Miracle at Philadelphia
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Miracle at Philadelphia

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  765 ratings  ·  80 reviews
"Miracle at Philadelphia" is Catherine Drinker Bowen's classic history of the Federal Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the stormy, dramatic session that produced the most enduring of political documents - the Constitution of the United States.
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published September 30th 1986 by Turtleback Books (first published 1966)
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Mike Prochot
Required reading for every American - followed by or concurrent with a visit to Independence Park in Philadelphia to get a sense of the beginning.

It is painfully apparent, if you have been following politics in the last 5 years, that many of our policitians today (including our "Constitutional Scholar" President Mr. Obama), who all by the way take an oath to protect the Constitution, simply are not familiar with the document or how it came to be, or why it is unique in the world. They need to re...more
John Nevola
With all the talk about the Constitution these days, its alarming how little people really know about how it came to be.
Catherine Drinker Bowen has penned a fabulous, well-researched book that explains just how difficult it was to even create a document for consideration for ratification. Critics of the Constitution and its imperfections need to read this book to understand exactly what a remarkable feat it was.
The most frequent criticisms have to do with slavery and how it was dealt with in the...more
Asha
I finished this book for my AP Government class and I have no doubt that it is meant to be an informational read on the Constitutional Convention. And that it is. However, though it may have been the best book on the topic, I found it to be slow, with choppy writing and strange gaps in the story. For instance, pages of information were given on the slightest pieces of information , while The Great Compromise (the so-called turning point of the Convention) was not discussed in real-time. Also the...more
Matt Shake
I believe this is one of the most nuanced books I've ever read about the early years of our nation. I appreciate it's scholarly approach to source analysis from the Constitutional convention in Philadelphia that hot summer in 1787. I attribute this to the subtly of this book. Just when you begin to think one perspective/idea to be irrefutably true, the author shifts your perspective by using a different source. Then you see that--as the old political adage goes--"where you stand depends on where...more
Julia
At the beginning I found the descriptions of the members of the convention fascinating, their physical looks, the way they acted, their personal views. It made the Constitutional Convention come alive to me.
I also paid close attention to Thomas Jefferson's effect and views. While he was not at the actual convention, instead helping with foreign policy in France, his opinions were still heard from across the seas, even asked for by his associates. I know he wasn't that much of a figure for the...more
Aaron
Miracle at Philadelphia is not so much an inspiring book as it is just supremely interesting. It is a book about the founding of a nation so one would not be surprised to be inspired by reading it, but Catherine Bowen took a different route and chose to write a straightforward narrative of the Federal Convention. She did not add pomp and flair to make the story interesting, it simply is interesting in and of itself. A very well written book by Bowen.

I find it incredible that a group of men can c...more
Ben
Fantastic book on the Convention, it really brings it together for you.
Kevin Kirkhoff
This book uses reports, newspapers, journals, letters, and delegates' diaries to outline what went on that led to the creation of the US Constitution. Some of the key sticking points for the delegates were whether the states would be represented equally or by population. The type of government was also a heavily debated topic. Some delegates wanted a large, powerful government similar to England. Others preferred a small, states-oriented government.

There is also a lot of history into why the US...more
Jon-paul Schilling
Simply excellent! This book was written at a time when writing about the Founders and Framers of the U.S. Constitution was not vogue or fashionable whatsoever. Catherine Drinker Bowen, the author, produced more research and facts then almost any other book of the Founding Generation.

She goes into significant detail regarding this nation's attempts at self-government as she makes mention of The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639 as well as the Albany Plan of the Union 1754. However in her...more
Mrlatsch
Miracle at Philadelphia chronicles the late spring to early fall of 1787. It describes a day to day account of the discussions, debates, and sometimes even heated arguments that the founding fathers of our nation went through in Philadelphia during the early years of our nation. Through the scolding heat of the summer of 1787 they discussed issues that surrounded our nation. The topics ranged from foreign affairs to executives and their responsibilities to the sectionalism of our country. These...more
Katie
May 21, 2008 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Katie by: Wayne Abernathy
Favorite Quotes:

"Every miracle has its provenance, every miracle has been prayed for."

"Compromise can be an ugly word, signifying a pact with the devil, a chipping off of the best to suit the worst."

"Most of our political evils may be traced to our commercial ones." -James Madison

"A federal government operates on states, a national government directly on individuals." -James Madison

"To pursue happiness signified that a man could rise in the world according to his abilities and his industry."

"It...more
Paul
Considered the best written and most comprehensive, insightful history of the 1787 Constitutional Covention.Using James Madison's journal as a day~to~day guide Ms Bowen chronicles the delegates debates, arguments and decisions during that critial summer when the Constitution was drafted.Highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about this crucial time in the nation's colonial history.
Joe
I picked this book up at a local used bookstore awhile back with the usual assumptions that most of us have learned in high school... like, the constitution was pasted unanimously by the states, and also that the transition period between the end of the Revolutionary War and the struggles to form a new government out from the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation went fairly smoothly. In fact, that's far from true. There were innumerable obstacles, and Catherine Bowen was able to tell he...more
JQ
I read this book during the same time period as I read "The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution" by David O Stewart. They are both good books but "The Miracle of Philadelphia" isn't as lively as "Summer of 1787." Stewart does have the advantage of coming around second and fixing some of the problems in Brown's book. Such as explaining some historical events that are referenced a lot by the founding fathers. This book expects you to know a bit of history. I like history and whil...more
Amanda
This was an absolutely amazing historical account!

