Bailyn Introduces New Book

Offers Chronological History of Constitutional Debates

One of the University's most distinguished historians has recently come out with an innovative two-volume set on the debates surrounding the ratification of the American Constitution.

"The Debate on the Constitution," published by the Library of America, is a collection of essays, letters and discourses assembled by Adams University Professor Emeritus Bernard Bailyn which chronologically traces the arguments leading up to ratification.

Bailyn, a two-time Pulitzer prize winner, said yesterday that he compiled the volume chronologically in order to restore the qualities of the ratification process not only as a historical event, but, more importantly, as a debate.

"The problem is that we pick documents here and there...and we lose the effect of a real debate," Bailyn said, referring to other works about the Constitution. "The whole purpose [of these volumes] is to restore the qualities of the real debate...not to form a treatise of political theory, but to show the polemical exchange that went through the years."

Chronology in a historical texts is particularly important when dealing with events which directly affected the political settings of the time, Professor of History William E. Gienapp said earlier this week.


"Politics is inherently chronological and the debate on the Constitution is political," Gienapp said. "It shows how the debate evolves...and how the evolving arguments affect both sides."

Bailyn said that to compile the volumes, which were released, appropriately, on July 4th, he sifted through hundreds of primary sources and carefully chose the ones that most clearly showed the sequence of arguments for and against ratification.

The criteria for the selection of the documents included the importance of the argument, the prominence of the people who prepared it and the effect of the written document on the particular issue, Bailyn said.

And the set includes an index which allows people who do not want to read through all the debates to follow a particular argument--such as slavery or the Bill of Rights--from beginning to end.

"These volumes are useful for teaching and for research," Trumbull Professor of American History Donald H. Fleming said yesterday. "Both for students and for scholars it would be invaluable."