James Madison’s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly unquestioned authority as the account of the U.S. Constitution’s creation, relied upon by generations of historians and other scholars. In her new book, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press, 2015), Boston College legal scholar Mary Sarah Bilder reveals that Madison revised the Notes to a far greater extent than previously recognized. In an unprecedented investigation that draws on digital technologies and traditional textual analysis to trace Madison’s composition, Bilder shows that The Notes began as a diary of the Convention’s proceedings, but were abandoned by Madison at a critical juncture and left incomplete. Madison did not return to finish them until several years later. By then, his views were influenced by the new government’s challenges and Thomas Jefferson’s political ideas. Madison’s evolving vision of republican government, his Virginia allegiances, his openness to constitutional protection for slavery, his fascination with the finer points of political jockeying, and his depictions of Alexander Hamilton and Charles Pinckney shifted during the writing and rewriting of his account. Bilder is a professor and Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School. More from Bilder via History News Network.
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