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Miracle at Philadelphia

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,115 Ratings  ·  90 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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(showing 1-30 of 2,219)
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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
John Nevola
Sep 10, 2012 John Nevola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Shake
Jun 16, 2010 Matt Shake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 21, 2008 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  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."

Jan 25, 2015 Carine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone interested in history and how the United States was founded should love this book.

Catherine Drinker Bowen tells us the story of the thinking and writing of the U.S. Constitution in the voice of the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and made history.
The author used a plethora of sources to tell how the U.S. Constitution came to be step by step, day after day of the Convention. We learn that coming up with the historical document was certainly no easy work, and un
Julia Milius
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
Robert Palmer
Aug 24, 2015 Robert Palmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title "Miracle at Philadelphia " is in fact a quote from a letter written by George Washington. James Madison also used it in writing to friends. In 1787 there is much tension and dissension between the States which started soon after winning (or at least not losing) the war of independence,with the help of France, which tipped the scales. In 1787 the States are connected by "the articles of Confederation,which is a very ineffective and the 13 States are for the most part in bad shape and as ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book on the Convention, it really brings it together for you.
Kevin Kirkhoff
Feb 07, 2009 Kevin Kirkhoff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
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
Mayor McCheese
Jan 21, 2015 Mayor McCheese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good to read if you are seeking basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution and especially good for first-year law students seeking context for their ConLaw I coursework. This combined with Founding Brothers would probably ease the pain for nearly any law student. As for the book itself, it's a bit goofy but charming and appears to be accurate. The author does a nice job of describing the compromises and characters related to the drafting and passage of the Constitution.
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.
Farrell Yancy
Jun 18, 2015 Farrell Yancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A vivid telling of the days in May to September 1787 at Philadelphia when the most important document in our history was put together and agreed upon by a most extraordinary cast of characters. Catherine Drinker Bowen brings them to life and explores the genius of that moment in the history of our country. I thoroughly enjoyed this volume
Mar 06, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2013 JQ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful historical account of the Constitutional Convention. The author did a good job of presenting the details, giving you a flavor of the major personalities involved, and giving the reader a sense of the different interests at play.
Feb 07, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.:)
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
Nov 04, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be a mandatory text for every high school government course. I'm a little embarrassed that it's taken me this long to read it, but I got a lot more out of it than I would have as a 17 year old.
Apr 07, 2009 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason S
A bit generic in its coverage of this topic. I never am truly fond of history that asks random rhetorical questions to which there are no known answers.
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!
Feb 03, 2008 Firefly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Nov 21, 2008 Clinton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 16, 2010 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 25, 2008 Taressa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 01, 2016 Polloplayer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

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.
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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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