In this ambitious study, Robertson explains how the U.S. Constitution emerged from an intense battle between a bold vision for the nation's political future and the tenacious defense of its political present. Given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to alter America's destiny, James Madison laid before the Constitutional Convention a plan for a strong centralized government that could battle for America's long-term interests. But delegates from vulnerable states resisted this plan, seeking instead to maintain state control over most of American life while adding a few more specific powers to the existing government. These clashing aspirations turned the Convention into an unpredictable chain of events. Step-by-step, the delegates' compromises built national powers in a way no one had anticipated, and produced a government more complex and hard to use than any of them originally intended. Their Constitution, in turn, helped create a politics unlike that in any other nation.