The American Constitution

 

 

A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America.
—George Washington, 5/28/1788

 

THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION is a five-night TV documentary event and education initiative.  More about the education initiative.

 

The five-night historical documentary series tells the story of the US Constitution's creation, the battle for ratification, and the struggle for a bill of rights—a gripping tale told through the words of the founders performed by acclaimed actors. Many of the world’s leading scholars and historians provide insight. The American Constitution promises to bring to millions of viewers this essential American story. More about the TV documentary series.

 

One of the untold stories brought to life is the battle over ratification, which Joseph Ellis described as, "The most comprehensive and consequential political debate in American history."

 

Mission: To help citizens know their Constitution through compelling entertainment.

 

A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.  —James Madison, 8/4/1822

 

The American Constitution Education Initiative

 

The American Constitution primetime TV series premieres in 2020 but the worldwide education initiative has already begun with the publication of a new groundbreaking learning tool. Constitu brings the Constitution to life—just click on phrases in the Constitution and top expert videos provide meaning and understanding to the text. Constitu also fosters engagement by encouraging students to add their own thoughts to each concept—to join the conversation. This virtual Constitution will continue to grow as more of the world's leading scholars add their perspectives and analyses. In addition to this cutting-edge web app, many other learning opportunities and promotions will roll out in conjunction with the TV series premiere. Lesson plans and guides will help teachers integrate the Initiative into their classrooms. Future student activities and teacher materials will be available through a special login portal on this website.

 

  • Social Network Debates. Participate in social network debates over key constitutional issues found in each of the episodes of the TV series.

  • Watch/Weigh-in/Win Prizes. Watch the broadcast with a parent or guardian, answer a quick opinion poll, and have the opportunity to win scholastic prizes.

  • Founder Tweets. Follow the creation of the Constitution on Twitter with tweets from Washington, Madison, and Hamilton gleaned from their letters and diaries.

  • Educational Partner Integration. Cross-promotion and integration with civic and history educational programs that have been successfully implemented by our partners.

  • Future Curricula. Long after the TV premiere, The American Constitution and its Education Initiative will be available to future generations of students for decades to come.

 

A 2004 federal law established September 17 of every year as Constitution Day. The US Department of Education mandates that every publicly-funded school provide an educational program about the Constitution on Constitution Day. Our Education Initiative campaign will rollout in conjunction with The American Constitution TV event premiering in September of 2020. The campaign will include high school and college-level curricula.

 

Partners

 

 

Iconic I WANT YOU recruitment poster.Calling all teachers, students, youth advisors, civic leaders, schools, national & local organizations, agencies, corporate sponsors, media, and concerned citizens—we need you.  Learn more about becoming a part of THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION project.

 

 

 

 

David Garrigus Productions is the acclaimed producer of documentary and educational programs including Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brother's Journey of Invention. This definitive two-hour documentary premiered on PBS and internationally during the 100th anniversary of flight—featuring Neil Armstrong and John Glenn as the voices of Orville and Wilbur. Kitty Hawk has reached nearly 10 million viewers with partners including Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Parker, NASA, and the US Congress Centennial of Flight Commission. Was Best Documentary at the International Family Film Festival. Creating exceptional programs for over 15 years, David Garrigus Productions has won Telly Awards, Cindy Awards, and New York Festival’s Gold Medal.  more information

 

The world’s most influential civic education organization. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational corporation dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries. With an active and growing network of more than 30,000 teachers, the Center administers a wide array of critically-acclaimed curricular, professional development, and community-based programs with a focus on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights; American political traditions and institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; civic participation; and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.  more information

 

The National Archives Museum will host the Capital region's theatrical premiere of The American Constitution documentary. The gala screening will take place in the beautiful 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater. The McGowan is Washington's most important outlet for documentary film as well as a forum for exploring the great issues of American history and other topics related to the National Archives' holdings and mission.

 

 

 

more information

 

 

Noted authors, scholars, and eminent historians provide their expert analysis and insights.

Pauline Maier (1938-2013)

The 2011 winner of the George Washington Book Prize for Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. Maier was the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American History at MIT. Her other books include From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776, The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams, The American People: A History, a textbook for junior high school students, and American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

 

Gordon Wood

Awarded the 2010 National Humanities Medal. His 1992 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize. He is the author of The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin won the Julia Ward Howe Prize from the Boston Authors Club in 2005. He is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University, Professor Wood’s scholarship has profoundly influenced colleagues in his field and attracted a wide readership. His Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book is Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States. Through his work, Wood provides readers with a sweeping panorama of early America. His uncanny ability to capture the sense of turbulence and vast transformation have made him one of the most influential historians of his generation.

