It was a conspiracy. The Adams cousins and their sinister cabal of patriots conspired to commit independence. That was July 2, 1776, and now it’s September 1787, and the major league baseball playoffs begin soon. Wait, the World Series begins in October. Author Pauline Maier draws a timely and accurate comparison of the process of getting thirteen bodies to accept the work of the Federal Convention to baseball. In the Introduction to her latest book, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, she identifies politics as America’s first national game.
It seems that Americans (as well as others) have a penchant for watching the same game played night after night, week after week, so it’s only natural that the ratification process would garner so much attention in the 18th century. One Massachusetts observer commented that newspapers filled with news of the Constitution were “read more than the bible.” I wonder if his last name was “Lennon.”
A significant exception exists in the analogy. Suppose that the teams got together before each playoff series and re-wrote the rules. Talk about drama! Would the fans go for that? No wonder the individual state conventions and elections captivated the voters so thoroughly!
Maier begins the story near Christmas in 1786 as a retired general in Virginia rips open a letter that has awaited his hand several days, due to a winter storm. Readers will find it easy to suspend disbelief and take a step back in time as though reading fiction rather than well documented fact. Maier’s writing is a confirmation of Barbara Tuchman’s idea that a writer can build suspense even when the readers know how the story ends. Simply mention the outcome in its proper place.