BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jack Rakove, when did you first know that you were going to get a Pulitzer Prize for your book?
Professor JACK RAKOVE, AUTHOR, "ORIGINAL MEANINGS": I only really knew when my editor, Jane Garrett, called me from New York and told me I had, in fact, won it. There were a couple inklings around Stanford because, in fact, there was someone at Stanford who's part of the Pulitzer board and who knew in advance and had told a couple people in the press office to start getting ready. And I'd had a couple calls, which got me thinking, because I knew the announcement was coming that afternoon, but it wasn't the same thing as actually hearing it in a reliable way.
LAMB: What did it mean when you did hear?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, it's meant a number of things when I heard it, and ever since it's meant a kind of great deal of--great sense of satisfaction for a project for which, in fact, I did have high hopes all along. From the start when I wrote this book, I'd hoped it would be a major book on the Constitution. It means a kind of tremendous sense of confirmation that the project you thought or hoped would pan out--would--you know, would really make a difference in terms of scholarship and the public understanding of the Constitution. It really seems to have had that effect and that people who didn't really--weren't really experts in this subject could, you know, pick up your book and find it accessible and find it important. So there's a kind of deep sense of confirmation that--a deep sense of satisfaction that comes out of all this.
LAMB: The most unusual thing I found in your book was a footnote on chapter five, the first footnote, and I'll read it. `I'm grateful to this--to Mr. Daniel Rakove for counting the number of stairs during a visit to the statehouse on May 30th, 1993.'
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah.
LAMB: Who is Daniel Rakove and where were the stairs?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, Daniel Rakove's my younger son, now an eighth-grader--or finishing eighth grade in a couple weeks at the J.L. Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto. And I had took him along with me in 1993 for my 25th college reunion at Haverford, which is out on the main lines--you know, suburban Philadelphia. And on the way back to Washington, where were staying with friends, we popped into the statehouse to take a kind of quick tour. And if you go upstairs from--you know, from the main floor where the convention was-- where the convention met, the--when the convention met, it displays the Pennsylvania Assembly towards the end of its deliberations...
LAMB: You're talking about the Pennsylvania meeting...
Prof. RAKOVE: In the--right. In the...
Prof. RAKOVE: You know, the--no, the Pennsylvania state--the Constitutional Convention met in Independence Hall, which is also the Pennsylvania Statehouse, which was also where the Pennsylvania Assembly met. And--so the convention was sitting there from May to September, 1787, and towards the end of that period the Pennsylvania Assembly, the state Legislature for Pennsylvania, was also due to met.
And so at the very end of the convention--literally as the convention adjourns, one of the Pennsylvania delegates, Thomas FitzSimons, a Scots-Irish immigrant merchant, literally gathers up his papers and goes dashing upstairs to the second floor where the Pennsylvania Assembly was already in session. He wanted to get the ball rolling right off the bat for ratification--to get the ratification process under way, to have the Assembly agree to call an election for delegates to the special convention that each state was supposed to hold; at least that's what the framers wanted.
So we were there and I guess I think I probably had the idea already for having that little vignette to open the chapters. So I said, `Well, Dan,' who was a bit younger at the time and would get into the spirit of things, `why don't you just count the number of steps,' you know, `all the way up?' And, you know--so I put it in and, of course, he--since he'd done the work, I felt he deserved the credit.
LAMB: And he counted 42 steps.
Prof. RAKOVE: I hope he was right.
LAMB: Go to that May meeting in 1787 of the constitutional convention. How many delegates were there?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, they kind of come straggling in. You know, there were 55 delegates who attended, one time or other, over the course of the convention. There are 42, coincidentally, same number of steps, who were there on the last day, September the 17th, of whom 39 signed. And then some others leave before the convention's quite done. Two of the New Yorkers leave, later Anti-Federalists: Yates and Lansing. Luther Martin, another Anti-Federalist, leaves. And, you know, some other delegates go back and forth for personal reasons. George Wythe from Virginia, who had been Jefferson's mentor as a law student back at William and Mary. Wythe leaves early, if I remember correctly, I think because his wife was ill and so on.
So basically you're talking about a group of--you start with 55, you have 42 left at the end. Some are coming and going. Some occasionally take leaves of absence, like Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris, and come back. And of that group, about 15 or so are the real active speakers, and the others are either sitting on their hands or can't quite muster the temerity to actually say something.
LAMB: Was there ever a day like we see on the floor of the House and the Senate where there were very few members there?
Prof. RAKOVE: No, not really. I mean, once the convention musters a quorum, it would--it took a couple weeks past the point in time--or the better part of two--better part of a fortnight after the appointed time. Once the convention musters a quorum, then it's in pretty regular session. I mean, kind of--Congress used to have real problems in the 1780s maintaining a quorum for weeks and sometimes months at a time. It was a real struggle for the Congress. But once the convention finally gets together in late May, it's--you know, there's a critical mass there day in and day out, so...
LAMB: Let me ask you about yourself before we talk more about your book.
Prof. RAKOVE: Sure.
LAMB: Where do you reside? You say Palo Alto. What do you do for a living?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, actually, I am a professor of history and--by courtesy of political science, at Stanford University, where I've taught since 1980. We live on the Stanford campus, which is, in its own way, kind of a paradise. I'm kind of --I think of myself as a fairly committed teacher, pretty extensively involved in undergraduate matters at all levels from freshmen on up. And, of course, I teach a couple of graduate courses.
LAMB: What do you teach?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, typically, I teach early American history, and for me at Stanford, we have a somewhat skewed distribution on the American history side. We have probably about 10 Americanists, and I'm basically holding everything down from 1607 or earlier--you know, from Jamestown or earlier down to about 1830. But typically, I teach the first part of the American history survey. The last few years, though, not this year, I've taught the freshmen--part of the freshmen history course, which is part of Stanford's famous culture, institutions and values--used to be known as Western Civ program. I'll teach small-group classes on the Constitution or early American history. And next year I'm going to start teaching a course on the Constitution and race.
LAMB: Mm-hmm. Where'd you grow up?
Prof. RAKOVE: I'm a Chicagoan. I'm a native Cook County Democrat, proud of it.
LAMB: What area of Chicago?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, which area --several. I mean, I was actually--I was born in the university. I lived in Austin, which is on the West Side. And then when I was about eight or nine and my dad was finishing his--his doctorate at the University of Chicago, we moved back down to Hyde Park. He had a job in Gainesville, Florida, which he didn't like very much, for a year at a university. And so we came back to Chicago and I finished elementary school, which goes through eighth grade in Chicago, at the Gale School on the--in Rogers Park, which is the far North Side. And then my parents wanted me to have the advantage of a high school education in the suburbs, so we moved to Evanston, which my dad hated, but had great schools, so...
