In May 1788, the roads into Richmond overflowed with horses and stagecoaches. From every Virginia county, specially elected representatives made their way to the capital city for the state’s Ratification Convention. Together, these delegates―zealous advocates selected by Virginia’s deadlocked citizens―would decide to accept or reject the highly controversial United States Constitution and determine the fate of the American Republic. The rest of the country kept an anxious vigil, keenly aware that without the endorsement of Virginia―its largest and most populous state―the Constitution was doomed.
The Fate of the Revolution explains why Virginian’s wrangling over ratification led to such heated political debate. Beginning in 1787, when they first learned about the radical new government design, Virginians had argued about the proposed Constitution’s meaning and merits. The convention delegates, who numbered among the most respected and experienced patriots in Revolutionary America, were roughly split in their opinions. Patrick Henry, the greatest orator of the age, opposed James Madison, the intellectual force behind the Constitution. The two sides were so evenly matched that in the last days of the convention even the savviest political observers still could not confidently predict the outcome.
As they scrutinized the Constitution, Virginians created a wealth of sources unparalleled in the revolutionary age: personal letters, newspaper articles, and a full transcription of their convention debates. The Fate of the Revolution mines those remarkable records to bring to life the provocative, momentous constitutional questions that consumed Virginians, echoed across American history, and resonate still today.
“The best account of Virginia’s ratification now available. Glover succeeds in giving readers a tightly focused and comprehensive narrative of Virginia’s ratification that centers on key personalities. An astute introduction to the history of the American founding.”
Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia, author of Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood
“This well-written and thoroughly researched account of the Virginia ratifying convention not only tells a great story filled with key individuals and their debates over fundamental issues, it also explains why ratification in Virginia worked the way it did and why it mattered so much to the new nation.”
Todd Estes, Oakland University, author of The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture