell the story of the 1787 convention chronologically, as a narrative of the men who attended it, as they themselves experienced it."" As one might expect, the book is a distillation of a great deal more material, most of which Peters has culled from Max Ferrand's four-volume Records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, originally published in 1911. His distillation has been performed diligently and intelligently, and the result, connecting the great subjects of debate to the very human characters who debated them, is both readable and illuminating. The well-known conflicts over slavery, the small states vs. the large, the states vs. the Federal government become differences of opinion between specific individuals with specific interests, and the reader can't help but get caught up in the heady high-mindedness of it all. ""l had myself prejudices against the Eastern states before I came here,"" admitted Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, during a debate on the regulation of commerce. ""But I will acknowledge that I have found them as liberal and candid as any men whatever."" Peters has arranged his quotations around descriptions of such strangely appropriate details as the weather outside the convention hall, the seating arrangements inside, and the dining habits of the conventioneers; and he has included short character-sketches and useful asides on the historical significance of the subjects of debate. Thus we get a relatively complete picture of what it was actually like in Philadelphia at that time, and learn something about our Constitution along the way. A fine example of human-interest history writing.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Crown