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Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  583 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title
Winner of the George Washington Book Prize

When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whet
ebook, 608 pages
Published November 23rd 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published October 19th 2010)
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Jul 02, 2012 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maier has written a book long waiting and needing to be written. For all the books that have been written about the creation of the US Constitution, relatively little has been written explicating the ensuing process of its being ratified by the necessary number of states. The original materials that Maier had available to her and that she needed to study were voluminous, and it is greatly to her credit that she has reviewed and summarized them into a fascinating and useful narrative for the gene ...more
Hannah Spaar
Jan 23, 2015 Hannah Spaar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book could alternatively be titled "The Tale of America's Greatest Political Sausage."

It is hilarious while reading about the tactics necessary to pass the Constitution to listen to modern politicians praise it as a perfect, sacred document. If you didn't already realize how much it has needed to be expanded on over the years (redefining suffrage and representation as well as the Roosevelts' great expansion of the scope of the nation), you might be shocked to realize that the Constitution w
Bob Gustafson
The author collected the facts and put them into a book. New Jersey and Georgia aside, she was thorough. She chose not to cover the constitutional convention. She chose to end her story when the last of the thirteen, Rhode Island, ratified. Each state had a ratifying convention (New Hampshire had two) and she told the story of the ratifying conventions one at a time leaving out Georgia and New Jersey.

This was a difficult story to tell, but it could have been told better, I believe. She could hav
Joyce Lagow

In modern times, the Constitution of the United States has been held by its citizens in such esteem (when they pay attention to it at all) as to put it in the category of a “sacred text.” But that was by no means the case in 1787 and 1788, when the newly-drafted Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.

The fledgling nation was in terrible shape in 1787. The Articles of Confederation, under which the young republic had operated, were inadequate. Most pressing was the issue of revenue.
Igor Faynshteyn
Sep 06, 2013 Igor Faynshteyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very comprehensive and what should now be a definitive and scholarly account of the ratification debates in the states. It is not an examination/discussion of the Federalist Papers, which were aimed primarily at New York and weren't otherwise widely circulated throughout the states. Rather, the book captures the debates at the state ratifying conventions primarily in the years 1787-1788, and also some discussion of the late ratifiers (North Carolina and Rhode Island) in 1789 and 1790.

Sep 23, 2014 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
Most of us are familiar with at least the outline of this story, perhaps from an American History or Civics class: the Constitution had to be ratified by at least 9 states in order to replace the Articles of Confederation (in those states) and a debate went on between the "Federalists" who supported the Constitution and the "Anti-Federalists" who felt that it curtailed states' rights too much and would lead to tyranny. This history tells a more complete version of that tale. Those who solemnly i ...more
Good look at what it took to pass the Constitution

I had read nothing about North Carolina's ratification history, nor Rhode Island's, so on this grounds alone, the book is great. Beyond that, Maier gets beyond Federalist/Antifederalist rhetoric (much of it Federalist-driven) and gets beyond "The Federalist" as well.

Political tactics and more all unfold in this book, from Pennsylvania's failed rush to be "The First State" through Massachusetts Federalists' careful, thought-out strategy, on to Vi
Steven Peterson
Jan 12, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over time, I have had a real interest in the founding period of the United States. The battle over ratification is one of those points in which I am especially interested (I have even done some professional research on the subject, to the extent that that has any relevance). This book, though, delves nicely into the ratification struggle after the Constitutional Convention concluded its business in 1787.