 

Akhil Reed Amar

Expert on constitutional law and criminal procedure. The Supreme Court has cited his work in over 20 cases. A Legal Affairs poll placed Amar among the top 20 contemporary US legal thinkers. He is the Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School and is the author of numerous publications and books, including the acclaimed America’s Constitution: A Biography. Other major works include The Constitution and Criminal Procedure: First Principles and The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction. He recently wrote The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic.

 

Carol Berkin

Expert on women's history in colonial American, She has written widely on the subject in several books including Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence, First Generations—Women in Colonial American, Women's Voices/Women's Lives: Documents in Early American History, and Women, War and Revolution. Through her research, Professor Berkin has brought vivid portraits of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century women as active participants in the creation of their societies. She won the Colonial Dames of America Book Prize in 2004 for A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution. Dr. Berkin also wrote Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist and Civil War Wives: The Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant. She is the Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.

 

David O. Stewart

The author of Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America and The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years and has challenged government actions as unconstitutional in the US Supreme Court. The Summer of 1787 was on the Washington Post bestseller list for several weeks, won the Washington Writing Award for Best Book of 2007, and made several "best books" lists for 2007. Stewart also wrote the Davis-Kidd Bestseller Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy and American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America.

 

Christopher Collier

Has written extensively about the Founding Era including books for adults such as Roger Sherman's Connecticut: Yankee Politics and the American Revolution, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Decision in Philadelphia (with James Lincoln Collier), and All Politics Is Local about Connecticut's role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Dr. Collier has also authored bestselling books for children such as My Brother Sam Is Dead, which was awarded a Newbery Honor, Jump Ship to Freedom and six other historical novels written with his brother James. He was the official Connecticut State Historian (1984–2004) and is now professor of history emeritus at the University of Connecticut.

 

Stuart Leibiger

Expert on George Washington and James Madison. He is the author of Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic, which chronicles the little-known personal and professional relationship Washington and Madison shared. Dr. Leibiger is also an expert on the framing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He is Assistant Professor of History at LaSalle University.

 

 

Ralph Ketcham

His National Book Award–nominated James Madison: A Biography is the definitive single-volume bio on Madison. Ketcham has written and edited numerous other books on American history and democracy including The Anti-Federalist Papers and The Constitutional Convention Debates, Presidents above Party: The First American Presidency, 1789-1829, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and The Idea of Democracy in the Modern Era. His most recent work is The Madisons at Montpelier: Reflections on the Founding Couple. Dr. Ketcham is Professor of History Emeritus at Syracuse University and a former editor of The Papers of James Madison.

 

 

Jeff Broadwater

Professor of history at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. He is the author of James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation (2012). His book George Mason: Forgotten Founder (2006) won the Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography from the Virginia Historical Society and was rated by the Washington Post as one of the best biographies of 2006. Dr. Broadwater has also written numerous articles, essays, and reviews in the field of American history. Before teaching at Barton, he practiced corporate and public utility law and argued, and won, one case, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation vs. the Arkansas Public Service Commission (1983) before the United States Supreme Court.

 

Michael Meyerson

Professor of law and Piper & Marbury Faculty Fellow at the University of Baltimore, specializing in constitutional law and American legal history. Professor Meyerson wrote Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World. His 2012 book is Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America. He is also the author of Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution.

 

 

The American Constitution Documentary TV Series

 

The American Constitution five-night TV event captures the drama, conflicts, and desires of Washington, Madison, and Hamilton in their struggle to save their fledgling United States from ruin. They faced overwhelming opposition—most Americans saw little need for a strong federal government including powerful state leaders like New York Governor George Clinton and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry—considered to be the greatest orator of his time.

 

We were suffering trying to make a two-hour movie. Every time we cut it down, we lost some of the delicious pieces… At the same time, we were watching Homeland, House of Cards, and these series stretching one crime over an entire series. That's what we needed. —Marc Smerling, creator of HBO's six-episode The Jinx.

 

The American Constitution Series Synopsis.

 

Episode 1, Keep the Vessel from Sinking.

