Review: A Brilliant Solution, Inventing the American Constitution – by Carol Berkin July This book published in should be a must read for. Berkin describes the making of the U.S. Constitution. A Brilliant Solution: inventing the American Constitution. Author: Carol Berkin. Harcourt, Inc., At first glance to Carol Berkin’s a Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution I felt uneasy. I predicted it was going to be reading a short “textbook”.

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The American Revolutionary war ended in There was economic depression. Berkin writes that the Continental Congress “faced a host of angry creditors, foreign and domestic, clamoring for repayment of wartime loans.

Relations between the states were poor, and many questioned whether they would remain united. The question was could they do anything to save their country. In other words, the creation of the U. Berkin presents the framers of the constitution — the fifty-five delegates to the convention — as real people, as men of their time, as men of the hierarchical eighteenth century rather than men with twenty-first century sensibilities.


They did not discuss any need to end slavery or equality for women. Jefferson, in France at the time, described the framers as “demigods.

A Brilliant Solution

She is an historian, working with documents that tell of realities. Most of the delegates were lawyers, which, writes Berkin, “may explain the verbosity on the convention floor. Berkin is not belittling the delegates. These are the men who produced what she calls the “brilliant solution. A number were self-sacrificing, honorable to a fault, above reproach in personal and public matters. Others were vain, ambitious, even unscrupulous in their political and private relationships As Madison’s notes would reveal, the convention had its share of windbags and fiery orators.


And as the character sketches made by William Pierce would show, it also had its share of eccentric dressers and dandies, alcoholics and snuff addicts, mediocrities and boors. The delegates wrestled with issues and verbally with each — as the imperfect do. There were no romantic speeches or fiery oratory. This was an attempt to work a nuts and bolts compromise — something between the concerns of those adamant in their support for states rights and those more in favor of centralized power.

There were those who championed the elite against the mob.

A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin

They were rewarded with the convention’s creation of the Senate, a body supposedly of extraordinarily wise men, two from each state. Delegates from the larger states felt that this left their states under-represented, thus the creation of the House of Representatives — a larger body with representatives for each state in proportion to the number of people in that state.

The delegates went into the convention concerned about the creation of a new congress and with many seeing the presidency as other than a critical branch of government. Not all of the delegates wanted an executive branch of government. But fears arose that the Senate and the House of Representatives might have too much power.

For the sake of a balance of power they decided to give the chief executive the power to veto legislation — as some Europeans had offered to their constitutional monarchs. It was proposed at the convention that the presidency consist of three men, and this was voted down.

It was proposed that the judiciary have a veto over legislation similar to the president, sokution this also was voted down, eliminating more redundancy. And the president’s veto power was not to be absolute.


The delegates had an aversion to absolutes — a great strength. Congress could override the President’s veto by a two-thirds vote.

The delegates discussed whether the president should be chosen by bwrkin people or by congressmen. Instead they chose the “electoral college. Nor was elector to be anyone who held an “office of profit or trust under the U. The electors were to meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for two persons to represent their state.

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These two were to deliver the election results of their state, signed, certified and in a sealed envelope, to Congress, where the results were to be counted in front of congressmen and senators. And if there were a tie, members of the House of Representatives would select which would be the president.

Berkin writes that the delegates were “men who recognized the idea of compromise, who knew concessions had to be made for the greater good. Realizing their lack of clairvoyance and their imperfection in creating something that would fit the indefinite future, the framers of the constitution were wise enough to include in the constitution a capacity for change.

Experiences down the road — the doings of human beings — were to be incorporated into the constitution in the form of amendments.