LAMB: Where does the name Rakove come from?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, that's a good question. It's a somewhat abridged version of our patronymic, which was Rakovski. My grandparents all immigrated in the United States in the early part of this century from--mostly around what's known as Kovner or Kovno or Kaunas in Lithuania. And then my grandmother came from Suwalki in Poland. My grandparents--my paternal grandparents actually went to Minnesota, so the original Rakovski--my--after whom I'm named, Jacob Reakov Rakovski, was an iron miner up in the Mesabi range in the early 20th century. And then later they moved to Chicago where he was a railroad yard worker. And my grandmother was a piece worker in the--you know, texti --in the schmatte trade and--you know, in the cloth trade. And I guess when they moved to Minnesota, I think she had a candy store.
And then my mother's parents, not quite clear what they did. I mean, I think my-- as my mom says, my grandfather was the kind of guy who mostly hung out in the shoal--you know, hung out at--in the synagogue--temple most of the time and not it's not clear, really, he had much of a productive existence. But, you know, had a large family and...
LAMB: What about your parents?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, my dad taught political science at the University of Illinois in Chicago for a long time. He's actually fairly well-known in Chicago circles as a political commentator. He had some ties to the--the older Daley machine. Wrote a couple books on Cook County politics--well, one is a--one is a kind of standard analysis of Cook County politics called "Don't Make No Waves-Don't Back No Losers." And then the second is an oral history of the Daley years under a title he got from a story at the Dav Mikfa--you know, the former judge and White House counsel and Chicago congressman used to tell under the --that goes under the title, "We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent."
LAMB: What's his first name?
Prof. RAKOVE: My dad's first name was Milton. Milton Rakove.
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you ever cared or thought or knew anything about the Constitution?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I think the earliest memory that matters is when I was a--the one year my dad taught at the University of Florida. He wasn't very happy there, but I was. I was a fifth-grader in the J.J. Finley School. And our class project was--of sorts, was to do a book on--what we called a book--essentially, I suppose, a collection of cribbed encyclopedia articles, on the history of the American Revolution, for which I was the editor.
I remember--I still vaguely remember doing pieces on the Continental Congress and the Boston Community Correspondence. The Continental Congress is the subject of my first book. So I don't know if fifth grade is destiny, but, you know, it would run back at least that far and probably since I was reading history from a fairly early point--you know, even further.
LAMB: If you could meet any one of these 55 or the 42 or the 39 that signed it or whatever...
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah.
LAMB: ...which one would you want to meet and why?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, since you've read the book, you probably know the answer to that question already. It would be James Madison. I mean, I'm well known in kind of scholarly circles as Madisonian, of sorts, and I'm a Madison biographer as well. Madison is, to my way of thinking, the most important of the framers in terms of the crucial role he plays at--well, at each of the major points in the whole process of calling the convention, framing the Constitution, ratifying it, deciding whether or not it makes sense to add a Bill of Rights to it, and then seeing what it means in practice. And he's also the most important--oh, point of entry I think would be the right term, for us today--let's say for modern commentaries on the Constitution. We rely, to an extraordinary extent, on Madison for our basic insights into the original theories and ambitions of the Constitution.
LAMB: What did he do? I mean, what are the--if you were to list the four or five important things he did in the process of getting to the Constitution, what were they?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, you'd have to start by saying that Madison, with some misgivings, is one of the handful of crucial actors who decides it's necessary, although dangerous, to have a constitutional convention in the full, complete, ambitious sense of the term to begin with. There had been a strategy for trying to reform the Articles of Confederation in the 1780s, and there was a kind of very piecemeal process, in which the Congress would propose individual amendments to particular states--to all the states, which would have to agree unanimously.
And, of course, that process always comes a cropper because you can never surmount the unanimity hurdle. So at some point Madison and a handful of like-minded people decide that even though they think the political odds are against them, to--in effect, to go for broke and to--to risk having a general constitutional convention in the hope that having a fresh agenda will somehow free up the logjam of constitutional reform. So that's step number one.
Step number two is Madison goes into the convention having prepared himself in a kind of very characteristic way, very carefully, very deeply, having read deeply and thought even more deeply about the fundamental problems both of the Articles of Confederation in the state constitutions and also, to some extent, the lessons of history. And on that basis and, really, on the basis of his own experience as a--well, as a legislator both in the Continental Congress and in Virginia, I think Madison understood the importance of trying to frame, if not control, the agenda.
That's why there's a Virginia plan--partly it's because the other delegates haven't shown up, and the Virginians and the Pennsylvanians are sitting in around in Philadelphia waiting for the other delegations to appear. And they might as well do something, so they framed the Virginia Plan. So, in a sense, there's a kind of accidental quality to this, but it --at a deeper level, Madison was really well aware of the importance of having some set of proposals, you know, prepackaged, so to speak, to get the deliberations going to which others would have to react.
LAMB: How old was James Madison in 1787?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, he's just turned 36 when the convention comes to order. He's--Madison's birthday is sometime in March. I should know the exact day, and I can't quite remember it. But...
LAMB: How old was Alexander Hamilton when...
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, that's a little bit more questionable. There's some dates about Hamilton's exact birth date. Hamilton's about three or four years younger, so Hamilton's still in his early 30s.
LAMB: So there they are, early on, and there's something called a Virginia Plan. Give us a couple of things that made the Virginia Plan important.
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I think the most important thing is that anybody reading the Virginia Plan or hearing it read, as it was first read by--as it was first announced by Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia, would understand that it was, in effect, calling for an abandonment to the existing structure of the Confederation. I think a number of the delegates going into the deliberations probably would have expected that the convention's business would have been confined to proposing some additional set of powers that could be vested--safely vested in the existing unicameral Continental Congress.
Madison's proposal--or I should say--Madison's proposals, as they're embodied into the Virginia Plan, or Madison's scheme as it's embodied in the Virginia Plan, basically calls for creating a fully articulated, national government. That's to say a national government with three independent, constitutionally established branches with the authority to legislate, to execute, to adjudicate its own laws and, therefore, not to have to rely on the states, as Congress had to do under the Articles of Confederation.
And that was about as fundamental--one could say as wrenching a transposition as one could have imagined. So I think right from the get go it's clear that what the Virginians are proposing, what Madison is actively advancing, is not simply tinkering with or amending or strengthening the Articles of Confederation, but starting out with a freshly conceived government with powers that would go far beyond what the Continental Congress had ever been able to exercise.
LAMB: Let me ask you about the country at that point. How many states were there in the Union? Or how many states were there in the United States?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, there are 13 in the Union and 14 if you want to call Vermont. Vermont is actually kind of an independent republic through much of this period. And some of the states are on the verge of breaking up in the sense of--Virginia's certainly getting ready to slough off Kentucky as an independent--as an additional state. But--so you start...
LAMB: How many people in the country?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, the first census, which is, you know, done under the Constitution, which is actually the first really reliable estimate we have, gives you a fraction of over three million, of whom, about--I think, about half a million to 600,000 would have been African-Americans.
LAMB: And where was the Continental Congress headquartered?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, where wasn't it headquartered? It had been in--it had been in Philadelphia for most of the Revolution, but then it had--occasionally had to go on holiday to Baltimore and York when the British get too close.
And then in 1783 there was a kind of ugly incident with the Pennsylvania militia and Congress takes--or Pennsylvania soldiers complaining about having their wages not being paid. So Congress takes umbrage with this and goes off to Princeton, which was too small, in the summer of 1783 and then goes on to Trenton, which, you know, then and now didn't have the greatest press. And eventually--oh, no--oh, I take that back. No. First it goes Philadelphia, Princeton, Annapolis. It reconvenes in Trenton late in 1784; doesn't like it, goes on to New York and stays in New York until--you know, through the first session of the new Congress in 1789.
LAMB: How many of the 55 delegates to the constitutional convention also were members of the Continental Congress?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, that's a good question, which I can't answer exactly. I mean, a fairly substantial number had been, but I can't give you the exact number. Some were concurrently members. I think something like 10 of the delegates were simultaneously eligible to sit in the Continental Congress. And, in fact, as soon as the convention adjourns, led by Madison, they hie their way back to New York because that--New York was the first stopping point for the Constitution on its road to the states.
That's a--the convention wanted the Congress to give a kind of imprimatur, you know, kind of its of seal of approval to the Constitution, without tampering with it and then send it on to the state legislatures, which in turn would call the state ratification conventions, which in turn would represent the sovereign people, whose approval would give--make the Constitution supreme law.
LAMB: By the way, was Vermont re--represented at the...
Prof. RAKOVE: No. No. Vermont's--no. No, Vermont's not part of the Union.
LAMB: Not part of the Union. So they didn't have any delegates to the convention.
Prof. RAKOVE: No delegates. And the other state that's not represented is Rhode Island.
Prof. RAKOVE: No. Rhode Island--Rhode Island, throughout the 1780s, had pursued what's sometimes characterized as an anti-Federal, anti-Unionist policy. Rhode Island had always been known as kind of an outlier. It's sometimes described as the home of Jews, Turks and infidels because of its history of religious toleration. But that kind of characterizes its--that kind of captures its kind of position. It was kind of a quintessential dissenting community. So Rhode Island had been anti-Federal all along, and Rhode Island doesn't bother to send a delegation to Philadelphia. And that actually has important implications for how the framers thought about the process of ratification.
LAMB: And which of the 13 states was the largest?
Prof. RAKOVE: Virginia's the most populous, Pennsylvania's second, Massachusetts is the third.
LAMB: Did the gal--were the delegates proportional?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, the delegations vary in size, but that didn't really matter because the--at an early point, after a little discussion, the Virginians and the Pennsylvanians, at the point when they're waiting for the other delegations to show up, they discuss what should the rule of voting be in the convention.
In the Continental Congress the rule of voting was one state, one vote regardless of population. And Madison and the Virginians and the Pennsylvanians were intent on changing that rule of voting in Congress, in both houses of the new legislature they wanted to create. And the issue arose: Would they also want to make the same demand for the convention itself? Would they want to have some scheme of proportional voting for the convention itself?
But Madison and the Pennsylvanians say, `Let's force this issue at the start.' Madison and the Virginians say, `No, it's better off if we kind of per--preserve the existing rule and try to convince the small states to give up their equal vote as we go along.' So it's--so it's one state and one vote. And, you know, the delegations vary in size, up to about, you know, six, seven members in the case of Pennsylvania.
LAMB: What almost did we get in that Constitution?
Prof. RAKOVE: What do you mean, `What almost did we get'?
LAMB: That either lost by a vote or, you know, was ready to be passed and they derailed it at the last minute. What could have changed just with a...
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, actually, some of the most important aspects of the Constitution were decided by very narrow margins. I think the one that I try to emphasize in the book, because in some ways I still find it offensive today, is what's known as the--the so-called `Great Compromise' or occasionally misnamed Connecticut Compromise, which gives each state an equal vote in the Senate and thereby preserves that--at least to some extent, that rule of voting from the--from the Continental Congress.
That's--that issue--that's the principle issue that perplexes the--perplexes the convention from almost the first week of deliberation down to July 16th, which is the--the day the com--the so-called compromise is--is approved. And it's g--it's approved by the narrowest margins. It's basically approved--it--it's approved by a margin of five states to four with one divided. And Massachusetts, which was a large state and had always voted with the large states and therefore against equal-state representation in the upper house as well as the lower house--Massachusetts divides.
Elbridge Gerry and Caleb Strong take the Massachusetts dele--decide, on the basis of compromise, to side with the small states and so, therefore, Massachusetts loses its vote; you know, tie vote, in effect, is discounted. Or in this case, it means you have a majority five to four with one divided to carry the so-called Great Compromise. It's about the narrowest victory possible, and that's really the basic reason we have, as I like to tell my students, `Ask yourself the question: Why does Wyoming have two senators and California have two senators?' It's a good question. So that's certainly one issue.
There are a couple other issues. Some of Madison's pet proposals are--especially the one to give Congress a--a negative on all state laws, which certainly would--also would have made a major difference in the convention. That's a proposal that's originally approved, then rejected after the Great Compromise and then brought back fairly late in the convention. And at that point there's a vote to commit and Madison--that's to say, the sent it to committee, but not to--not to bury it, but to kind of refine it and bring it back. And that one's lost, I think, by four to three with, I think, two states divided.
LAMB: If you happened on a group of--in those days, outside of the debate in the constitutional convention and you found them socializing, give us--give us--give us clumps of people you'd find together.
