The Summer of 1787

The Men Who Invented the Constitution


The Summer of 1787 traces the struggle at the Philadelphia Convention to create the world’s first constitutional democracy. Using the delegates’ fiery rhetoric, the book explores the conflicts and hard bargaining that invented a government to meet the crises of the not-quite-united states – huge debts, hostile neighbors, armed rebellion, and the very real prospect of dissolving into three nations or more.

It was a desperate balancing act. The people should have power, but could they be trusted? Would a strong central government leave room for the states? Why did they contrive the convoluted electoral college for electing the president? And what of the grinding compromises over slavery, America’s original sin? The heroes include the familiar and the unlikely:

  • Gouverneur Morris, the one-legged aristocrat who roared out America’s first abolitionist speech, then wrote the final draft of the Constitution.
  • Ben Franklin, whose gentle wit salved many wounds, and whose compromise resolved the Convention’s toughest problem.
  • George Mason, the slave-owner whose refusal to sign the Constitution led to the Bill of Rights.
  • Scottish immigrant James Wilson, who with haughty John Rutledge of South Carolina remade the Constitution in ways the delegates never expected.
  • The incomparable George Washington, whose steadfast leadership was the summer’s indispensable glue.

Closeted together in a single room through a sultry Philadelphia summer, the delegates hammered out a government charter that embodied the best of America’s dreams, and the worst of America’s realities. The making of the Constitution will come alive for you in the pages of this book, and your feelings about how the nation started will never be the same.