Decision in Philadelphia

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The book Decision in Philadelphia the Constitutional Convention if 1787 by Christopher and James Collier offers a unique look at the scribing of the Constitution and the events that not only surrounded it but led up to its creation. The authors take on the events and their creative writing style make the book and enjoyable and fact filled read on one of the country’s most important events. They begin with a historical look at the events that led up to the signing and a brief synopsis of the events that were occurring in the country at the time. The background that they give provides a good base for the information and allows the reader to see things through the eyes of someone living in the time.

One of the more interesting parts of the book comes early in which the author tells the reader of how there were many states that were using militias to control the events occurring in the states. In many of my previous reading there had been mention of the states controlling their own laws and being able to enforce them but I was unaware of the extent. I was also unaware that in Massachusetts that the government and the proceedings were being controlled by the merchants and the upper class. It was interesting to read about how there could be such a diverse set of governments ruling different parts of the country with virtually no centralization. When the congress was first formed and the laws were laid out there was only a requirement for the states to meet once a year in November and that put an unnecessary burden of the delegates to try and align their thinking with other states.

This theme would play itself out as the constitutional convention evolved and wore on. There were many challenges facing the country at the time that would impact the constitutional convention and the outcomes that would shape the country. One of them being that there was very poor transportation routes and that adversely affected communications. “The few interstate roads that existed were frequently nothing more than mile upon mile of mud wallow, cut by hundreds of streams, creeks, and rivers, most of which were unbridged so they had to be forded, or crossed by ferry.” (Collier, 2007) This lack of infrastructure led to many difficulties in communication and travel which meant that the diversity in the country was largely unknown to each other. The country was divided not only by the vast physical size but also by religious sects, economic differences and ethnic and language differences. It was certainly time to establish the constitution and begin to align the peoples of the country under a united set of rules and a centralized government.

James Madison was a key player in what would become the centralized idea to unite all these different pockets of civilization that had formed since the country had been settled. The authors point out that Madison though it was a good idea for George Washington not to attend these meetings because if things went sour then he could have what we equate today as plausible deniability. In other words if things went wrong then he could still possibly hold the country together as he had done in the preceding seven years. This was another fact that had not been made clear in my previous reading where it seemed more that Washington had a distain for the political side of things and was just not interested in attending the convention. Middlekauff points out that “Persuading Washington to come had been a near thing, or seemed so, for he clung to private life after eight years of exhausting service to his country.” (Middlekauff, 2005) He did in fact attend and his presence would prove to be a driving force in the establishment of a strong government that was well equipped to lead the country forward. Madison believed that under the right circumstances that a group of people could basically be governed by a contract in which there were certain rights allowed to them and in exchange there would be a...
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