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, that's a tough one because we don't really know all that much about what went on after hours, though there are a couple--there are a couple delegates' diaries with--occasionally give you a little insight into that. I mean, we know at one point Washington--when the Committee of Detail was meeting in late July and early August, and the convention's in a state of semi-adjournment, Washington goes fishing with the Morrises, Robert and Gouverneur. So...
LAMB: Are they related, the Morrises?
Prof. RAKOVE: No. No. But they're--but they're very close. They--they're very close. They're not related, but they're very close politically. So imagining how they socialized after hours, that's tough.
LAMB: Or if not socializing, who would you find really close--wh--who would be around James Madison? Say he said, `All my friends, come over here in the corner and we'll chat,' who would they be?
Prof. RAKOVE: Right. Well, I think probably the most interesting one to speculate about would probably have been James Wilson, who's--Wilson's a very powerful legal mind, a Philadelphian, a Scots immigrant, a lawyer, later serves on the Supre--on the first Supreme Court. Very much of an elitist in his--in his politics, especially in Pennsylvania, which had very sharp political divisions throughout this period. But also in his theory, extremely democratic. In fact, probably the one framer who's most consistently democratic in terms of thinking about the first principles of popular sovereignty, about consistently arguing for popular election of all the major political branches, you know, so not just the--the lower house, the House of repres--Representatives, but the Senate and probably the presidency as well.
He and Madison are--on a number of issues, are very much of a tag team, sometimes cooperating, interestingly enough, with Charles Pinckney from South Carolina, who's a--a young and somewhat--well, I can't say smart-alecky, but egomaniacal kind of delegate.
LAMB: Was he in his 20s?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah--well, I think he is still in his 20s, yeah. I--I forget his birth date. So I think there's a lot of rea--there's a lot of evidence that I think--a lot of reason to infer that Madison and Wilson were--you know, they're acting so often in unison that they couldn't--couldn't have been fortuitous or coincidental. They must have been, you know, planning how to do it.
Rufus King, one of whose actually--one of whose direct namesake descendants I--I met by chance last night here, is a judge in Washington--Rufus King is in the Massachusetts delegation. Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris, when they're there--when he's there, are people--when--when they're--excuse me, when Hamilton and Morris are there, are people you can imagine collaborating, though Morris often goes--Morris speaks more than anybody else, even though he's not there as long as others, and often goes off on--on his own. So it's--he's a bit of a loose cannon, as was in some ways Hamilton. So...
LAMB: There--there were three non-signers.
Prof. RAKOVE: Right.
LAMB: Forty-two were there, 39 signed, three non-signers. And the reason I bring this up is if you ask--I mean, I don't want to indict the whole group around here, but if you ask most people around here who was the University of George Mason named after, who was he, you often get blank stares.
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, presumably...
Prof. RAKOVE: Presumably the first question is easier than the second there. So...
LAMB: Who is--who was he?
Prof. RAKOVE: Who--who was...
LAMB: And how...
Prof. RAKOVE: ...Mason?
LAMB: Yeah. Who was George Mason and how important was he?
Prof. RAKOVE: Mason's a fascinating guy. Mason--you know, you can visit his plantation. It's just--Gunston Hall. It's a wonderful house to visit down...
LAMB: Twenty minutes from here.
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah. And not all that far from the--Mt. Vernon. Mason was a kind of neighbor of George Washington's and an old political ally and friend of his, a very powerful mind, a person deeply steeped in--in--and deeply faithful to the whole radical Whig tradition of Anglo-American political theory, the kinds of people who would take in--real strong positions against the Stewart kings of the 17th century and try to keep that heritage alive in the 18th century, a--a guy who didn't really like politics all that much.
He had a large family; he had 10 or 11 kids or something and worried a lot about providing for them. So it was sometimes hard to get Mason to show up at the Assembly. But when he was there, he was always a force to be reckoned with. He's well known--should be well known in--in Virginia and--and elsewhere as the principle author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which is the--the most--probably the most important influential of the Bills of Rights that the Americans attached to their first constitutions, which were the constitutions of the separate states framed at the time of independence.
And at the convention he plays a very active role; in many ways, a very productive role. He's certainly--he--he's not a carping dissenter. But towards the end of the convention he gets very disillusioned about a number of particular points. I think partly he's--I think--I think he's most concerned about the position of the South. I think he's most concerned about the initial minority position of the South and he's also--professes to be somewhat disturbed about the composition of the Senate, although he'd been--he'd been a major player in terms of its...
LAMB: Composition meaning what?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, how it would be elected. And...
LAMB: Either by the legislature or...
Prof. RAKOVE: ...whether--whether--it's going to be elected by the state legislatures, but Mason--Mason is one of the first to--to come up--to start speculating about the idea that the Senate is really going to be too--too aristocratic a body, more aristocratic than you really want it to be, and that it might be able to consolidate power. There's--there's a lot of speculation in 1787 and 1788 that in--and I think Mason is a source of a--of a fair amount of it--that the real locus of power in the--in--in--in the new government would--would not be in the White House--well, of course, there was no White House in se--would not be the presidency or the House of Representatives, which is what Madison thought, but would really be in the Senate.
And the reason for that was the Senate is the one branch of government that seems to have all three forms of power: It has the authority to legislate; it shares executive powers with the president in the form of the treaty power and the power to make appointments; and it has a kind of judicial power as the Court of Impeachments. And so there's this kind of image that the Senate is going to be the real locus of decision-making. It's going to be too far--too much insulated, too far removed from the real political life of the nation, too aristocratic, too oli--potentially oligarchic its character.
So Mason, you know, gets a bee in his bonnet on these issues; I think throws in the--the absence of a Bill of Rights as a kind of rationalization or a--you know, another--another legitimating point for--for his opposition. So he's--he's--he's the most formidable of the three non-signers.
LAMB: What would he more than likely be, politically, if he were here today?
Prof. RAKOVE: You mean, would he vote Republican or Democratic or...
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, God knows. I mean--I mean, historians try to stay away from, you know...
LAMB: Liberal? Conservative? I mean--mean, it's--what's interesting is that so many party people today...
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah.
LAMB: ...on both sides grab ahold of one of these...
Prof. RAKOVE: Right.
LAMB: ...and say it's the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, it's the Lincoln dinner and all that.
Prof. RAKOVE: Right.
LAMB: And that's what I'm trying to get at is that--who...
