54 Tulsa L. Rev. 367 (2018-2019)
The Critical Minute: Recording and Remembering Early American Political Thought

handle is hein.journals/tlj54 and id is 385 raw text is: 








       THE CRITICAL MINUTE: RECORDING AND
   REMEMBERING EARLY AMERICAN POLITICAL
                                THOUGHT



                       Robinson Woodward-Burns


MARY SARAH BILDER, MADISON'S HAND: REVISING THE CONSTITUTIONAL
      CONVENTION (HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS 2017). PP.384. PAPERBACK
      $22.50.

J. PATRICK MULLINS, FATHER OF LIBERTY: JONATHAN MAYHEW AND THE
      PRINCIPLES OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (UNIVERSITY PRESS OF
      KANSAS 2017). PP.240. HARDCOVER $37.50.



      As a schoolboy, James Madison wrote, There is a Critical Minute in every thing, &
the master-piece of Good Conduct is to perceive it and take hold of it. If it is miss'd, chiefly
in revolutions of State, 'tis odds if it can be met with or percieved [sic] again.' An older
Madison met his critical minute as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Like other framers, he felt the novelty and gravity of the moment, taking fastidious notes
during the Convention.2 With ratification, Federalists and Jeffersonians immediately
offered opposing interpretations of the new Constitution, and the partisan Madison, hoping
to steer these debates, redrafted his records on the document's framing and meaning. Mary
Sarah Bilder's Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention chronicles how
Madison drafted his Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 to shape



   1. JAMES MADISON, COMMONPLACE BOOK, in 1 THE PAPERS OF JAMES MADISON 4 intro., 9 (Hutchinson
& Rachal eds., 1962) (transcribing an excerpt from the Memoirs of the Cardinal de Retz).
   2. Members of Pennsylvania's 1776 Provincial Conference, in anticipation of selecting delegates to the
state's first constitutional convention, reminded voters of the rare privilege of choosing deputies to form a
government under which you are to live. Proceedings of the Provincial Conference, in THE PROCEEDINGS
RELATIVE TO CALLING THE CONVENTIONS OF 1776 AND 1790: THE MINUTES OF THE CONVENTION THAT
FORMED THE PRESENT CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA, TOGETHER WITH THE CHARTER TO WILLIAM PENN,
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF 1776 AND 1790, AND A VIEW OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONVENTION OF 1776, AND
THE COUNCIL OF CENSORS 41 (Harrisburg pub., 1825). More famously, Alexander Hamilton opened The
Federalist by reminding New Yorkers charged with ratifying the proposed Constitution that it seems to have
been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question,
whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice,
or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. THE
FEDERALIST NO. 1, at I (Alexander Hamilton) (Terence Ball ed., 2003).

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