"The New Republic" Book Feature
The following text is excerpted from an article by Gordon S. Wood in “The New Republic” on December 24, 2010. To see the full article, please click this link.
At the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, one of the greatest editorial projects in American history has been under way for nearly thirty-five years. Since 1976, the successive editors of the "Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution" have published twenty-three volumes, and there are at least eight more to come. These volumes contain every scrap of evidence the editors have been able to find relating to the debates over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 - 1788. These editors, beginning with Merrill Jensen and continuing at present with John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, and others, have put together one of the greatest collections of debates over the basic issues of politics and constitutionalism that the Western world possesses. The political debates in fifth-century Athens or seventeenth-century England may have been richer and more wide-ranging, but we will never know, because the records of those earlier disputations are either lost or fragmentary. They are certainly not as complete as the records we have for the ratification of the Constitution. Rarely will we find a more profound or more comprehensive discussion of the problems of power, liberty, representation, federalism, rights, and all the other aspects of politics than we have in these volumes. This record is not only a national treasure, it is a world treasure.