1785, only two years after leading America to victory, Washington worries for its future. James Madison visits Washington’s home for the first time and discovers their common concern. The odd couple begin a friendship and an alliance to fix a broken system—to truly unite the states. Mired in politics, the Annapolis Convention of state commissioners fails miserably but Alexander Hamilton hatches a scheme—a call for one more last-ditch-do-or-die convention. Washington’s words of support for the new convention evaporate when he hears of his own appointment as a delegate. Powerful Virginia governor, Patrick Henry, refuses to attend. The Convention almost fails before it begins if not for a band of angry farmers in rural Massachusetts. Shays' Rebellion proves to be the turning point for Washington and other leaders. Only weeks before the Convention, Madison reveals to Washington his radical plan to abandon the Confederation and replace it with an entirely new form of government—not elected by states but by the people.

 

Episode 2, Gentlemen of the Most Respectable Abilities.

The Convention of 1787 begins under a cloud of distrust. Small state delegates to the Convention recognize that that Madison's radical plan threatens their power. Through weeks of  debate, representation remains the sticking point--until a backroom conspiracy  upends the Convention. The Carolinas and Georgia suddenly flip sides and vote along with the large states. But in return, the large states must give the devil his due—the infamous Three-fifths Clause—condemning the country to 80 more years of  slavery. The large-state/slave-state coalition holds strong until an eventful July vote. One delegate is mysteriously absent and another suddenly changes his vote, which sends the Convention into deadlock. Proportional representation for the Senate fails. Piece-by-piece, the dynamic national republic that Madison envisioned is compromised away.

 

Episode 3, Workmen to Put It Together.

July 26, 1787, the Convention delegates know that their laundry list of resolutions looks nothing like a constitution. The Committee of Detail hammers out the Constitution's design but adds entirely new provisions that are favorable to the South. The new slavery entitlements incite a backlash and, for the first time, delegates make attempts to limit the importation of slaves. Through months of endless compromises, few delegates are more disappointed with the draft than James Madison. As the Convention winds down, George Mason's pleas to add a bill of rights are summarily rejected. September 15th, the weary delegates rally and vote to approve the Constitution.

 

Episode 4, The Best that could Be Obtained.

September 17, 1787, three important delegates refuse to sign. Days later in New York, the Confederation Congress threatens to undermine the Constitution by adding amendments. But when Madison and nine other delegates resume their seats in Congress, the amendments are defeated. Madison sets aside his doubts about the Constitution to become the de facto coordinator for the ratification campaign. As bitter fight over ratification plays out in the press, Hamilton enlists Madison and John Jay's help to write The Federalist Papers. Ratification wins in early state conventions but opposition grows. Connecticut ratifies but nearly a third of the delegates vote against it. At the start of the Massachusetts convention, Antifederalists likely outnumber the pro-Constitution delegates. The Massachusetts Federalists appease opponents by shrewdly including amendments only as recommendations. New Hampshire Federalist narrowly avoid defeat by adjourning their convention before a final vote can be taken. Maryland and South Carolina ratify leaving only one more state needed for the new Constitution to take effect.

 

Episode 5, The Plot Thickens Fast.

At the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry's speeches are persuasive for the undecided frontier delegates. But if Virginia holds out of the Union, she risks that the new government will form without her native son, George Washington, as the first President. Henry's motion to require amendments is narrowly defeated. Madison and his allies win the final vote. But only days earlier, New Hampshire ratifies and becomes the last state required for the Constitution to take effect. In New York where Hamilton and his Federalists allies are outnumbered five-to-one, news of New Hampshire and Virginia's victories refocuses the debate on joining the Union or being left behind. After days of squabbling and faced with the grim prospect of exclusion, the New York delegates narrowly vote to ratify. Patrick Henry still holds political control over Virginia and gerrymanders Madison’s congressional election district against him. Earlier, Madison had considered a bill of rights unnecessary but now campaigns as its champion. He wins his seat in congress and makes good on his campaign promise to push a bill of rights through the first congress. By 1791, only one more state is needed to enact the Bill of Rights. Virginia again is the conspicuous holdout and Patrick Henry is behind the opposition. After two more years of squabbling and delays, Virginia becomes the final state needed for the Bill of Rights to become a part of the United States Constitution.

 

©2017 David Garrigus Productions. All Rights Reserved.