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah. Well, of course--yeah, Brian, but one of the things in my book is--is--is, in fact, that--is--is to kind of take the 18th century on its own terms and to avoid the impulse to project, you know, from 18th century attitudes into 20th century positions.
LAMB: Well, let me reverse the question. Should people today not say, `I'm a Jeffersonian,' then?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, when we say we're Jeffersonians, we're really drawing upon many strands of--well, the--the multiple strands of Jefferson's whole persona. Are we Jeffersonians on public education? Are we Jeffersonians on state rights? Are we Jeffersonians on separation of church and state? Are we Jeffersonians out of a fundamental belief in participatory democracy? Are we Jeffersonians because--because we love architecture?
LAMB: What about Madisonian? What would you be?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I'm very much a Madisonian today, so, I mean, I suppose I'll contradict myself, you know, in one sense, by saying...
LAMB: But you're a Democrat, right?
Prof. RAKOVE: I am a Democrat, yeah--yeah.
LAMB: So a Madisonian would be a Democrat?
Prof. RAKOVE: I'm not sure if Madison would be a Cook County Democrat. That's the--what I think...
LAMB: Would Jefferson be a--Thomas Jefferson be a Democrat?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, you know, there's a lot of struggles over--you know, over whose l--you know, over whose legacy, you know--you know, there's a famous story about j--about Kennedy and Nixon. Do you--do you know this? Theodore White tells this anecdote in his book, "The Making of the President," 1960, where, you know, Nixon was campaigning in the South and trying to portray him--portray himself as the true heir of Thomas Jefferson. And the basis of that, not implausible by any means, was the idea that the Republican Party, then as now, was much more of a states' rights kind of party in the classic way that Jefferson and Madison had fashioned the states' rights ideology a decade or so after the Constitution.
And Kennedy had this wonderful response where he pulled out a quote from one of Jefferson's biographers, but actually a--a primary source from the 18th century in which--I forget who the observer was--but describes Jefferson as man who can do all the many things Jefferson could do--you know, dance a minuet, you know, plot an arc, you know, design a building, do this, that and the other thing. And then the punch line was, `Now what does Richard Nixon have in common with that?' And the crowd, of course, would roar back, as White tells the story, `Nothing!'
But, you know, there's a--the serious part of your question--if I c--if I can take this in a slightly different direction--I call myself a Madisonian. And--and one of the--one of the deep arguments in the book is that there is a kind of--there is a fundamental element of Madison's thinking which is thinking particularly about the problems of rights, which does provide a very powerful or very massive connection--substantive connection between the 18th century and the 20th century.
Madison's whole theory of rights, circa 1787, 1788--how do you--how do you protect rights? Where do the da--where does the danger to rights lie in a republic? Argues--I think with good reason--that the chief danger to rights is not going to come from a national government that's too powerful, as a lot of Anti-Federalists would have said. Instead, it's going to come from the processes of democratic politics as they're going to continue to operate within the states.
And the real problem of protecting rights in the federal Union will be to enable the national government to intervene within the individual states to protect individuals and minorities--and that's Madison's language--individuals and minorities against the vicious--that's to say, viceful--legislation that he thinks is still likely to be produced continually or, you know, periodically at the state level.
That's why Madison wanted to give the national government an unlimited veto over all state laws: in part, so it could protect itself from the interference of the states if states objected to national policy, but also so that the national government could intervene within the states in the name of protecting rights.
And if you ask the question, `What is the most interesting development in modern American constitutionalism?' basically, ever--certainly since Brown and arguably even earlier--Brown vs. Board of Education--but arguably going back to the 1920s, it's the idea that federal courts have been able to incorporate--you know, to use the--you know, the preferred language--have been able to incorporate the Bill of Rights against the states through the 14th Amendment. That's a very Madisonian kind of outcome; that's to say, the whole principle--the whole theory of incorporation, that the federal courts have an obligation to enforce the national Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment against the states, is, in a certain underlying sense, extremely Madisonian in its substance. I ha--I happen to think Madison was right about that analysis on the whole--was ri--not--not completely right, but substantially right about that.
So that would be--that's an entirely different way to bridge the gap from the 18th century to the 20th century. But, really, as a historian, most of what I'm trying to do is explain what happened in the 18th century and let people in our--in--in our own time draw the implications they will.
LAMB: If someone buys your book, what do they get? What's in this? What's in this book? Give us kind of a--the parameters.
Prof. RAKOVE: Let's see. I got--a short version of the contents? Well...
Prof. RAKOVE: ...partly, it's a story of how the Constitution was written. The first, you know, four or five--first four chapters or so are basically a political story of what I call the road to Philadelphia, then what happens at Philadelphia; what are the politics of the convention. But the deeper subject of the book is not to explain just how the Constitution was adopted, because that's an old story that we've known pretty well for a long time, but rather to use the 18th century debates to illuminate our own ongoing discussions about the theory of original intent, or th--what's sometimes called the theory of originalism.
I framed this book in a way that I hoped would provide a historically responsible account to a set of questions that recur in American constitutional jurisprudence and our constitutional theory more generally. There's been a lot of discussion for the last dozen years or so, but really even longer, about the idea that--well, about the proposition that when judges interpret the Constitution, one thing they should strive to do, or perhaps the most important thing that they should strive to do is the recover the original meanings or the original intentions or understandings underlying each of its clauses and provisions, whether we're talking about the 18th century Constitution or the reconstruction amendments.
And what I set out to do in the book, Brian, was to--was to kind of frame--was to say that that theory of interpretation, what's called the theory of originalism or original intent jurisprudence, is--essentially makes a set of claims about history. It says that we ought to be able to recover some set of fixed meanings. Some set of meanings was--was locked into the Constitution at the time when it was adopted. Our job is to recover what those meanings were and to apply them today. That's ess--that's essentially a historical question you're raising. It says we ought to be able to recover what people thought they were doing in the past and what they--what they meant, what they understood, what they intended.
You can't answer that question without thinking about it in--in--in very exclusively historical terms, and I wrote the book largely not just to explain how the Constitution was adopted, which we already knew, but rather to explain why those kinds of appeals to the original intent or meaning or understanding are so difficult, sometimes so problematic, sometimes really--that you're really left with very little. And yet, since they're so important, I wanted to kind of work out a way of answering those questions that would simultaneously allow us to understand what's the best--would allow us to come up with what's the best story we could provide of how the Constitution was framed and, also, what are its limits.