The book is well detailed, discussing the events in the various states' ratification conventi
Mike Hankins
Very long book, but worth the time. It's a state by state analysis of ratification, emphasizes how close it came and the potential for failure at every point along the way. Maier reveals the federalist strategy of building momentum to pressure ratification. Mass. was the key one, and ratified after a long and heavily opposed article-by-article debate, but gave a model for other states to follow in recommending but not requiring amendments. Maier rejects the term "antifederalist," which was used ...more
Mark Singer
Pauline Maier wrote a very detailed yet readable account of the the ratification process of the US Constitution. As she wrote in the forward, there are many books written on how the Constitution was created in the summer of 1787, but not so much on the how ratification was achieved. Federalist versus Anti-Federalist, the war of the presses, politics at the state conventions; it's all here.
Feb 26, 2016 Jewels rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-owned
I wish I had known about this book when I was still in college, especially while I was writing all those history papers. I love the Revolutionary era of American history, but I honestly had no concept of how long or how aggravating a struggle it was to get the Constitution written and then ratified. The latest date that I saw for one of the amendments was 1992! I understand that the colonies had just won their freedom from the British monarchy, and thus they were quite hesitant to give approval ...more
Jan 28, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pauline Maier's "Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1788" is the definitive story of one of the greatest debates in political history. Many famous names of the founding generation and many not so famous sat down and went through the newly coined U.S. constitution article by article to decide if it lived up to and defended the rights the American people had won during their war of independence. The articles of Confederation had bee running the young republic but had to establis ...more
Michael Johnston
Apr 20, 2015 Michael Johnston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all topics in American history, the early days of our founding are among the most heavily researched and written about. There is no lack of scholarly work on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or the "Founding Fathers". Nearly all are about the dramatic actions of a small band of visionary leaders that saw an opportunity to found "a more perfect union" based on the political theories of (among others) John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. This book is different.

To begin with, nearly al
Parrish Glover
We hold such a romantic view of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers (an indeed with good reason) that our perception often clouds our understanding of the very real, very complex individuals responsible for the construction of the United States. We also tend to boil The Founders down to Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and that's it. Both of these are massive mistakes, and Pauline Maier's book does an excellent job of setting the reality of 1787-88 in front of us.

Next time you hear some el
Oct 01, 2011 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pauline Maier’s Ratification is a thorough yet lively telling of the process by which the US Constitution was ratified by "the people." It picks up the story after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia unveiled the new Constitution and follows the ratification through the various state conventions and the development of the first 10 amendments (known after the Civil War as the Bill of Rights).

It’s a story that I knew very little about. I assume that most people, like me, thought the won
Mar 13, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a reason the state ratification conventions don't get the same attention the Philadelphia Convention to actually draft the Constitution does -- at the latter, you've got high-stakes negotiation, the clash of intellectual heavyweights, and the eventual shape of the American Republic being slowly hammered out.

Plus they had Gouverneur Morris in Philadelphia. That dude's awesome: peglegged womanizing Founding Father, what's not to love?

By way of contrast, the state ratification conventions f
Paul Frandano
Just an observation rather than a review: Maier's thrilling, blow-by-blow story of ratification reads like a parable, and a condemnation, of our own contemporary politics. How could it not? The fight for ratification was bitterly contested in every state and marked the beginning of political parties. It also inspired, as Joseph Ellis observes, "the most comprehensive and consequential political debate in American history." Aligned against the Constitution were such formidable figures as Patrick ...more
Frank Stein
Feb 29, 2012 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised to read that this was the first complete book on the ratification of the U.S. constitution out there. Fortunately, Maier finally gives the subject the comprehensive and enlightening treatment it deserves. She was able to complete this daunting task due to the publication of the "Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution" which compiled the papers on ratification, which were once scattered across the country, into an accessible whole. Now, this book may work like ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a fascinating book about the ratification of the Constitution. The author, Pauline Maier, states in her preface that this is one of the few books whose sole topic is the ratification of the Constitution in all thirteen of the original states. Given the importance of this event it seems unusual that it took so long for someone to write this book. A very important tool that made it possible is The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. This project which is being done ...more
Eric Atkisson
May 10, 2013 Eric Atkisson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. The story of our Constitution's ratification is so much more complicated and fascinating than most Americans realize, and though few at the time disagreed that the Articles of Confederation were a failure, there was nothing inevitable about the Constitution's ratification. It's also interesting to see how our modern perspective on the Constitution as a guarantee of limited government was quite the opposite of how most Americans viewed it at the time. ...more
May 22, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
If you're a history generalist, looking for a broad-based overview of the lives and times of our founding generation, this book will not satisfy, despite the prominence of several luminaries (Washington, Madison, Hamilton, et al). However, for those who are looking for a more targeted examination of a seminal event (really, series of events) that created the foundation of American government for the past two-plus centuries, as well as a great summation of the debates that informed the understand ...more
Aaron Crofut
The labor of creating the Constitution may have been completed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, but the ballgame had just begun. Nine states would need to ratify the document before it was adopted. And many of those states went through the Constitution in incredible detail, bringing forth the top minds of the country (as well as many a backbencher who still demanded their say) to debate the role of the federal government in the United States.

