Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788


Pauline Maier - 2010
    Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whether that would happen. The document we revere today as the foundation of our country’s laws, the cornerstone of our legal system, was hotly disputed at the time. Some Americans denounced the Constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July.In this splendid new history, Pauline Maier tells the dramatic story of the yearlong battle over ratification that brought such famous founders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Henry together with less well-known Americans who sometimes eloquently and always passionately expressed their hopes and fears for their new country. Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation. Then the ratifying conventions chosen by "We the People" scrutinized and debated the Constitution clause by clause.Although many books have been written about the Constitutional Convention, this is the first major history of ratification. It draws on a vast new collection of documents and tells the story with masterful attention to detail in a dynamic narrative. Each state’s experience was different, and Maier gives each its due even as she focuses on the four critical states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, whose approval of the Constitution was crucial to its success.The New Yorker Gilbert Livingston called his participation in the ratification convention the greatest transaction of his life. The hundreds of delegates to the ratifying conventions took their responsibility seriously, and their careful inspection of the Constitution can tell us much today about a document whose meaning continues to be subject to interpretation. Ratification is the story of the founding drama of our nation, superbly told in a history that transports readers back more than two centuries to reveal the convictions and aspirations on which our country was built.

1775: A Good Year for Revolution


Kevin Phillips - 2012
    He suggests that the great events and confrontations of 1775—Congress’s belligerent economic ultimatums to Britain, New England’s rage militaire, the exodus of British troops and expulsion of royal governors up and down the seaboard, and the new provincial congresses and hundreds of local  committees that quickly reconstituted local authority in Patriot hands­—achieved a  sweeping Patriot control of territory and local government that Britain was never able to overcome.  These each added to the Revolution’s essential momentum so when the British finally attacked in great strength the following year, they could not regain the control they had lost in 1775.Analyzing the political climate, economic structures, and military preparations, as well as the roles of ethnicity, religion, and class, Phillips tackles the eighteenth century with the same skill and insights he has shown in analyzing contemporary politics and economics.  The result is a dramatic narrative brimming with original insights. 1775 revolutionizes our understanding of America’s origins.

The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction


Akhil Reed Amar - 1998
    Constitution in this incisive new account of our most basic charter of liberty. Akhil Reed Amar brilliantly illuminates in rich detail not simply the text, structure, and history of individual clauses of the 1789 Bill, but their intended relationships to each other and to other constitutional provisions. Amar’s corrective does not end there, however, for as his powerful narrative proves, a later generation of antislavery activists profoundly changed the meaning of the Bill in the Reconstruction era. With the Fourteenth Amendment, Americans underwent a new birth of freedom that transformed the old Bill of Rights. We have as a result a complex historical document originally designed to protect the people against self-interested government and revised by the Fourteenth Amendment to guard minority against majority. In our continuing battles over freedom of religion and expression, arms bearing, privacy, states’ rights, and popular sovereignty, Amar concludes, we must hearken to both the Founding Fathers who created the Bill and their sons and daughters who reconstructed it. Amar’s landmark work invites citizens to a deeper understanding of their Bill of Rights and will set the basic terms of debate about it for modern lawyers, jurists, and historians for years to come.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution


Bernard Bailyn - 1967
    In it he discusses the intense, nation-wide debate on the ratification of the constitution, stressing the continuities between that struggle over the foundations of the national government and the original principles of the Revolution. This study of the persistence of the nation's ideological origins adds a new dimension to the book and projects its meaning forward into vital present concerns.

Declaration of Independence


Founding Fathers - 1985
    The names of all those who signed are at the bottom, arranged by the state that they represent. This document may be printed in Adobe reader. Please Note: This book is easy to read in true text, not scanned images that can sometimes be difficult to decipher. The Microsoft eBook has a contents page linked to the chapter headings for easy navigation. The Adobe eBook has bookmarks at chapter headings and is printable up to two full copies per year. Both versions are text searchable.

Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787


Catherine Drinker Bowen - 1966
    Bowen evokes it as if the reader were actually there, mingling with the delegates, hearing their arguments, witnessing a dramatic moment in history.Here is the fascinating record of the hot, sultry summer months of debate and decision when ideas clashed and tempers flared. Here is the country as it was then, described by contemporaries, by Berkshire farmers in Massachusetts, by Patrick Henry's Kentucky allies, by French and English travelers. Here, too, are the offstage voices--Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine and John Adams from Europe. In all, fifty-five men attended; and in spite of the heat, in spite of clashing interests--the big states against the little, the slave states against the anti-slave states--in tension and anxiety that mounted week after week, they wrote out a working plan of government and put their signatures to it.

Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America's Founders Forged a New Nation


Joseph J. Ellis - 2004
    The key figures during this time, or the brotherhoood of the revolution, achieved many successes for America that made a lasting impact on the future of this nation.Contents: Lecture 1. The Revolution and the generation -- Lecture 2. Anglo-America in 1763 and Benjamin Franklin -- Lecture 3. The Constitutional crisis, 1763-74, and John Adams -- Lecture 4. The imperial crisis, 1763-75, and George Washington -- Lecture 5. The spirit of '76 and Thomas Jefferson -- Lecture 6. What the Declaration declared -- Lecture 7. The long war, 1775-83, and Joseph Plumb Martin -- Lecture 8. Confederation to Constitution and Alexander Hamilton -- Lecture 9. A more perfect union and James Madison -- Lecture 10. The ghost at the banquet: slavery -- Lecture 11. Crucial decade: The Federalist agenda -- Lecture 12. Crucial decade: party politics -- Lecture 13. The restoration of 1800 -- Lecture 14. American dialogue: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution


Kathleen DuVal - 2015
    Now, in Independence Lost, she recounts an untold story as rich and significant as that of the Founding Fathers: the history of the Revolutionary Era as experienced by slaves, American Indians, women, and British loyalists living on Florida’s Gulf Coast. While citizens of the thirteen rebelling colonies came to blows with the British Empire over tariffs and parliamentary representation, the situation on the rest of the continent was even more fraught. In the Gulf of Mexico, Spanish forces clashed with Britain’s strained army to carve up the Gulf Coast, as both sides competed for allegiances with the powerful Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek nations who inhabited the region. Meanwhile, African American slaves had little control over their own lives, but some individuals found opportunities to expand their freedoms during the war. Independence Lost reveals that individual motives counted as much as the ideals of liberty and freedom the Founders espoused: Independence had a personal as well as national meaning, and the choices made by people living outside the colonies were of critical importance to the war’s outcome. DuVal introduces us to the Mobile slave Petit Jean, who organized militias to fight the British at sea; the Chickasaw diplomat Payamataha, who worked to keep his people out of war; New Orleans merchant Oliver Pollock and his wife, Margaret O’Brien Pollock, who risked their own wealth to organize funds and garner Spanish support for the American Revolution; the half-Scottish-Creek leader Alexander McGillivray, who fought to protect indigenous interests from European imperial encroachment; the Cajun refugee Amand Broussard, who spent a lifetime in conflict with the British; and Scottish loyalists James and Isabella Bruce, whose work on behalf of the British Empire placed them in grave danger. Their lives illuminate the fateful events that took place along the Gulf of Mexico and, in the process, changed the history of North America itself. Adding depth and moral complexity, Kathleen DuVal reinvigorates the story of the American Revolution. Independence Lost is a bold work that fully establishes the reputation of a historian who is already regarded as one of her generation’s best.

Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution


Forrest McDonald - 1985
    Forrest McDonald, widely considered one of the foremost historians of the Constitution and of the early national period, reconstructs the intellectual world of the Founding Fathers--including their understanding of law, history political philosophy, and political economy, and their firsthand experience in public affairs--and then analyzes their behavior in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in light of that world. No one has attempted to do so on such a scale before. McDonald's principal conclusion is that, though the Framers brought a variety of ideological and philosophical positions to bear upon their task of building a "new order of the ages," they were guided primarily by their own experience, their wisdom, and their common sense."A witty and energetic study of the ideas and passions of the Framers."-- New York Times Book Review "Bristles with wit and intellectual energy."-- Christian Science Monitor "A masterpiece. McDonald's status as an interpreter of the Constitution is unequalled--magisterial."-- National Review

The Crisis


Thomas Paine - 1776
    British troops had quickly advanced through New York and New Jersey to crush the rebellion, and the Continental army was in retreat and on the verge of disintegration. At the end of that year, on December 23, Thomas Paine, who had previously inspired the revolutionary cause with his stirring pamphlet Common Sense, published the first of a new series of essays aptly titled The Crisis. Paine had a gift for memorable phrasing and the first words of The Crisis soon became famous:"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: 'tis dearness only that gives every thing its value." General Washington found the writing so uplifting that later, during the bleak winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, he ordered Paine's essay to be read by all the troops. Paine continued his writing through the duration of the war with eloquent appeals for justice addressed to British leaders and citizens, and uplifting words to bolster the patriots in their fight for independence.A document that provides many insights into the hardships and precarious uncertainties that threatened the birth of our nation, The Crisis belongs on every American's bookshelf.

Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and The Election that Saved a Nation


Chris DeRose - 2011
    Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation, was more than personal ambition. This was a race that determined the future of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the very definition of the United States of America.Friends and political allies for most of their lives, Madison was the Constitution’s principal author, Monroe one of its leading opponents. Monroe thought the Constitution gave the federal government too much power and failed to guarantee fundamental rights. Madison believed that without the Constitution, the United States would not survive.It was the most important congressional race in American history, more important than all but a few presidential elections, and yet it is one that historians have virtually ignored. In Founding Rivals, DeRose, himself a political strategist who has fought campaigns in Madison and Monroe’s district, relives the campaign, retraces the candidates’ footsteps, and offers the first insightful, comprehensive history of this high-stakes political battle.DeRose reveals:How Madison’s election ensured the passage of a Bill of Rights—and howMonroe’s election would have ensured its failureHow Madison came from behind to win a narrow victory (by a margin of only 336 votes) in a district gerrymandered against himHow the Bill of Rights emerged as a campaign promise to Virginia’s evangelical ChristiansWhy Madison’s defeat might have led to a new Constitutional Convention—and the breakup of the United StatesFounding Rivals tells the extraordinary, neglected story of two of America’s most important Founding Fathers. Brought to life by unparalleled research, it is one of the most provocative books of American political history you will read this year.

Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes


Christopher Hibbert - 1990
    In this fresh, compelling narrative, Christopher Hibbert portrays the realities of a war that raged the length of an entire continent—a war that thousands of George Washington's fellow countrymen condemned and that he came close to losing. Based on a wide variety of sources and alive with astute character sketches and eyewitness accounts, Redcoats and Rebels presents a vivid and convincing picture of the "cruel, accursed" war that changed the world forever. 16 pages of illustrations. "Hibbert combines impeccable scholarship with a liveliness of style that lures the reader from page to page."—Sunday Telegraph

Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation


John Ferling - 2013
    All understood as well that what was at stake was not a moment's political advantage, but the future course of the American experiment in democracy. In this epochal debate, no two figures loomed larger than Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.Both men were visionaries, but their visions of what the United States should be were diametrically opposed. Jefferson, a true revolutionary, believed passionately in individual liberty and a more egalitarian society, with a weak central government and greater powers for the states. Hamilton, a brilliant organizer and tactician, feared chaos and social disorder. He sought to build a powerful national government that could ensure the young nation's security and drive it toward economic greatness.Jefferson and Hamilton is the story of the fierce struggle-both public and, ultimately, bitterly personal-between these two titans. It ended only with the death of Hamilton in a pistol duel, felled by Aaron Burr, Jefferson's vice president. Their competing legacies, like the twin strands of DNA, continue to shape our country to this day. Their personalities, their passions, and their bold dreams for America leap from the page in this epic new work from one of our finest historians.

Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution


Nathaniel Philbrick - 2013
    After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents  have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord.  In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to every aspect of the story. He finds new characters, and new facets to familiar ones. The real work of choreographing rebellion falls to a thirty-three year old physician named Joseph Warren who emerges as the on-the-ground leader of the Patriot cause and is fated to die at Bunker Hill. Others in the cast include Paul Revere, Warren’s fiancé the poet Mercy Scollay, a newly recruited George Washington, the reluctant British combatant General Thomas Gage and his more bellicose successor William Howe, who leads the three charges at Bunker Hill and presides over the claustrophobic cauldron of a city under siege as both sides play a nervy game of brinkmanship for control.With passion and insight, Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscape—geographic and ideological—in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, blisteringly real origins of America.

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century


George Packer - 2019
    Admired and detested, he was the force behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan wars, America's greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era. His power lay in an utter belief in himself and his idea of a muscular, generous foreign policy. From his days as a young adviser in Vietnam to his last efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke embodied the postwar American impulse to take the lead on the global stage. But his sharp elbows and tireless self-promotion ensured that he never rose to the highest levels in government that he so desperately coveted. His story is thus the story of America during its era of supremacy: its strength, drive, and sense of possibility, as well as its penchant for overreach and heedless self-confidence.In Our Man, drawn from Holbrooke's diaries and papers, we are given a nonfiction narrative that is both intimate and epic in its revelatory portrait of this extraordinary and deeply flawed man and the elite spheres of society and government he inhabited.