I’m about 2/3rds of the way through John Dinan’s book The American State Constitutional Tradition, which undertakes the daunting task of reviewing all of the constitutional conventions in American history (234 counting the federal convention) and documenting the general themes and trends. He does it in only 277 pages—plus 138 pages of notes, which are probably more valuable given the poor state of research on this subject. Dinan has two things going for him: he’s resolutely objective (it would be all too easy to take sides in all this; doubtless I would if I were writing it), and he writes very well. You wouldn’t think from the subject that this would be as readable a book as it is.
The downside is that there is so much source material here that to compress it only 277 pages of text is virtually impossible without leaving out a lot. Each convention deserves its own book, really, and they have not received nearly the attention they deserve. (There is only a single book in existence about California Constitutional Convention of 1878-79, for example—the slim little book by Carl Brent Swisher.) Dinan has chapters on amendment, representation, separation of powers, bicameralism, rights, and citizen character, which are very broad themes, and then he describes how attitudes towards these things changed over the years nationwide. This necessarily is a sketch, therefore. And his chapter on rights focuses on attitudes towards granting “positive rights” (i.e., government handouts), rather than on the different meanings of concepts like “freedom of religion” and so forth.
But, again, to have written such a thorough study would have required a multi-volume work at the least. What Dinan has done here is take a major scholarly step in the study of American state constitutional history. And, again, his notes and bibliography are worth gold. One reason so little research has been done on this subject (in the legal world at least) is that it’s hard to track down the source material in many cases. The debates at he 1878 California Convention, for example, were published in 1880—and never again. This means the book is rare and hard to find. That is an awful shame.
Vladimir Horowitz plays two of my favorite musical pieces ever: Scriabin's Etude in D Sharp Minor Opus 8 No. 12, and Robert Schumann's "Traumerei." I think he does a much better job on the Scriabin piece in this 1968 concert than in his 1986 concert in Moscow.