Carol Berkin’s book entitled, “A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution” presented a rich and insightful narrative on America’s experience after the revolution, specifically the events that led to the formation of the United States Constitution. The challenges and experiences of America’s founding fathers, as detailed in the book, provided an emphasis on how the Constitutional Convention transpired and how much efforts they had to exert in order to lay a solid foundation for the present American government that we today. In the first part of the book, Berkin acknowledged the significance of the end of the American Revolution as the onset of the country’s founding story. The years following the end of the war in 1784 were some of the most crucial years in America as two important national crises arose: first is the challenge on a peaceful transitioning of power in the government and the second concerns the security of the nation (Berkin, 2002).
In the book, Berkin described how the delegates of the Constitutional Convention arrived and deliberated in Philadelphia and afterwards came up with a decision to inaugurate George Washington as America’s President. Berkin described how the delegates’ ideas, convictions and arguments came together to form each article contained in the American Constitution as well as the political context out of which was born the most important, living document that the government has today. What many readers would probably appreciate about the book is the fact that it clearly illustrated the political culture, context and situation back in the eighteenth century and how, in the midst of numerous crises and difficult challenges, the backbone of the American nation emerged. Berkin also described how, in the absence of political parties, national figures and established means of communication, the Constitution was miraculously formulated. Moreover, the author brilliantly captured the critical human dimensions in the process of Constitutional Convention as Berkin revealed the imperfections of the American government as well as the framers of the constitution.
Review and Critique of Berkin’s “A Brilliant Solution”
Berkin’s impressive account concerning the formation of the American constitution was backed up by original documents and historical evidences. Berkin’s fact-based accounts, along with her depth of knowledge on the political context during the eighteenth century, made the book an excellent source of concise, lively and honest account on the introduction of the American Constitutional Convention and the specific events that led to the formation of the Constitution. In addition, Berkin’s profession as a history professor in some of the best universities and colleges in the United States helped her provide a unique, rich and reliable perspective on the many problems encountered by the American government at that time.
Nevertheless, what is most remarkable about Berkin’s narration on this historical milestone is its realistic and humanly perspective. Many readers have probably been captivated by the interesting details included by Berkin with regard to the personalities and lives of the delegates of the Constitutional Convention. It was interestingly described by Berkin how the delegates, driven by their own personal reasons, beliefs, political ties, ideals and background, presented their individual arguments the way they did. In doing so, Berkin made it perfectly clear to all readers that the framers of the constitution were also humans and were thus, imperfect. And because Berkin described these delegates as real people, many readers were able to relate with the difficulties they experienced and more importantly, it opened their with regard to the realities faced by modern America prior to coming up with the so-called “brilliant solution”. Berkin further highlighted in the book that the delegates of the convention did everything they can to improve the flaws in the American government and were able to miraculously create the American Constitution in spite of the challenges.
From a reader’s perspective, it may be argued that the way Berkin presented the framers of the constitution as living and breathing individuals was quite tricky but was successfully engaging. Not only was Berkin able to effectively draw them out as characters, she was also able to assess the personal and non-personal issues that these characters faced and how they came up with the most critical decisions. It may also be asserted that Berkin was able to capture the essence of the debates in the process of the Constitutional Convention and how their agreements came about as a consequence of their real fears on mob rule, national dissolution and tyranny and their personal philosophies and principles. After reading the book, one may simply be convinced that the drafting of the Constitution was indeed, both a miracle and a brilliant solution for the American society.
In conclusion, Berkin’s “A Brilliant Solution” was an impressive and excellent read as the account of the historical events that led to the creation of the American constitution was supported by reliable facts and insights. However, it was Berkin’s characterization of the major players of the constitution that made the narrative quite engaging. Berkin presented the framers of the constitution as real, living individuals which made the readers relate to their experiences. Most importantly, this approach in presenting what actually transpired during the Constitutional Convention made the readers more aware of the humble beginnings of their powerful nation.
Berkin, C. (2002). A brilliant solution: Inventing the American constitution. Harcourt Inc.