Miracle at Philadelphia depicted such a clear, realistic image of America in the late 18th century, with not only detailed descriptions of the men of the Constitutional Convention, the page upon page recreating the lives of America's people, but actual dialogue, actual words spoken of the men.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading into such detail:) It made me feel as if I was actually there with them, or there in Philadelphia at in the 1700s.:)
Pop
I look back at the things that I thought would always be there but have slipped away: my youth, the girl next door, old friends, the Constitution. Maybe I'm a geek, but I really enjoyed this book. It showed the people and personalities involved in crafting the foundation of our governmant. In school it was a pretty dry subject, but the author made it seem alive an current, and pointed out that compromise was the foundation of our nation, and far from counting as a loss, compromise is areally a w...more
Erin
I loved this book. It paints a very clear picture of the true miracle that our Constitution is. It was a miracle it was ever written and agreed on by these men of varying education, experience and situation. It made me realize the value of seeing both sides of an issue and seeking the best to serve the general good. The men of the Constitution were radicals, seeking to establish a new form of government when they were not authorized to do so. We are so used to life under the Constitution, we may...more
Jay Perkins
Great popular history of the Constitutional Convention. Although the author discusses her sources in the "author's note", there are no footnotes. I would have liked the better if I knew exactly where she was pulling certain quotes, etc.
Chrisanne
I absolutely loved this book! Bowen does a good job of simply stating the facts. Of course, I've always been fascinated with the Convention, but this book made it real!

Read it, and meet Madison, Franklin, Washington, Randolf, Bedford and King! Ah! Mr. King!

Yes. I'm gushing. But this was an amazing read!
Firefly
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is the story of the Constitutional Convention, written by a woman whose research was based on letters and journals written by the people involved in the Convention. I read it over the 4th of July weekend while living in the high desert, during a heat wave with a broken air conditioner. The book was so intriguing, I could not put it down. Not only did I love the book, but I love the memory of reading it.
Clinton
Informative, readable book on the Constitutional Convention. This era fascinates me, and I'm looking for more good titles for the lay reader.

Bowen's profiles of the conventioneers are complex--history, not hagiography, and she communicates what must have been great tedium with a keen sense of pace. Interesting how they were able to keep secret so much of the process and its evolving results.

Bowen condenses the ratification struggles, so go elsewhere for a thorough exposition of that.

I love ho...more
Aaron
"By unanimous consent of the Convention" Wow, what an excellent read! If you do not know the story of the formation of American government, I heartily recommend this book. Ms. Bowen does an amazing job of concisely detailing the arguments, both Federalist and Anti-, with the help of James Madison whose note-taking skills during this Convention are a historical gold mine. There is humor, there is confrontation (on a gentlemanly level), there is great argument both for a new Constitution and for s...more
Taressa
I have read a lot of books of this time period and subject. I am in awe with the amount of divine intervention and the pure motives of the early founding fathers. This book does a great job of not only reliving the days of the Constitutional Convention but also explaining the great sacrifices that were made by these early patriots to give us what we have today! And to think that Washington needed to be convinced to come out of retirement to attend this great convention and later become our first...more
Polloplayer


If it seems a bit dry in the first 100 pages, stay with it. You will be rewarded with a sense of having been present for this very significant moment in history. The author's research is so thorough that you even know what the weather was like during the summer of 1787 and her knowledge of history and the founding fathers has such depth and breadth that nearly every page is revelatory with her observations about the people, their time, and the miracle of our nation's birth. Great read.
Elaine Grant
Excellent source of information about the Constitutional Convention. Miracle is well-researched and filled with first person accounts and quotes. It is very thorough and replete with little-known details. After reading this book, I don't think the term "miracle" is an overstatement of what occurred at the Convention. If you just want an overview this book may be too detailed and tedious, but if you are REALLY interested in how the Constitution came about, this is a great book to read.
Sally
This book is a lively account of the constitutional convention, as Bowen vividly describes the people involved and makes them come to life as they wrangle over various points. This is a long book, and I must admit, sometimes Dempsey and I had a hard time persevering through the assigned section. But in the end, it was a good book to have read, in that I will never take for granted the Constitution and its contents, having read all about the discussion that went into it!
Paul
I started reading this book on June 21, 1788, the 220th Anniversary of when the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified, by New Hampshire. I finished reading it 2 days after the 220th Anniversary of when the U.S. Constitution was enacted by the first meeting of Congress.

It was a great read about a fascinating subject: the Constitutional Convention. Catherine Drinker Bowen presents some great insights into the proceedings of the 1787 Convention.
Bap
The series of compromises that made up the convention that created the constitution. We were indeed fortunate to have such giants at the creation but keep in mind that that the same persons were around when the articles of confederation were drafted, whcih was a calamity. It wasa the times and the men who carried the day. That said, I have my problems with the constitution. Its flaws are numerous but it is still a remarkable compact.
Al
The author recreates the day-by-by proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The fact that consensus was ultimately achieved is truly miraculous in light of the dramatically differing background and opinions of the representatives from the twelve states (Rhode Island not being present). The creation of the constitution itself is probably more miraculous than the preceding victory over the forces of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Jim
An excellent historical account of the creation of the United States Constitution. Aside from one chapter in the middle of the book that seemed somewhat out of place the book is an excellent read depicting the events, personalities and politics of the development and birth of the Constitution of the United States. (The misplaced chapter was a description of life in the post revolutionary United States). I highly recommend this book.
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Catherine Drinker Bowen was born as Catherine Drinker on the Haverford College campus on January 1, 1897, to a prominent Quaker family. She was an accomplished violinist who studied for a musical career at the Peabody Institute and the Juilliard School of Music, but ultimately decided to become a writer. She had no formal writing education and no academic career, but became a bestselling American...more
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