LAMB: By the way, what do you get when you get a Pulitzer Prize besides `the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jack Rakove'?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, there's a check. I mean, I'll find out tomorrow. But there's a--there's a luncheon.
LAMB: How much do they give you? You know?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah, it's a $5,000 prize.
LAMB: And you can spend that any way you want?
Prof. RAKOVE: I think I'm going to buy a bike.
LAMB: A bike?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I...
LAMB: A motorbike? Or...
Prof. RAKOVE: No, no. A motorbike? No, no. Not a Harley. No, I--I--I turn 50 in about--oh, I'd say a week from tomorrow. And my ambition has been to get from the Stanford campus over to the ocean and back, which means crossing the mountains and getting back. Well, I can--I can get--I can get to the mountains overlooking the campus; that's not a problem. But I haven't done it twice. And so I think what I'd like is a technological boost that'll--you know, I--I mean, I have my basic mountain bike, so I'm thinking of getting either a--a hybrid or a road bike to kind of, you know, give me the--you know, the competitive edge to get over and back and still be able to walk the next day.
LAMB: How long ago did you sell Knopf on doing a book like this?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, too long. It's kind of embarrassing, actually, to--to go back and see how many extensions of my contract I had to get. Knopf did my first book and, you know, they had me on a kind of retainer, residual, whatever. And when I had the idea for doing this--well, I had the idea for doing this book a long time ago, but when I decided to go ahead with it, I think it was about '84 or '85. So it's actually--it was about a good dozen years from when I--no--well, a good decade or so, g--give or take, from when I signed the contract to when I finally turned in the manuscript in '95; book was published a year ago now.
A lot of my colleagues at Stanford have come up to me and said, `It's--it's nice to see someone say it took a long time to do something,' because, you know, the nature of--the nature of some projects, especially, I think, historical kind of projects--historians per--prefer to write books, you know, not just turn out papers. You know, some projects just take a long time to get it right--to get the story right.
LAMB: Before you won the prize, how many did they print?
Prof. RAKOVE: Let's see. The original printing was 7,000, and there have been three reprintings in increasing numbers s--since. Of course, they did--I mean, it's--it's been a w--b--the book's been in and out of bookstores. It's been a little frustrating, I have to confess, because there weren't all that many copies available when the prize was announced--of course, not that Knopf knew I was going to win the prize. And the paperback was already planned, so--so they--they--we had to play a little bit of catch-up to get the book redistributed.
LAMB: Is the paperback out there now?
Prof. RAKOVE: It's just coming out now. My wife actually saw it in a bookstore in Davis...
LAMB: Davis, California?
Prof. RAKOVE: ...Davis, California, last--last week. I--I have a few copies of--I--it's--it's about to be distributed. I'm not sure--I'm not sure what the exact timetable is.
LAMB: But you can still get a hardback.
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, yes. Yes, and I would prefer that you do.
LAMB: And that hardback's $35.
Prof. RAKOVE: Thirty-five dollars.
LAMB: Did it--was that a tough price on s--a book like this?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I guess I would have hoped for a little lower, but, you know, I--I have no control over the pricing.
LAMB: You've got a--in the book, references to a lot of names that historians know...
Prof. RAKOVE: Right.
LAMB: ...and even students hear from time to time. But they're--they're--I want to go down the list and--and have you just tell us...
Prof. RAKOVE: Is this a memory test, or is it...
LAMB: No, you'll--you'll know this inside and out. Who was Publius?
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, Publius is--Publius is the pen name adopted by Hamilton, Madison and Jay--John Jay for writing The Federalist papers, going back, I think, to the classical figure of Valerius Poplicola, I think, is the--I think is the origin.
LAMB: Did they ever explain that, how they named it--their signature?
Prof. RAKOVE: Not really. It's--you know, it was--it was the convention of the time to--you know, not--not to publish under your own name but to--yeah, to adopt a pseudonym, often, though not always, with classical overtones.
LAMB: And how many Federalist papers were there? How many...
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, depending on how--on how you count, there are 84 or 85. There's...
LAMB: What's the difference?
Prof. RAKOVE: There's o--there's one that's--I forget which one. There's one that's been, I think, subdivided at some point, and so there's a slight ambiguity.
LAMB: Where did they publish them?
Prof. RAKOVE: They were originally published in the New York Journal, which is, I think, a thrice-weekly paper in New York. They're substantially reprinted in other papers across the country. And then the first bound edition, the so-called McLean edition, is--comes out in the spring of 1788. And if I remember correctly, it includes the papers on the judiciary, which Hamilton writes, and including the famous Federalist 78, which is a statement of the theory of judicial review, which, I think, had not yet appeared in--in the newspapers.
LAMB: Is there any way to relate what it was like back then and--and the value of The Federalist papers to anything we see today?
Prof. RAKOVE: I--in what sense?
LAMB: In impact. In other words, did--did--when they published them, did people read them? And were--were...
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah, I th--well, there's--there's a lot of debate about their--about their impact. And I think one would want to be cautious about ascribing too much importance to them. They're--they're especially valuable to us--and I--they were certainly es--especially valuable to me, because they--they are the single most detailed, comprehensive and, I would argue, lucid expositions of the Constitution that we have. And, of course, the fact that they're principally authored by Madison and Hamilton give them all that--all that much more impact.
But the flip side of that is that precisely because there's so many essays, the series runs for so long, the arguments are, in some cases, so finely spun and--you know, and so complicated--well, not complicated, but--but deep and rich that I--I'm actually somewhat skeptical about the kind of impact they would have had at the time on ordinary readers and citizens. I think the statement--I think the one statement that matters most--and--and I make this point in the book--is a famous, much-publicized public speech that James Wilson, you know, who I mentioned, you know, some time ago, the--the Pennsylvania delegate, the elitist Democrat, if you will--Wilson gives a public speech right outside the state--the--Independence Hall, the--the Pennsylvania Statehouse, on October 6th, 1787, and he makes a number of very strong statements, including why there's no need for a Bill of Rights in--in--in the Constitution, why a Bill of Rights would have been superfluous and pointless. And because Wilson was identified as a framer, you know, as not hiding behind a pseudonym, is speaking in public and because his speech is regarded as a kind of authoritative early statement--and Anti-Federalists start jumping all over it within a matter of days--I think that's probably the one document--if you had to pull one document out of the whole ratification campaign that had the greatest impact at the time, it's not Federalist 10 and it's not Federalist 51, you know, the classic numbers everybody reads in college or sometimes even in high school; it's probably Wilson's public speech of October 6th.
