Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rakove reviews Maier on the Ratification, and more in the book reviews

The review of interest this week is Jack Rakove's take on Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, which appeared in the Harvard Magazine. (Hat tip to Dan E.) 
Histories of the framing of the Constitution in 1787 continue to be written (three in the last eight years). Yet our accounts of this process have always tilted in one direction, toward the debates of the 55 framers at Philadelphia, and away from the 11 months of popular deliberation required to get the Constitution ratified. That story of what the people did with the Constitution has never received the full attention it deserved....

All that has now changed with Pauline Maier’s much-awaited study of ratification, a book that finally enlarges and completes our understanding of how Americans adopted the Constitution.
Along the way, " Maier is not merely a careful student of these remarkable debates. She brings alive the participants as well."  And "Maier’s account of what was actually said" during ratification debates "explains why latter-day originalists like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who treat the final text of the ratified document as sacrosanct, reveal so little serious or sustained interest in the actual debates that adopted the Constitution."  Ultimately, in illustrating a remarkable moment in American politics, Maier "makes clear why this episode merits the brilliant treatment it has finally received."

Read the rest here.

In other book news, this seems to be the week for the founders and their friends. MADISON AND JEFFERSON by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg is taken up in the Washington Post, and THE WOMEN JEFFERSON LOVED by Virginia Scharff is reviewed in the New York Times.

And finally -- not legal history at all, but I found of interest Robert Boyer's review in The Book (The New Republic) of What Ever Happened To Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici.