insert middle ad
Lorri Glover's new book, <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1421420023/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1421420023&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=d6710f6b36848b60f7234b3e64170d55 The Fate of the Revolution: Virginians Debate the Constitution]</i>, explores the dramatic battle that took place during the Virginia Ratification Convention. Virginia's convention was notable because some of the most influential founding fathers had staked out positions on the Constitution in stark opposition to one another. As Patrick Henry, James Madison, George Mason and John Marshall publicly debated the merits of the new Constitution, the nation waited for a decision. Glover explores the constitutional questions that divided Virginia and shows how
those questions are still relevant in understanding our founding document.
Lorri Glover is the John Francis Bannon Professor of History at Saint Louis University. She has written extensively about the early American Republic and the founding fathers
. The Fate of the Revolution is her sixth book on the Early Republic. She has also written <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300219741/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0300219741&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=6f94c4572ea76fadf82aa4a8591a17de Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries]</i> (Yale University Press, 2014), <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ED13T4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001ED13T4&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=b0bcea97a551378c04128bb391e8ad1c The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and The Fate of America]</i>, with co-author with Daniel Blake Smith (Henry Holt Publishers, 2008), <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801898218/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0801898218&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=0c38c621f7bd570d1c164a998b7c5cd4 Southern Sons: Becoming Men in the New Nation]</i> (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and finally <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801864747/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0801864747&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=0c82e5abfb01bba8a038964afe6f4664 All Our Relations: Blood Ties and Emotional Bonds Among the Early South Carolina Gentry]</i> (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
Here is our interview.
====Who were the leading figures in this debate? What positions did they stake out?====
The formal debates in Richmond, in June 1788, were one of the greatest dramas in all of American history. In no other gathering during the entire revolutionary era was there so fierce a contest between so many talented, famous, and committed leaders. Patrick Henry, the greatest orator of the age, insisted the Constitution betrayed the Revolution’s deepest principles. He was joined by George Mason, who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights and conceived the first state constitution in America, and by the war hero and future president James Monroe. They faced off against James Madison, the principal architect of the Constitution and probably the greatest intellectual force of that generation. George Washington, already beloved as the “father” of the country, worked behind the scenes to help Madison. And Madison joined forces at the Richmond convention with John Marshall, the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Virginia’s popular governor, Edmund Randolph. Men on both sides agreed on one thing: they would be deciding, “not the welfare of a state, but, that of mankind.”
====What did the opponents of Constitution want instead? What vision did these people have for a federal government?====
====Originalism has been a big topic in Constitutional law for the past 30 years. The problem I have always found with originalist interpretations of the Constitution was that they failed to accurately represent the variety of views held by people during this era. Would you agree that there were very different interpretations and views on what the Constitution was designed to accomplish? Is there a good way to categorize these differing interpretations?====
Absolutely, I agree. We’ve made “The Founders” into a single, timeless monolith. The truth is much messier and fluid and, I think, much more interesting and inspiring. Leading members of the Revolutionary generation disagreed vehemently about the Constitution, and many changed their minds over time. The best way to think about the question of the “original” intentions of the founders is to ask “who?” and when?” Take just James Madison. In 1787-1788, he argued that a Bill of Rights was completely unnecessary. By 1790, he was leading the effort in the U.S. Congress to create one and get it ratified. Between 1787 and 1790 Madison was probably George Washington’s most trusted ally. But soon thereafter Madison was partnering with Thomas Jefferson to organize an opposition faction to President Washington—because they did not agree with his interpretations of the Constitution. So, there were not only a variety of views held by different people of this era. Men changed their minds over time, too. Madison cautioned us against originalism: late in his life he wrote that the work of the framers at the Philadelphia Convention “could never be regarded as the oracular guide” to the Constitution. “Life and validity were breathed into it, by the voice of the people, speaking through the several state conventions.” Whether we like it or not, we have always reinterpreted the Constitution to fit the shifting times.
====What is the most important thing that we need to understand about the ratification debate over the Constitution?====
====What surprised you the most when you were researching this project?====
I was surprised over and over again. My favorite surprise came just after the final vote in Virginia. The New Hampshire and New York conventions were meeting at the same time as the Virginians, and as they debated, eight of the required nine states had already ratified. Alexander Hamilton, working for ratification in New York, had coordinated a team of riders in all three convention cities to speed to the other two locations as soon as any final vote occurred. As the Virginians began their last days of debate, they had no way of knowing that New Hampshire ratified on June 21. Virginians thought they were the 9th state when they ratified on June 25. Sometime before dawn on June 28, two riders, one from Richmond and carrying
the news from New Hampshire, met at a tavern in Alexandria. They became the first two men to know that both New Hampshire and Virginia had ratified, and the Constitution would become law.
====How would you recommend using your book for a US colonial history class?====