The real "miracle at Philadelphia" that escapes
Prof. Berkin's attention and makes this latest constitutional exegesis
less than satisfactory was the rejection of a nationalist plan of
government contained in the Virginia Play of James Madison (which
also reminds us that he was not the "father of the Constitution"
as many scholars claim). Its nationalism, as was strenuously objected
to at the time and which can be followed in Madison's own Notes of
Debates was two-fold in nature: a concentration of power for which
the word "consolidation" was coined and the idea of one
government for all of America operating directly upon individuals
(through proportional representation) which was the very definition
of an Asian or Turkish despotism and the same type of government that
Great Britain had become and that was the cause of the War of Independence
in defense of ancient English liberties.
In American, government would indeed be republican, federal, and
limited rather than national in keeping with the "Spirit of 1776."
In the language of the day, it was a union of the states rather than
the states united. To use
None of the above "brilliant solutions" of the anti-Federalists,
however, are to be found in A Brilliant Solution. What readers get,
and what Prof. Berkin ought to know better along with many other constitutional
scholars, is the standard Madisonian-Federalist mythology of a national
government founded by framers (Federalists) who were not very federalist
at all and the acceptance of the plan of government reported by the
Federal Convention as "the Constitution of 1787." What about
the ratification debate of 1787-1788? Was it meaningless? Why the
demand for conditional amendments (hundreds of them) that insisted
upon individual liberties and the rights of states and which changed
-----Kirk Wood is professor of history at Alabama State University.
His "Nullification, A Constitutional History, 1776-1833"
is in progress.