Had it not been for the bell-ringing and the firing there would have been little to indicate that a great change of government had taken place. Some new faces indeed were seen at the coffee-house, and some familiar ones were missed, for many members of the old Congress who had failed to secure seats in the new had already packed their portmanteaus and hastened home. But a sense of duty kept a few in their seats, and these continued to hold daily sessions... -from "The Constitution Becomes Law" A bestseller when it was first published in 1883, this first volume of historian John Bach McMaster's magnum opus is a lively history of the United States that is as entertaining as it is informative. Eventually stretching to eight volumes, McMaster's epic was original in its emphasis on social and economic conditions as deciding factors in shaping a nation's culture: in addition to the words and actions of great men and the outcomes of significant skirmishes and battles, McMaster indulges his obsession with fascinating trivia, from which fruits and vegetables were to be found in the markets of 18th-century Boston to the cost of books in Pennsylvania before the Revolution. Volume 1, spanning the colonial period to the immediate aftermath of the war with Britain and the establishment of the federal government, is a compulsively readable account of the birth pangs of the new nation, and covers such intriguing and unlikely topics as the debate over the coinage of the United States, the first American ship to sail for China, and the impact of war debts on the fledgling country. American historian JOHN BACH MCMASTER (1852-1932) taught at the Wharton School of Finance and Economy at the University ofPennsylvania, Philadelphia, from 1883 to 1919. He also wrote Benjamin Franklin as a Man of Letters (1887) and A School History of the United States (1897), which became a definitive textbook.