 

The American

Constitution

 

A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America.
—George Washington

 

THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION is a five-night TV documentary event and education initiative.  More about the education initiative.

 

The five-night historical documentary series tells the story of the US Constitution's creation, the battle for ratification, and the struggle for a bill of rights—a gripping tale told through the words of the founders performed by acclaimed actors. Many of the world’s leading scholars and historians provide insight. The American Constitution promises to bring to millions of viewers this essential American story. More about the TV documentary series.

 

One of the untold stories brought to life is the battle over ratification, which Joseph Ellis described as, "The most comprehensive and consequential political debate in American history."

 

Mission: To help citizens know their Constitution through compelling entertainment.

 

A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.  —James Madison, 8/4/1822

 

The American Constitution Education Initiative

 

The American Constitution primetime TV series premieres in 2020 but the worldwide education initiative has already begun with the publication of a new groundbreaking learning tool. Constitu brings the Constitution to life—just click on phrases in the Constitution and top expert videos provide meaning and understanding to the text. Constitu also fosters engagement by encouraging students to add their own thoughts to each concept—to join the conversation. This virtual Constitution will continue to grow as more of the world's leading scholars add their perspectives and analyses. In addition to this cutting-edge web app, many other learning opportunities and promotions will roll out in conjunction with the TV series premiere. Lesson plans and guides will help teachers integrate the Initiative into their classrooms. Future student activities and teacher materials will be available through a special login portal on this website.

 

  • Social Network Debates. Participate in social network debates over key constitutional issues found in each of the episodes of the TV series.

  • Watch/Weigh-in/Win Prizes. Watch the broadcast with a parent or guardian, answer a quick opinion poll, and have the opportunity to win scholastic prizes.

  • Founder Tweets. Follow the creation of the Constitution on Twitter with tweets from Washington, Madison, and Hamilton gleaned from their letters and diaries.

  • Educational Partner Integration. Cross-promotion and integration with civic and history educational programs that have been successfully implemented by our partners.

  • Future Curricula. Long after the TV premiere, The American Constitution and its Education Initiative will be available to future generations of students for decades to come.

 

A 2004 federal law established September 17 of every year as Constitution Day. The US Department of Education mandates that every publicly-funded school provide an educational program about the Constitution on Constitution Day. Our Education Initiative campaign will rollout in conjunction with The American Constitution TV event premiering in September of 2020. The campaign will include high school and college-level curricula.

 

Partners

 

 

Iconic I WANT YOU recruitment poster.Calling all teachers, students, youth advisors, civic leaders, schools, national & local organizations, agencies, corporate sponsors, media, and concerned citizens—we need you.  Learn more about becoming a part of THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION project.

 

 

 

 

 

David Garrigus Productions is the acclaimed producer of documentary and educational programs including Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brother's Journey of Invention. This definitive two-hour documentary premiered on PBS and internationally during the 100th anniversary of flight—featuring Neil Armstrong and John Glenn as the voices of Orville and Wilbur. Kitty Hawk has reached nearly 10 million viewers with partners including Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Parker, NASA, and the US Congress Centennial of Flight Commission. Was Best Documentary at the International Family Film Festival. Creating exceptional programs for over 15 years, David Garrigus Productions has won Telly Awards, Cindy Awards, and New York Festival’s Gold Medal.  more information

 

The world’s most influential civic education organization. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational corporation dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries. With an active and growing network of more than 30,000 teachers, the Center administers a wide array of critically-acclaimed curricular, professional development, and community-based programs with a focus on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights; American political traditions and institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; civic participation; and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.  more information

 

The National Archives Museum will host the Capital region's theatrical premiere of The American Constitution documentary. The gala screening will take place in the beautiful 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater. The McGowan is Washington's most important outlet for documentary film as well as a forum for exploring the great issues of American history and other topics related to the National Archives' holdings and mission.

 

 

 

more information

 

 

Noted authors, scholars, and eminent historians provide their expert analysis and insights.

Pauline Maier (1938-2013)

The 2011 winner of the George Washington Book Prize for Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. Maier was the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American History at MIT. Her other books include From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776, The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams, The American People: A History, a textbook for junior high school students, and American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

 

Gordon Wood

Awarded the 2010 National Humanities Medal. His 1992 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize. He is the author of The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin won the Julia Ward Howe Prize from the Boston Authors Club in 2005. He is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University, Professor Wood’s scholarship has profoundly influenced colleagues in his field and attracted a wide readership. His Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book is Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States. Through his work, Wood provides readers with a sweeping panorama of early America. His uncanny ability to capture the sense of turbulence and vast transformation have made him one of the most influential historians of his generation.

