scrutinizes the ideological background
of the U.S. Constitution, the rigors of its writing and
ratification, and the problems it both faced and provoked
immediately after ratification. The essays in this collection
question much of the heritage of eighteenth-century constitutional
thought and suggest that many of the commonly debated issues have
led us away from the truly germane questions. The authors challenge
many of the traditional generalizations and the terms and scope of
that debate as well.
The contributors raise fresh questions about the Constitution as it
enters its third century. What happened in Philadelphia in 1787,
and what happened in the state ratifying conventions? Why did the
states--barely--ratify the Constitution? What were Americans of the
1789s attempting to achieve? The exploratory conclusions point
strongly to an alternative constitutional tradition, some of it
unwritten, much of it rooted in state constitutional law; a
tradition that not only has redefined the nature and role of the
Constitution but also has placed limitations on its efficacy
throughout American history.
The authors are Lance Banning, Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein,
Richard D. Brown, Richard E. Ellis, Paul Finkelman, Stanley N.
Katz, Ralph Lerner, Drew R. McCoy, John M. Murrin, Jack N. Rakove,
Janet A. Riesman, and Gordon S. Wood.