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Extended Audio Sample Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution, by Richard Beeman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (273 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Beeman Narrator: Michael Prichard Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Plain, Honest Men is a full-scale account of the deliberations of the Founding Fathers from the opening of the Constitutional Convention on May 25, 1787, to its concluding session on September 17. Following closely the chronology of the convention, the book takes listeners behind the scenes and beyond the debates to show how the world’s most important constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and eventually fragile consensus.

The Constitutional Convention affected nothing less than a revolution in the nature of the American government. Led by James Madison, a small cohort of delegates devised a plan that would radically alter the balance of power between state and national governments, and then sprung that idea on a largely unsuspecting convention. The success of this bold and brilliant strategy was, however, far from assured, and the ultimate outcome of the delegates’ labors—the creation of a frame of government that would enable the fragile American union to flourish—turned out to be very different from that which Madison had originally envisioned. In fact, there was very little agreement among the framers about the nature of the government they had just created.

Audiences will come to appreciate the challenges that the Founding Fathers faced in creating a form of government that, while imperfect in many respects, nevertheless approaches, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “so near to perfection as it does.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Authoritative and readable…Beeman’s work is distinguished by a gently judicious tone that allows us to appreciate, and draw some lessons from, the delicate balances that emerged out of that passion-filled Philadelphia crucible.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Engrossing…This minute-by-minute account introduces us to a world, and time, where everything was at stake.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “This account is now the most authoritative, up-to-date treatment of the Constitutional Convention since Catherine Drinker Bowen’s Miracle at Philadelphia over forty years ago. It’s unlikely to be surpassed.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Beeman eschews the heroic version of the story in favor of a hard-eyed narrative that in no way diminishes the Framers’ achievement…In a motion-by-motion, day-by-day, debate-by-debate fashion, he re-creates the [delegates’] hard bargaining…Masterfully told American history for the scholar and general reader alike.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Sadie | 2/15/2014

    " I've been wanting to learn more about the creating of our American constitution, but I didn't want a dry book, or one with a lot of biases. This was perfect. He threw in lots of little tidbit information, and did a great job of really helping you put yourself there in the convention room with these amazing - albeit - plain, honest men. Highly recommend! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Patricia | 1/14/2014

    " Should be read by every American; informative and very interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Wes | 1/3/2014

    " See the interview on The Daily Show, read the book. A nice piece on the writing of the constitution. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Steve Gripp | 1/1/2014

    " What a phenomenal summer read, being apropos since the Constitutions was created over the summer of 1787. The book accounts for pretty much a day by day account of what transpired during that historical summer in Philadelphia. It takes the three major contentious issues: Nationalism vs. Federalism, the role of the President, and slavery, and presents a philosophical accounting of all the major players. It brings to light the provincialism of some, and the genius of others, especially James Madison, someone who I wrote off as another historical rampart. What I enjoyed most about this book was that these men divested in these arduous proceedings for months, and were able to come up with a living document that still stays true to this day. These men came from philosophy, not politics. And they stayed true to what the goals were: a more perfect union. An enjoyable book for those who like detailed history. "

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About the Author

Richard Beeman has been on the faculty of the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania for thirty-six years. He is a historian of the American Revolutionary Era and has written several books and numerous articles on aspects of America’s political and constitutional history in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His fifth book, The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth Century America, is a wide-ranging, interpretive study of the uncertain and confused origins of democracy in America. His other books include Patrick Henry: A Biography, The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry, and The Old Dominion and the New Nation, 1788–1801. Beeman has served as chair of the Department of History and as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He also continues to serve as chair of the Program and Exhibits Committee of the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center. He earned his MA from the College of William and Mary and his PhD from the University of Chicago.