The topic is quite interesting and Maier's rese
Ron Tenney
Apr 02, 2013 Ron Tenney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading Pauline Maier's book on the Declaration of Independence, I wanted to read more from this very accessible historian. I have had a long-standing interest in the Constitution. This book seemed like a nice addition to my understanding of the foundation of this most longstanding and durable document. I am now about 100 pages into this book. I must admit that I first bought this book on It was impossible for me to keep the names, dates and events sorted out in my min
Aaron Haberman
Jan 05, 2013 Aaron Haberman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Maier has produced a thoroughly researched and comprehensive history of the ratification process of the constitution. It shows conclusively that the primary concerns of those opposed to the new constitution centered around the powers given to the centralized Congress and the lack of a bill of rights, and not so much around the position of the executive or the Supreme Court (ironically the two areas of greatest concern today). She also does a nice job of explaining why the various states ultimate ...more
Michael Fortner
Aug 03, 2011 Michael Fortner rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could only get through about one-third of this book. This goes over every debate point and editorial, on a state-by-state basis, that was discussed during the ratification of the Constitution. It covers the major payers - particulary George Washington - but mostly it gives the history of many of the smaller, but important, players - many of whom you probably haven't heard of unless you have a PhD in American History. But this book is only for people who can't get enough of this stuff. If you h ...more
Aug 15, 2016 Correen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author takes us through the states responses in a time oriented approach. It was enlightening to get the responses in that order as the process seems tangible. The process of ratifying gets lost in my mind and apparently that of others as we learn in a result-oriented manner. I am pleased to have read this book.
Apr 20, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Maier does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the ratification process, which of course we teach in schools today as if it was pre-ordained. Some of the arguments raised in 1788 are similar to the concerns raised today about the overreach of the federal government. It is a great read.
May 01, 2011 Eli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It was really interesting to see how the different states handled ratification and the differences and similarities between the various states. One thing I found amazing was how much people cared and how they got involved in the debate. The delegates to the various conventions were really helping to set the way our country would be governed, and the process worked. Maybe that shouldn't be so surprising given that they had just fought the Revolution, but I was surprised.

One interesting side note.
Eric Mortensen
May 15, 2016 Eric Mortensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long read buy an excellent way of understanding the heterogeneity of opinion regarding the issues of the constitution regarding adjustment. I found out informative to hear how a few decisions would haves charged the course of it history.
Pete Christopoulos
Want to learn about the ratification of the constitution? This will explain a lot however, I wouldn't say it was a quick enjoyable read. I learned quite a bit but felt like I was back in school trying to get through a US History class.
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Dr. Pauline Maier was a historian of the American Revolution, though her work also addressed the late colonial period and the history of the United States after the end of the Revolutionary War. She was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Maier achieved prominence over a fifty-year career of critically acclaimed scholarly histo
More about Pauline Maier...

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“Wilson had to explain why the Constitution did not, like several state constitutions, include a bill of rights. The reason, he said in one of his most influential arguments, lay in a critical difference between the constitutions of the states and the proposed federal Constitution. Through the state constitutions, the people gave their state governments “every right and authority which they did not in explicit terms reserve.” The federal Constitution, however, carefully defined and limited the powers of Congress, so that body’s authority came “not from tacit implication, but from the positive grant” of specific powers in the Constitution.” 0 likes
“Universal experience,” he began, proved the necessity of “the most express declarations and reservations … to protect the just rights and liberty of Mankind from the Silent, powerful, and ever active conspiracy of those who govern.” The new Constitution should therefore “be bottomed upon a declaration, or Bill of Rights, clearly and precisely stating the principles upon which the Social Compact is founded.” 0 likes
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