Pauline Maier, R.I.P.

by Richard Brookhiser

Historian Pauline Maier has died (R.I.P.). I reviewed one of her last books — Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, a wise and delightful account — in 2010 here. She focused on all the big names you would expect — Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Patrick Henry — but she also paid special attention to the hundreds of delegates who served in ratifying conventions and the thousands of Americans who elected them and who followed their deliberations with care.

There was a certain amount of cookery — could the Pope become president, one Anti-Federalist worried — and even some rioting here and there. But the success of the process was owing to the people’s good sense, and the political class’s reliance upon it.

This was my conclusion:

The ratification process was a tribute to what Nathan Dane of Massachusetts, a reluctant convert to the Constitution, called “the attention of this intelligent people.” Elites who disdain or ignore their fellow citizens come to grief. Witness the mess of the European Union, made and run by Brussels wire-pullers. 

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