 

Akhil Reed Amar

Expert on constitutional law and criminal procedure. The Supreme Court has cited his work in over 20 cases. A Legal Affairs poll placed Amar among the top 20 contemporary US legal thinkers. He is the Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School and is the author of numerous publications and books, including the acclaimed America’s Constitution: A Biography. Other major works include The Constitution and Criminal Procedure: First Principles and The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction. He recently wrote The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic.

 

Carol Berkin

Expert on women's history in colonial American, She has written widely on the subject in several books including Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence, First Generations—Women in Colonial American, Women's Voices/Women's Lives: Documents in Early American History, and Women, War and Revolution. Through her research, Professor Berkin has brought vivid portraits of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century women as active participants in the creation of their societies. She won the Colonial Dames of America Book Prize in 2004 for A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution. Dr. Berkin also wrote Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist and Civil War Wives: The Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant. She is the Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College and a member of the history faculty of the Graduate Center of CUNY. She serves on the Board of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Board of the National Council for History Education.

 

David O. Stewart

The author of Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America and The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years and has challenged government actions as unconstitutional in the US Supreme Court. The Summer of 1787 was on the Washington Post bestseller list for several weeks, won the Washington Writing Award for Best Book of 2007, and made several "best books" lists for 2007. Stewart also wrote the Davis-Kidd Bestseller Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy and American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America.

 

Christopher Collier

Has written extensively about the Founding Era including books for adults such as Roger Sherman's Connecticut: Yankee Politics and the American Revolution, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Decision in Philadelphia (with James Lincoln Collier), and All Politics Is Local about Connecticut's role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Dr. Collier has also authored bestselling books for children such as My Brother Sam Is Dead, which was awarded a Newbery Honor, Jump Ship to Freedom and six other historical novels written with his brother James. He was the official Connecticut State Historian (1984–2004) and is now professor of history emeritus at the University of Connecticut.

 

Stuart Leibiger

Expert on George Washington and James Madison. He is the author of Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic, which chronicles the little-known personal and professional relationship Washington and Madison shared. Dr. Leibiger is also an expert on the framing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He is Assistant Professor of History at LaSalle University.

 

 

Ralph Ketcham

His National Book Award–nominated James Madison: A Biography is the definitive single-volume bio on Madison. Ketcham has written and edited numerous other books on American history and democracy including The Anti-Federalist Papers and The Constitutional Convention Debates, Presidents above Party: The First American Presidency, 1789-1829, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and The Idea of Democracy in the Modern Era. His most recent work is The Madisons at Montpelier: Reflections on the Founding Couple. Dr. Ketcham is Professor of History Emeritus at Syracuse University and a former editor of The Papers of James Madison.

 

 

Jeff Broadwater

Professor of history at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina. He is the author of James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation (2012). His book George Mason: Forgotten Founder (2006) won the Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography from the Virginia Historical Society and was rated by the Washington Post as one of the best biographies of 2006. Dr. Broadwater has also written numerous articles, essays, and reviews in the field of American history. Before teaching at Barton, he practiced corporate and public utility law and argued, and won, one case, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation vs. the Arkansas Public Service Commission (1983) before the United States Supreme Court.

 

Michael Meyerson

Professor of law and Piper & Marbury Faculty Fellow at the University of Baltimore, specializing in constitutional law and American legal history. Professor Meyerson wrote Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World. His 2012 book is Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America. He is also the author of Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution.

 

 

The American Constitution Documentary TV Series

 

The American Constitution five-night TV event captures the drama, conflicts, and desires of Washington, Madison, and Hamilton in their struggle to save their fledgling United States from ruin. They faced overwhelming opposition—most Americans saw little need for a strong federal government including powerful state leaders like New York Governor George Clinton and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry—considered to be the greatest orator of his time.

 

We were suffering trying to make a two-hour movie. Every time we cut it down, we lost some of the delicious pieces… At the same time, we were watching Homeland, House of Cards, and these series stretching one crime over an entire series. That's what we needed.
—Marc Smerling, creator of HBO's six-episode
The Jinx.

 

The American Constitution Series Synopsis.

