Book Review: Miracle in Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen.

As I’ve mentioned here a number of times creating true wealth is about more than accumulating money and stuff. It is also about personal development. Part of that process is learning more and becoming more. Part of that process is understanding how your government works. Every citizen should have some basic knowledge about their government and today’s book review is a small step in developing that knowledge.

I first read this splendid discussion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 back in 1982. I recently re-read it and found it again to be delightful. Bowen was a writer who was best known for her biographies and won several awards. She published Miracle in Philadelphia in 1966 and it became a best seller and a favorite for libraries around the nation.

This book chronicles the convention where representatives from many of the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia during the hot summer of 1787 with the charge to improve the Articles of Confederation which were found wanting. The Articles had formed a confederation of sovereign states with a very weak central government. It was largely ineffective in gaining control over disparate state interests. The nation was in effect rudderless and weak.

The delegates soon seized this opportunity to exceed their mandate and write a whole new Constitution designing a new government with a much stronger central government while preserving protections for state sovereignty. It provided a way for the nation to speak as one voice especially in its relations with foreign nations.

The authors describes the states, large and small, with many differing and conflicting interests found sufficient common ground to establish a new government. Several delegates were so amazed by the compromises forged during this convention they called it a miracle, which it undoubtedly was. It institutionalized critical checks and balances to limit federal or central power and control while giving the central government sufficient power to hold the union together and effectively deal with foreign affairs.

It is a masterful and readable description of the personalities, competing egos and leadership of these men who sought to forge a new nation – a democratic republic, something that never truly been done.

The Constitution they wrote has stood the test of time. While it has been amended a number of times it is much the same today as it was in 1787. It has been the most copied and admired charter of a democratic government in history. It provided the governmental blueprint for a nation that would grow into an empire.

Every American should read this book to obtain a deep and abiding understanding of the work of our founding fathers and this great document. People from other nations should read the book to deepen their understanding of the American polity.

I highly recommend the book – Miracle in Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

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