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Plain, Honest Men

The Making of the American Constitution

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Hardcover published by Random House (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
In May 1787, in an atmosphere of crisis, delegates met in Philadelphia to design a radically new form of government. Distinguished historian Richard Beeman captures as never before the dynamic of the debate and the characters of the men who labored that historic summer. Virtually all of the issues in dispute—the extent of presidential power, the nature of federalism, and, most explosive of all, the role of slavery—have continued to provoke conflict throughout our nation's history. This unprecedented book takes readers behind the scenes to show how the world's most enduring constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and fragile consensus. As Gouverneur Morris, delegate of Pennsylvania, noted: "While some have boasted it as a work from Heaven, others have given it a less righteous origin. I have many reasons to believe that it is the work of plain, honest men."
 
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In May 1787, in an atmosphere of crisis, delegates met in Philadelphia to design a radically new form of government. Distinguished historian Richard Beeman captures as never before the dynamic of the debate and the characters of the men who labored that historic summer. Virtually all of the issues in dispute—the extent of presidential power, the nature of federalism, and, most explosive of all, the role of slavery—have continued to provoke conflict throughout our nation's history. This unprecedented book takes readers behind the scenes to show how the world's most enduring constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and fragile consensus. As Gouverneur Morris, delegate of Pennsylvania, noted: "While some have boasted it as a work from Heaven, others have given it a less righteous origin. I have many reasons to believe that it is the work of plain, honest men."
 
Product Details
Hardcover (544 pages)
Published: March 17, 2009
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Random House
ISBN: 9781400065707
Other books byRichard Beeman
  • Common Sense

    Common Sense
    The radical pamphlet that helped incite the American Revolution Penguin presents a series of six portable, accessible, and—above all—essential reads from American political history, selected by leading scholars. Series editor Richard Beeman, author of The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, draws together the great texts of American civic life to create a timely and informative mini-library of perennially vital issues. Whether readers are encountering these classic writings for the first time, or brushing up in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, these slim volumes will serve as a powerful and illuminating resource for scholars, students, and civic-minded citizens. Common Sense is the book that created the modern United States, as Paine's incendiary call for Americans to revolt against British rule converted millions to the cause of independence and set out a vision of a just society. Published anonymously in 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence, Common Sense was a radical and impassioned call for America to free itself and set up an independent republican government. Savagely attacking hereditary kingship and aristocratic institutions, Paine urged a new beginning for his adopted country in which personal freedom and social equality would be upheld and economic and cultural progress encouraged. His pamphlet was the first to speak directly to a mass audience—it went through fifty-six editions within a year of publication—and its assertive and often caustic style embodied the democratic spirit he advocated.

    The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution

    The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution
    A Fully Annotated Declaration of Independence,...
    A unique and handy guide to the law of land from one of America's most esteemed constitutional scholars. Known across the country for his appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Professor Richard Beeman is one of the nation's foremost experts on the United States Constitution. In this book, he has produced what every American should have: a compact, fully annotated copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and amendments, all in their entirety. A marvel of accessibility and erudition, the guide also features a history of the making of the Consittution with excerpts from The Federalist Papers and a look at crucial Supreme Court cases that reminds us that the meaning of many of the specific provisions of the Constitution has changed over time.

    American Political Speeches

    American Political Speeches
    In time for the upcoming election season, Penguin presents a series of six portable, accessible, and—above all—essential reads from American political history, selected by leading scholars. Series editor Richard Beeman, author of The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, draws together the great texts of American civic life, including the founding documents, pivotal historical speeches, and important Supreme Court decisions, to create a timely and informative mini-library of perennially vital issues. American Political Speeches includes the best American rhetoric from inside and outside the White House. Some of the greatest words spoken in American history have come from men and women who lacked the biggest bully pulpit in the country, but who nevertheless were able to move the nation with words. Frederick Douglass explained the irony of Independence Day from the perspective of a slave. Martin Luther King, Jr. described his dream of an interracial America. William Jennings Bryan gave voice to social discontent with a single phrase, "a cross of gold." Barbara Jordan summoned the nation"s outrage during the impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon. And the best presidents, not by coincidence, have tended to be those with an appreciation for the use of language: Lincoln explaining a new birth of freedom at Gettysburg; John Kennedy voicing moral outrage at the Berlin Wall; Franklin D. Roosevelt chatting to a nation gathered in front of radios; Ronald Reagan addressing Congress freshly healed from an assassination attempt.

    The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America

    The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America
    On the eve of the American Revolution there existed throughout the British-American colonial world a variety of contradictory expectations about the political process. Not only was there disagreement over the responsibilities of voters and candidates, confusion extended beyond elections to the relationship between elected officials and the populations they served. So varied were people's expectations that it is impossible to talk about a single American political culture in this period. InThe Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, Richard R. Beeman offers an ambitious overview of political life in pre-Revolutionary America. Ranging from Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania to the backcountry regions of the South, the Mid-Atlantic, and northern New England, Beeman uncovers an extraordinary diversity of political belief and practice. In so doing, he closes the gap between eighteenth-century political rhetoric and reality. Political life in eighteenth-century America, Beeman demonstrates, was diffuse and fragmented, with America's British subjects and their leaders often speaking different political dialects altogether. Although the majority of people living in America before the Revolution would not have used the term "democracy," important changes were underway that made it increasingly difficult for political leaders to ignore "popular pressures." As the author shows in a final chapter on the Revolution, those popular pressures, once unleashed, were difficult to contain and drove the colonies slowly and unevenly toward a democratic form of government. Synthesizing a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Beeman offers a coherent account of the way politics actually worked in this formative time for American political culture.

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