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March 31 , 2009

The Philadelphia Convention: A Play for Many Readers


Fifty-five men assembled in Philadelphia that summer: Men from 12 different states, men with different passions and views, some from the North, and some from the South. They disagreed on much. But they also agreed on some key points, eventually concurring (for the most part) that a new form of government was necessary, and that they had been assembled there to create it.

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Some wanted to see a "Federal" Government kept in place – keeping most power with the States where it belonged; others wanted a more "National" Government formed – where the People counted more than those “imaginary creatures” called States.

They fought, they argued, and eventually they compromised, again and again, until they had completed their document - The Constitution of the United States.

After four months of long, hot days, several men had left in disgust, and three of the key players that remained behind refused to put their names on the document. But the delegates of the 12 States represented there in 1787 voted unanimously to accept their work. Franklin rose on the final day to declare, "I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best...I doubt whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution...It astonishes me to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does."

Throughout those long hot days, James Madison took copious notes: notes that now compose over 600 pages; notes of the thoughts of those men as they hammered out the details of their new government. But, unfortunately, few people today will find the time and energy to read through Madison's massive notes, to sort out who was who, and to absorb the meanings behind their discussions.

But here, in an easier to read format, you can read the highlights of those debates. But not just the few paragraphs or few pages of highlights that we often find in our short introductions to the Constitution! Here in 160 pages Catherine Jaime brings you those men and their debates, set in play format. Here you can become more familiar with the hard work of not just James Madison and Benjamin Franklin, but also Charles Pinckney, General Charles C. Pinckney, James Wilson, George Mason, and countless others.

The play is great for a high school class studying U.S. Government, and for the motivated individual who wants to learn more about the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and the incredible accomplishment produced there.

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