 

Episode 1, Keep the Vessel from Sinking.

1785, only two years after leading America to victory, Washington worries for its future. James Madison visits Washington’s home for the first time and discovers their common concern. The odd couple begin a friendship and an alliance to fix a broken system—to truly unite the states. Mired in politics, the Annapolis Convention of state commissioners fails miserably but Alexander Hamilton hatches a scheme—a call for one more last-ditch-do-or-die convention. Washington’s words of support for the new convention evaporate when he hears of his own appointment as a delegate. Powerful Virginia governor, Patrick Henry, refuses to attend. The Convention almost fails before it begins if not for a band of angry farmers in rural Massachusetts. Shays' Rebellion proves to be the turning point for Washington and other leaders. Only weeks before the Convention, Madison reveals to Washington his radical plan to abandon the Confederation and replace it with an entirely new form of government—not elected by states but by the people.

 

Episode 2, Gentlemen of the Most Respectable Abilities.

The Convention of 1787 begins under a cloud of distrust. Small state delegates to the Convention recognize that that Madison's radical plan threatens their power. Through weeks of  debate, representation remains the sticking point--until a backroom conspiracy  upends the Convention. The Carolinas and Georgia suddenly flip sides and vote along with the large states. But in return, the large states must give the devil his due—the infamous Three-fifths Clause—condemning the country to 80 more years of  slavery. The large-state/slave-state coalition holds strong until an eventful July vote. One delegate is mysteriously absent and another suddenly changes his vote, which sends the Convention into deadlock. Proportional representation for the Senate fails. Piece-by-piece, the dynamic national republic that Madison envisioned is compromised away.

 

Episode 3, Workmen to Put It Together.

July 26, 1787, the Convention delegates know that their laundry list of resolutions looks nothing like a constitution. The Committee of Detail hammers out the Constitution's design but adds entirely new provisions that are favorable to the South. The new slavery entitlements incite a backlash and, for the first time, delegates make attempts to limit the importation of slaves. Through months of endless compromises, few delegates are more disappointed with the draft than James Madison. As the Convention winds down, George Mason's pleas to add a bill of rights are summarily rejected. September 15th, the weary delegates rally and vote to approve the Constitution.

 

Episode 4, The Best that could Be Obtained.

September 17, 1787, three important delegates refuse to sign. Days later in New York, the Confederation Congress threatens to undermine the Constitution by adding amendments. But when Madison and nine other delegates resume their seats in Congress, the amendments are defeated. Madison sets aside his doubts about the Constitution to become the de facto coordinator for the ratification campaign. As bitter fight over ratification plays out in the press, Hamilton enlists Madison and John Jay's help to write The Federalist Papers. Ratification wins in early state conventions but opposition grows. Connecticut ratifies but nearly a third of the delegates vote against it. At the start of the Massachusetts convention, Antifederalists likely outnumber the pro-Constitution delegates. The Massachusetts Federalists appease opponents by shrewdly including amendments only as recommendations. New Hampshire Federalist narrowly avoid defeat by adjourning their convention before a final vote can be taken. Maryland and South Carolina ratify leaving only one more state needed for the new Constitution to take effect.

 

Episode 5, The Plot Thickens Fast.

At the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry's speeches are persuasive for the undecided frontier delegates. But if Virginia holds out of the Union, she risks that the new government will form without her native son, George Washington, as the first President. Henry's motion to require amendments is narrowly defeated. Madison and his allies win the final vote. But only days earlier, New Hampshire ratifies and becomes the last state required for the Constitution to take effect. In New York where Hamilton and his Federalists allies are outnumbered five-to-one, news of New Hampshire and Virginia's victories refocuses the debate on joining the Union or being left behind. After days of squabbling and faced with the grim prospect of exclusion, the New York delegates narrowly vote to ratify. Patrick Henry still holds political control over Virginia and gerrymanders Madison’s congressional election district against him. Earlier, Madison had considered a bill of rights unnecessary but now campaigns as its champion. He wins his seat in congress and makes good on his campaign promise to push a bill of rights through the first congress. By 1791, only one more state is needed to enact the Bill of Rights. Virginia again is the conspicuous holdout and Patrick Henry is behind the opposition. After two more years of squabbling and delays, Virginia becomes the final state needed for the Bill of Rights to become a part of the United States Constitution.

 

©2017 David Garrigus Productions. All Rights Reserved.