Books: 127 Days That Shook the World

THE GREAT REHEARSAL (336 pp.)—Carl Van Doren—Viking ($3.75).

Their purpose was noble; they themselves, with few exceptions, were unassuming. They drifted into Philadelphia one or two at a time, put up at the Indian Queen Hotel, got to the State House at 10 or 11 in the morning, and sat around in the famous room with its high windows, waiting for the other delegates. They arrived so slowly that the opening hour was changed from 11 to 1 p.m. On May 25, 1787, almost two weeks after the first delegates assembled, the Constitutional Convention held its first official session.

Every schoolchild knows what...

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