LAMB: Can you find that very often? I mean, is it published ver--in--in--in a lot of these books in history?
Prof. RAKOVE: Y--modern anthologies, or...
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah, it's--it's--it's pretty available now. It's--there's--yeah, there is a kind of standard source that's still in production, the "Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution," which is being prod--published by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The--actually, it's published at a le--in at least two of its volumes. I don't know if it's on the Web yet. That would be an interesting question. You know, there are some Web sites which have important founding documents. I mean, there was one I was just looking at at Yale Law School the other day, and I think Virginia has a--U--I think UVA has another one. But if it isn't there, it should be.
LAMB: What would the framers think about the Web?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, you know, maybe that's a good question to ask Newt Gingrich, since I--since he has this whole--you know, he originally had this whole notion about, you know, the use of--the use of e-mail--or, you know, the use of the Web to kind of facilitate political communication. I think the framers were certainly in favor of the distribution of knowledge. I don't think there's any question about that; that--that they f--that they favored--you know, they liked the idea of a free press. They wanted an educated citizenry. They wanted people to have access to information so that they could make up their minds in responsible ways and not simply act on prejudice.
At the same time, there is a--Madison and Wilson and Hamilton and Rufus King and others--there is a kind of subdued but significant skepticism about the--the ultimate capacity of the people at large to reach informed decisions about complicated questions. I mean, there i--there is that deep conservative, anti-populist streak in the framers, and we shouldn't delude ourselves about it. You know, Madison says as much in a--a letter he writes in January, 1788, where he says, `On--you know, on must issues, most of the time, people simply have to follow the leader, their better-informed, you know, social and intellectual political superiors.' So there's that kind of deep pessimism, that kind of doubt about whether or not most people, at most points, are willing to invest the time and energy to think through complicated issues.
LAMB: Which framer would be happy with the fact that they can watch the debates on television; they can read all this information on the Web sites; they have, you know, newspapers and all that in--who--who would like that?
Prof. RAKOVE: That's a good question. You know, I haven't thought about this one. Well, off the top of my head, I--I might say Wilson, even though--even--because even though Wilson was an elitist, as I said, what--what makes Wilson so interesting is this kind of juxtaposition of a kind of elitist politics for which he was often parodied by his, you know, contemporaries, but also a kind of deep commitment to democratic principles and--and not just as an abstract theory.
I--I think Wilson had a deep sense--a better--I think, deeper--or, kind of a deep intuition that over the long run, the real character of the national government, especially the division of power between the nation and the states, would not be a function of the formal powers given to each, but really would ultimately depend on how the people--how well the people were satisfied by the kind of performance and the responsiveness that they would find in these different levels of government. And on that basis, I think Wilson--I think Wilson is the one who would say, `Well, a well-informed people would be--would be best prepared to make those basic decisions about which levels of government are best prepared to function best.'
LAMB: How--how old was he during the Constitutional Convention?
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, how old was Wilson? Wilson was born in the 1740s, so he's...
Prof. RAKOVE: He comes to America about 17--right in the mid-1760s. He'd finished his studies in Scotland at that point. So I would assume Wilson--I'd--I'd have to look it up, but I think Wilson, at that point, was probably in his early 50s, would be my guess, you know, late 40s, early 50s.
LAMB: And you say he was an elitist. Define the term `elitist' back then. What would that mean?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I think in terms of the way the--the political controversy of the Revolution play out, the--I think one way to define it would be to kind of follow up on the--on the point I was just trying to make, the--the extent to which one--you know, really, in some ways, then as now, the extent to which one is skeptical about the capacity of the masses of the people...
LAMB: Did he live an elitist life?
Prof. RAKOVE: ...to make informed judgments. I'm sorry?
LAMB: Was he rich?
Prof. RAKOVE: He was certainly ambitious. Yeah--no--yeah, Wilson comes over; he's a successful attorney in Philadelphia. He attaches himself to the group of commercial interests--mercantile interests around the figure of Robert Morris, people who have--you know, who have big commercial ambitions of their own. He's--he's much tied in with the--the Bank of North America, which is the--the first real bank founded in Philadelphia, which is thought of as a kind of quasi-monopolistic institution that a lot of people resented.
And then Wilson has this kind of sad story at the end of his life. You know, when he's on the Supreme Court, he--he gets heavily invested in land speculations, which are all--especially in the late 18th and the 19th century, were always very tempting to Americans and always very dangerous, you know, because it's easy to get land but it's hard to settle it, and it's hard to settle it in a way that'll make it profitable before your debts start piling up.
And Wilson gets in too deep, and he goes bankrupt and he flees Philadelphia, flees his creditors, goes off somewhere in the Carolinas, where I think he's finally tracked out and brought back to debtor's prison. So he really dies--he dies fair--I think he dies--What?--1795, 1796, something like that. But he really dies a broken man--I mean, kind of broken in--in body and spirit and finances as well. So there's a kind of pathos, you know, to his story.
LAMB: Was he on the first Supreme Court?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah, he was on the first Supreme Court.
LAMB: A couple of quick names. Brutus?
Prof. RAKOVE: Brutus--well, Brutus is a--Brutus is a leading Anti-Federalist pamphleteer, not to--there are some hunches, but none definitive, as to who his identity might have been.
LAMB: And what's--what's the best way of defining an Anti-Federalist?
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, an Anti-Federalist--the Anti-Federalist is--is--is the conventional name given to the time and since to the opponents of the Constitution; that's to say, to those who oppose this ratification or who at least felt that its ratification should be hedged about--by significant amendments at a very early, if not immediate, point.
LAMB: Recognizable names that were Anti-Federalist?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, they tend to be less the household names than--than the Federalists, but the three most recognizable at the--well, the two most recognizable at the get-go would be George Mason, who we talked about earlier, and Elbridge Gerry, who's the non-signer from Massachusetts. Luther Martin, who had been behind Madison in his--at Princeton...
LAMB: They were all delegates?
Prof. RAKOVE: ...in his college days--yeah--yeah, Martin's one of the delegates who leaves early, a kind of a militant states' rightists of the first order, a very important politician in Maryland; George Clinton, the governor of New York; Patrick Henry in Virginia. Clinton and Henry were probably two of the most successful politicians in terms of having big popular followings. Richard Henry Lee in Virginia...
LAMB: His relationship to Robert E. Lee?
Prof. RAKOVE: It's--there's a cousinry there. Robert E. is not a direct descendent, I think.
