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Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the…

Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May… (original 1966; edition 1986)

by Catherine Drinker Bowen (Author)

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1,148910,463 (4.05)28
Title:Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787
Authors:Catherine Drinker Bowen (Author)
Info:Little Brown & Co (1986), Edition: Reissue, 346 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:From JD Smith

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Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen (1966)


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Brings to life the hot summer months of argument and agreement, debate and de cision of 1787 for the Constitutional Convention. The story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787 ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 21, 2015 |
Mrs Bowen had internalized her subject so well she could provide a narrative that virtually recreated the colonies, vocabulary and background. A face of Washington credited to Life Magazine photographer Nina Leen LIFE magazine copyright 1964, Time inc. was the only picture needed to set the stage for both critical scholar and general reader.
1 vote selmablanche | Feb 26, 2014 |
US Constitution, USA, Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin, US History,George Washington ( )
  AmourFou | Nov 19, 2013 |
Miracle at Philadelphia is the summary of the Federal Convention meeting in the City of Brotherly Love in the summer of 1787. Of course, its output was the United States Constitution.

The story is told in three parts, which don't always flow together very well. The first third follows a fairly chronological arrangement, where we hear about each day's speeches. Bowen gives us brief descriptions of the men at the meeting, even including what they were likely wearing. She also gives brief biographies, giving us some indication as to their likely confederacies during the meeting.

About midway through the convention, Bowen suddenly stops and gives us a general overview about the "state of the union" in the 1780s. She talks about the various problems with the then-current "united" states, when states would work together only when it ultimately benefited them. This history would probably have worked better as a prologue, but she covers a lot of territory (both figuratively and literally) so it might have seemed like the convention would never get started if this part came first.

The final part is an odd conglomeration of ideas. One of the strangest rules during the convention was that any vote -- even unanimous ones -- could be brought up again for further discussion later in the proceedings. And this was not a group of men to let any idea go undiscussed! So many of the concepts that would later be written into the Constitution, including the separation of powers and the election of representatives, are debated over and over, so Bowen follows them to the end of each topic, rather than bounce back and forth chronologically.

Even with this peculiar mix of telling the story, it's a very powerful tale. Each of the men that attended were patriots, each trying to figure out a way to make the country better. For every idea advanced, it seemed there was an equally-powerful opposing argument. The story doesn't skip over slavery, although her treatment does seem fairly perfunctory. And due to her type of storytelling, Bowen does not use footnotes or endnotes, but much of the story comes directly from Madison's notes.

True scholars will skip right ahead to the primary sources, but anyone else wanting a well-told history of a major world event should read this book. (I actually started the book on Constitution Day, September 17, which I thought was interesting timing.)

LT Haiku:

Formation in the very
Hot Philly summer. ( )
3 vote legallypuzzled | Sep 30, 2012 |
This is a good book. It provides an in-depth look at the constitutional convention, and then a more general look at the ratifying conventions. Anyone who is interested in how the Constitution came about should read this book. I highly recommend it. ( )
  torrey23 | Jun 10, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Catherine Drinker Bowenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burger, Warren E.Forewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States (which States you know are also different from each other), in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well founded objections. -- Washington to Lafayette, February 7, 1788
for Edward Weeks
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Over Philadelphia the air lay hot and humid; old people said it was the worst summer since 1750.
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Haiku summary

Formation in the very

Hot Philly summer.


Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316103985, Paperback)

This book is a history of the Federal Convention in Philadelphia that resulted in the Constitution of the United States.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A history of the Federal Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 that produced the Constitution of the United States.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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