Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution
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With their book Signing Their Lives Away, Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese introduced listeners to the 56 statesmen (and occasional scoundrels!) who signed the Declaration of Independence. Now they've turned their attention to the 39 men who met in the summer of 1787 and put their names to the U.S. Constitution.
Signing Their Rights Away chronicles a moment in American history when our elected officials knew how to compromise - and put aside personal gain for the greater good of the nation. These men were just as quirky and flawed as the elected officials we have today: Hugh Williamson believed in aliens, Robert Morris went to prison, Jonathan Dayton stole $18,000 from Congress, and Thomas Mifflin was ruined by alcohol. Yet somehow these imperfect men managed to craft the world's most perfect Constitution. With 39 mini-biographies Signing Their Rights Away offers an entertaining and enlightening narrative for history buffs of all ages.
nation wouldn’t live long enough to celebrate its eleventh birthday. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and a host of other bigwigs proposed a “grand convention” at which delegates would gather to revise, debate, and expand the Articles of Confederation. Seventy-four delegates were chosen by their respective states; only fifty-five answered the call, and many of those with skepticism. Patrick Henry, the famed Virginia rebel, refused to attend, complaining that he “smelt a rat.” Rhode Island sent
the proceedings, and already a small state was threatening to hit the road. Read’s wishes were respected, and the representation discussion was postponed. Read said he favored the United States “doing away with the states altogether, and uniting them all into one society.” So, like New Jersey’s David Brearley, he was ready to erase boundaries and redraw the national map. Read had equally strong feelings about paper money and was vehemently opposed to giving Congress the power to “emit bills,” or
what is now Northern Ireland. In 1771, his wealthy merchant parents sent him to America, where he studied medicine with Benjamin Rush, the famous physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. McHenry’s flowery descriptions of his new homeland persuaded his parents to send his brother to the colonies as well. Later, the whole family joined them and opened a prosperous store in Baltimore. While in his early twenties, McHenry took part in the fighting during the Revolutionary War, serving
have ended slavery in the western half of the growing nation. Jefferson never forgave him and would later speak of him as the man who let slavery spread westward. Before the age of thirty, Spaight was speaker of his state legislature, a post that sent him to the Constitutional Convention. Like many of the delegates, Spaight was an aristocrat and had little faith in the common people to elect their leaders; he also suggested that the president and senators each serve seven years, an idea that was
Charleston, he was captured and paroled to Philadelphia; he was later released in a prisoner exchange. He then served as secretary to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, who was Washington’s aide, traveling with him to France to orchestrate the shipping of supplies for the war. Once back in Philadelphia, Jackson was made assistant secretary at war to Major General Benjamin Lincoln, for whom he had served in the south. After the war, Jackson tried business and law in Philadelphia. He lobbied hard