Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention

Madison s Hand Revising the Constitutional Convention James Madison s Notes on the Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the description of the U S Constitution s creation No document provides a complete record of

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  • Title: Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
  • Author: Mary Sarah Bilder
  • ISBN: 9780674055278
  • Page: 313
  • Format: Hardcover
  • James Madison s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the description of the U.S Constitution s creation No document provides a complete record of the deliberations in Philadelphia or depicts the Convention s charismatic figures, crushing disappointments, and miraculous triumphs with such narrative force But howJames Madison s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the description of the U.S Constitution s creation No document provides a complete record of the deliberations in Philadelphia or depicts the Convention s charismatic figures, crushing disappointments, and miraculous triumphs with such narrative force But how reliable is this account In an unprecedented investigation that draws on digital technologies and traditional textual analysis to trace Madison s composition, Mary Sarah Bilder reveals that Madison revised the Notes to a far greater extent than previously recognized The Notes began as a diary of the Convention s proceedings Madison abandoned the project at a critical juncture, however, and left the Notes incomplete He did not return to finish them until several years later, largely for Thomas Jefferson By then, Madison s views were influenced by the new government s challenges and Jefferson s political ideas Madison s evolving vision of republican government, his Virginia allegiances, his openness to constitutional protection for slavery, his fascination with the finer points of political jockeying, and his depictions of Alexander Hamilton and Charles Pinckney shifted during the writing and rewriting of his account When the Notes were finally published in 1840, the layers of revision were invisible.Madison s version of events quickly assumed an aura of objectivity, and the Notes molded the narrative of the Constitution Madison s Hand offers readers a biography of a document that, over two centuries, developed a life and character all its own.

    One thought on “Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention”

    1. "James Madison has long been treated as a neutral authority on early American history, a kind of Great Sage of, among other things, the U.S. Constitution. Thus, in a notable book on the ratification campaign of 1787–90—during which the states agreed to live under the Philadelphia Convention’s handiwork—a prominent historian said that the best way to begin to learn about the Revolutionary period was by reading James Madison’s mail."Read the full review, "Can You Trust James Madison?" at [...]

    2. An interesting-enough study of Madison's character and changing politics through his Notes, although I wish it had focused more on the Notes themselves rather than chronicling the Constitutional Convention. It didn't get really interesting to me until Part V and the Conclusion, when the heavier and more-frequent post-Convention edits begin. Really, I think what I was hoping for was a fleshed-out, contextualized version of her weirdly-isolated Evidence chapter. But then again, this was written by [...]

    3. I read this for my second paper for an online course; otherwise, I probably would not have read it. It was a fascinating book. It discusses not only Madison's motivations for keeping a diary [of sorts] about the Constitutional Convention, it also discusses the methods in which he took the notes. The author discusses her interpretations of why he did what he did, what his motivations were, and she does a good job of supporting her theories/ideas about Madison's work.It is fascinating because ther [...]

    4. A bit of a dry read at times, but still fascinating if you have an interest in the subject matter. Bilder shows in meticulous detail how Madison recorded his notes during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and how he later revised them to distance himself from some of his earlier, more controversial positions, and to better serve the political ambitions and agenda of Thomas Jefferson. This book makes for a good companion piece to several others about that period, including Pauline Maier's "Ra [...]

    5. A good or great book is one that gets the reader to think and think more. A book about American political history and philosophy needs to bring the reader to a new place , a greater awareness and understanding of the past that one already knows about. The back cover endorsements of Mary Sarah Bilders confirm the obvious, that "anyone who wants to understand the Constitution must take this book into account". I will leave it to more qualified members to comment on the Constitutional aspects of B [...]

    6. James Madison has long been treated as a neutral authority on early American history, a kind of Great Sage of, among other things, the U.S. Constitution. Thus, in a notable book on the ratification campaign of 1787–90—during which the states agreed to live under the Philadelphia Convention’s handiwork—a prominent historian said that the best way to begin to learn about the Revolutionary period was by reading James Madison’s mail.There have been numerous books taking as their points of [...]

    7. A fascinating glimpse into the mind of James Madison and the Constitutional Convention. The book is full of technical detail and analysis, but remained an interesting read at all times.

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