LAMB: Let me go back, though, be--to the--you named Elbridge Gerry and George Mason and then Edmund Randolph, the three non-signers of the Constit...
Prof. RAKOVE: Right. Well, apparently, I--d--I would say--I--I--I skipped over Randolph because he winds up being a Federalist at the--Randolph's a trimmer; he goes back and forth, winds up sup--finally supporting the Constitution.
LAMB: But the non-signers--what was it like being there, do you think? If 39 signed, three didn't. Were they all in the room when they said, `No, I'm not signing'?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah. Well, yeah, I talk about this in--in--in one of the chapters. I--I kick off by talking about--you know, there's that--well, after FitzSimons--it's the same chapter where--you know, where mo--my son Daniel counted the steps and, you know, FitzSimons is dashing upstairs. And then FitzSimons tells the assembly that he'd like--you know, he'd like to stick around there--or, no, he does the assembly that the Pennsylvania delegates would be happy to all come upstairs and tell them all about the convention now, except that the--the delegates have scheduled a dinner, a kind of getaway or farewell dinner, that evening. And, you know, the--after four months, they were anxious to leave Philadelphia.
So there was a farewell dinner, and--and I speculate in the book--I--I don't know what happened if--I mean, I assume Gerry, Mason and Randolph all went. I assumed that because they were 18th century gentlemen, everybody was polite. But there must have been a certain kind of strain, because--because, you know, the last day of the convention, you know, Franklin, you know, gives a famous speech which becomes a big part of Federalist literature.
LAMB: How old was he then?
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, God, Franklin is in his upper 80s at that point. You know, Franklin was fairly feeble at this time. Most of his speeches had to be read for him by Wilson.
LAMB: James Wilson?
Prof. RAKOVE: James Wilson, yeah.
LAMB: He was a delegate, Benjamin Franklin?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah. Yeah--yeah--yeah--yeah, Franklin's a delegate, and I think he attended f--pretty regularly.
LAMB: But--but Elbridge Gerry, the famous gerrymandering phrase--when did--in his life, he went on to be vice president. Was that--when did he get the...
Prof. RAKOVE: No, gerrymandering--well, it's--it's Elbridge Gerry, but gerrymandering. That cu...
LAMB: Same guy, though?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah, same guy, yeah. Yeah. Well, he had a long career--he had a long political career, too. I mean, he--he ends his life as Madison's vice president. Actually, I thi--if I remember correctly, he dies in office.
Gerrymandering is--it takes place when--when...
LAMB: Why'd they change it, by the way?
Prof. RAKOVE: ...when Jerry is the--excuse me, when Gerry--gerrymandering takes place when Gerry is the governor of Massachusetts, I think sometime in the--the--the end of the first decade of the 19th century.
LAMB: Why did they change it from gerry to gerry (pronounced differently)? Who did that?
Prof. RAKOVE: Oh, I don't know. Who knows, you know? But I know it's Gerry because I had a namesake descendant years ago as a student when I taught at Colgate, so...
LAMB: And Edmund Randolph with the--he's the third one that didn't sign it--was what then?
Prof. RAKOVE: Randolph was then the governor of Virginia. He goes on to become attorney general and then briefly s--secretary of state under Washington.
LAMB: B--bef--we--time goes by too fast on this thing; never get enough done. Go back to y--your own education.
Prof. RAKOVE: OK.
LAMB: You grew up in Chicago.
Prof. RAKOVE: OK.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I--after I left Evanston High School, I went off to Haverford College. I also spent a year at the University of Edinboro. So I graduated--or, I should say, I was graduated from Haverford in 1968, a tumultuous year. Spent a little time in the Army at Ft. Knox, and then started--as a reservist, and then I started graduate school at Harvard in 1969.
LAMB: What'd you get your dissertation in? Or what'd you do it in?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, I did it in early American history. I d--I did--my first book was--in some ways, it's the prequel to--you know, as we say in California, to this book. It's a history of the Continental Congress called "The Beginnings of National Politics," which Knopf published in 1979.
LAMB: Is there anybody in your life that you--you point to besides your--your own father or parents or whatever, when you grew up that made a difference in--in steering you in the direction of being a scholar on the Constitution?
Prof. RAKOVE: Yeah. Well, there is one not fairly obscure scholar who I--who I usually invoke in this context. I'm--I'm--I'm a student of Bernard Bailin...
LAMB: And who is that?
Prof. RAKOVE: ...who's the now-retired--well, held various chairs at Harvard University, but is one of the two or three pre-eminent scholars of early American history in--in this century and, for my money, you know, far and away the best.
LAMB: And did he--did you have him as a--a professor?
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, when--when I went off to graduate school at Harvard in '69, I--I had no interest in early American history. I don't think the thought of studying the 18th century had ever crossed my mind. But Bailin was, you know, probably the most interesting, certainly the most stimulating, person to work with at Harvard. And--and then I realized that the--the general kinds of questions I wanted to--I knew I wanted to ask about American politics--about the relationship between politics and political ideas--were in some ways better asked or even best asked about the period in which Bailin was then working very intently, the--the period of the Revolution. So it was a kind of fortuitous--there were some fortuitous elements to it, but...
LAMB: One last thing--I got to ask you about this. You--you allude to the fact in there--or, you say it's a fact that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence as if he wanted to hear it read vs. the Constitution?
Prof. RAKOVE: Ah, yeah, yeah.
LAMB: M--br--read aloud, I mean.
Prof. RAKOVE: Right.
Prof. RAKOVE: Well, that's not an argument of mine. That's a--I have a--a colleague of mine at Stanford, Jay Fliegelman, published a book a couple years ago--Stanford Press published--called "Declaring Independence." And the--the point of departure for the book is, there was an early printing of the Declaration which has these curious marks in it, you know, kind of curious punctuation marks in funny places; it doesn't make any sense. Jay's theory, and that of a couple other scholars, is that, in fact, Jeffer--th--those--those marks are kind of diacritical accents to indicate how the thing should be read aloud. And so my colleague, Jay Fliegelman, then ties this in to larger discussions about the nature of rhetoric and public and private expressions of personality in the 18th century. So, I mean--in fact, I'm giving him a plug there, you know, more--more than myself.
LAMB: This is what the book looks like. It's called "Original Meanings," published by Knopf. The Pulitzer Prize winner and our guest has been Jack Rakove. Thank you very much.
Prof. RAKOVE: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.