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Miracle at Philadelphia

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,331 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
Chosen by Book-Of-The-Month Club as a primary selection for an unprecedented second time! The story of the Constitutional Convention. One of America's preeminent biographers, Bowen brings to life the hot summer months of argument and agreement, debate and decision. In the summer of 1787, 55 men from differing backgrounds and beliefs came together in Philadelphia to draft o ...more
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Amereon Ltd (first published 1966)
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Roy If you are asking "does it tell a story, or is it just boring facts?" I can say it is powerful at it's non-fictional storytelling. The book gives the…moreIf you are asking "does it tell a story, or is it just boring facts?" I can say it is powerful at it's non-fictional storytelling. The book gives the essential story of each major clause of the Constitution as the arguments went in 1787, and it is a page-tuner. But every word is true, and, as noted, well-researched.(less)
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Matt Shake
Jun 16, 2010 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
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 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
This is a knowledge-expanding book and is my favorite read so far this year. I read it slowly, taking 31 pages of notes along the way. As the subtitle suggests, it is a narrative of the five months of the Constitutional Convention but also describes the ratification process. This appealed to me, in part, because of what was left out. I never felt burdened with the author's analysis, speculation, or hindsight. It is simply a retelling of events, often using the delegates' own words. I not only en ...more
May 01, 2008 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."

Women's National Book Association of New Orleans
The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 1) in honor of Women's History Month:

From the Women's National Book Association's press release:

We launch our Book-A-Day Women’s History Month Program at the beginning—with our founding document, the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Catherine Drinker Bowen’s classic Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention tells the story of those few months i
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
Dec 26, 2014 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
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book on the Convention, it really brings it together for you.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three hundred and ten pages about a four-month long meeting of dead, white men arguing with each other? How could this be interesting?! If you have any interest in the USA, its history, and the social and political issues resonating still today, grab a copy and get a-reading! This is a “Wow!” book, engaging, well-researched, informative!
Author Catherine Drinker Bowen says of her goal in its writing: “Since the beginning, the country had moved toward this moment, towards self-government, towar
Giovani Facchini
It was a good book focusing on showing the discussions at the federal convention which would draw the constitution. It seems to be a little biased toward the federalist side (the current outcome) in which regards arguments or author excitement about it.

I felt the end was a little rushed since ratification and its discussions were too short. The anti-federalist arguments were not explored properly, although author express it in the end of the book saying it would require another book just for the
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should be required reading for everyone. This country wasn't founded on every one agreeing or one idea winning every time. It took people that came together to hash the hard stuff. There was no better time: most convention members had previously assisted in writing their own states constitution and not a moment too soon to prevent states from becoming more independent. The federalists ultimately prevailed for it to pass because they had a concrete idea and the anti-federalists had only fear ...more
Joe Walton
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another "must read" for anyone interested in understanding how unique and great is America. The challenges to the brave and talented men who met in Philadelphia were extreme. There were many disagreements, most are still being argued. It is difficult to understand how these men overcame the physical limitations of the times and the personal tragedies and illnesses they had to overcome.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A great read which should be required reading for every American citizen. In fact we should probably re-read it every few years.
Brooke Narring
Sep 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
History is not my favorite subject and I had to read it for a class. It wasn't my favorite but it is full of information! If you're into the subject it would be a great book for you.
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
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Robert Palmer
Aug 18, 2015 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
Kevin Kirkhoff
Jan 31, 2009 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
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to learn that all of the delegates came together to develop a new system from the Articles, despite them having different views of what the new system should be. Nationalism, Federalism, or States rights?

Madison is one of those names from American history that I know, but don't know much about. He was the most-important person in the room, other than Washington.

Jefferson on the other hand did not play much of a role, he was in England at the time. Seems like he was a states rights pr
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
Jul 04, 2011 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
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 03, 2008 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.
Feb 28, 2009 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
Nov 21, 2008 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
Jul 21, 2012 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.
Feb 24, 2010 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
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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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