Friday, January 14, 2011

Nation Building


Pauline Maier sizes up the Constitutional debates,


On Sept. 17, 1787, the convention that had been sitting in Philadelphia for four months to design a new form of government for the United States adjourned, offering its handiwork to the nation. Almost a year later, on Sept. 13, 1788, Congress declared that the Constitution had been duly ratified, and prescribed the rules for the first presidential election the following year. Pauline Maier’s delightful and engrossing book shows how America got from the first date to the second — and ultimately to today, since we still live with the same document, however modified.

One caveat: To like this book, you have to like politics. “Ratification” is an ur-text of the Almanac of American Politics. It has process, issues, arguments, local context, major players, minor players — and hoopla. “The popular excitement” that attended the struggle, Maier writes, “reminded me at times of Americans’ obsession with the final games of the World Series, but with greater intensity because everyone understood that the results would last far longer than a season. . . . Politics was in a real sense the first national game.” 

from a review by Richard Brookhiser in the NYTimes
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American Scripture looks good too.

19 comments:

  1. I think a book like this would be great for the next reading group. What do others think?

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  2. I ordered the book. Will take me about three weeks to receive it. So if everyone is game we can set a reading for February 15.

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  3. Sounds like a good read. I just put in a request & hope to have by the end of the week.

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  4. Just read the opening to Ratification. I'm in! I've always wanted to read a really good history of the Constitution. I'll try to stay ahead of the rest of you this time instead of lagging weeks behind.

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  5. Just my copy but see once again that it has very small print. Good thing I have a bottle of Visine!

    Looks like a very interesting read.

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  6. Yea, small print is getting to be too much for me as well.

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  7. Oh no! Are you saying, you're getting old (like me)?

    Ach, but it happens to all of us. How I wish we could find the Fountain of Youth!

    :)

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  8. Yep, finally had to accept reading glasses. Has taken me awhile to get used to them, but my wife tells me they make me look more intelligent. ; )

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  9. From what I've heard, the Kindle is the fountain of youth for us readers.... I just got an ipad. I need to figure out how to add a book reader to it.

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  10. Speaking of Kindles....

    Robert is in for Ratification. I think he missed the last part of that Colonel conversation, but now knows how to find the turn at the end of the hall. If you don't follow the links via the recent comments it's easy to get lost in here.

    I'll be in DC for the first week of the discussion, but will take the book with me on the plane.

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  11. I don't need reading glasses when reading from the computer screen, but I think that is more a matter of distance from the screen.

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  12. I will also be reading via audio book Brian McGinty's "Lincoln & the Court'':

    http://www.amazon.com/Lincoln-Court-Brian-McGinty/dp/0674026551

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  13. Thanks avrds---and a special thanks to you, Gintaras for the gray tint on my screen which allows me to participate---my eye doctor says I'm comming along excellently and wants me to give my brain another six month to rewire my vision--after which, if called for' he will order me gray tinted lenses to use for reading--shaded, I'm told, with genuine Gintaras Gray, in honor of yourself. Thanks

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  14. That's a high honor Robert. Anything to help keep you a participant in this forum. You are a most valued contributor and I have greatly enjoyed and learned from your depth of reading, understanding and comments over the years.

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  15. I'm up to p 70 in Maier ~ kinda slow reading (due to the small print with many words on a page) but it is a good topic.

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  16. I'm still trying to finish the Washington bio which is very good, but slow going for me.

    It's a lot like the TR bio -- too good not to keep reading. And it is a much fuller look at Washington's life than others I've read (one would hope at 900 pages!), and he is as good a writer as Morris without all the snarky asides.

    Trippler you would hate it, though -- very small print. I think this would be a good one to read on a Kindle. I wonder how Robert fared reading it.

    I leave town on the 15th so will take Ratification to DC with me.

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  17. My copy of Ratification came yesterday. Interesting start. Brought to mind Bernard Bailyn's book on the Ideological Origins of America and all the pamphleteering he described.

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  18. I'm up to about p 130 ~ are we going to use this thread or start a fresh one for the discussion?

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  19. I will open a new thread on Tuesday for discussion. Fascinating book thus far. Interesting reading Mason's and Randolph's concerns with the Constitution, many of which turned out to be true. And, for all this claptrap on the right that this is some kind of sacred document, when virtually all of those who signed it saw it as a work in progress, not a finished document.

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