If you enjoy your history with a partisan flavor and a good dose of skepticism, you will immensely enjoy Inventing A Nation, Gore Vidal's romp through early American history. Gore begins with 1786 as Washington prepares to lead the constitutional convention.
It's refreshing to go beyond the glowing myths we are fed in high school and see the great men with all their foibles, flaws that somehow make them even a little greater in my estimation. There was a lot of groping going on to find just the right mix. Democracy did not have much in the way of precedence. After the Athenian defeat by Alexander, there was really no democratic example to follow.
Ours is certainly not a democracy in the Athenian sense as Gore, in his inimitable manner makes clear: "Much of the significance of December 2000 was that the Electoral College, created to ensure that majority rule be thwarted if unacceptable to what Hamilton thought of as the proper governing elite, threw a bright spotlight on just how undemocratic our republic has become, causing one of the Supreme Court Justices (by many thought to be a visiting alien) to respond to the Gore lawyers who maintained that Florida's skewed voting machines and confused rulings by various interested courts had deprived thousands of Floridians of their vote for president. The American Constitution, said the Justice, mandibles clattering joyously, does not provide any American citizen the right to vote for president. This is absolutely true. One votes for a near-anonymous member of the Electoral College, which explains why so few Americans now bother to 'vote' for president. But then a majority don't know what the Electoral College is."