Winner of the Bancroft Prize
Winner of the James Bradford Best Biography Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
Finalist, Literary Award for Nonfiction, Library of Virginia
Finalist, George Washington Prize
James Madison’s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the description of the U.S. Constitution’s creation. No document provides a more complete record of the deliberations in Philadelphia or depicts the Convention’s charismatic figures, crushing disappointments, and miraculous triumphs with such narrative force. But how reliable is this account?
“[A] superb study of the Constitutional Convention as selectively reflected in Madison’s voluminous notes on it...Scholars have been aware that Madison made revisions in the Notes but have not intensively explored them. Bilder has looked closely indeed at the Notes and at his revisions, and the result is this lucid, subtle book. It will be impossible to view Madison’s role at the convention and read his Notes in the same uncomplicated way again...An accessible and brilliant rethinking of a crucial moment in American history.”
—Robert K. Landers, Wall Street Journal