An Empire of Reason

A docudrama about the debate surrounding New York State’s ratification of the United States Constitution, the program stars Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, William F. Buckley, Jr., Phil Donahue, Robert MacNeil, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Forrest Sawyer, Andrea Mitchell and others. Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor Ed Koch make cameo appearances. Emmy. Cine Gold Eagle, Best of Festival, Athens Film Festival. Gold Camera, U.S. Film Festival.


The premise of the show is simple. What if television had existed in 1788? How would it have covered New York State’s debate about whether or not to ratify the U.S. Constitution? With historical figures wearing modern dress and using familiar language, the film allows today’s audience to understand firsthand the forces that shaped this country two hundred years ago. The argument, characters, passions and debating points are historically accurate, but the language and the medium of the debate is modern in form. Present day newscasters and commentators play themselves, reporting on the events of the 1780s as though they were occurring now. Each segment of the program is in a format familiar to today’s audience – Walter Cronkite anchoring the nightly news, Al Roker giving the weather report, Forrest Sawyer reporting from the field, William F. Buckley querying his guests, plus a smattering of commercials, etc.

Today it seems amazing to think that there was even a question of accepting the Constitution, but in fact the debate for and against its rafificabon was one of the most lively and spirited in American history. An Empire of Reason makes it clear that the basic constitutional issues debated in the 1780s—such as the nature of representation, the division of power between local and central government, and concern for civil liberties—are as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago.


Host: Cokie Roberts

Special Appearances by:
William F. Buckley, Jr.
John Chancellor
Walter Cronkite
Gov. Mario Cuomo
Phil Donahue
Fred Graham
Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Mayor Ed Koch
E.G. MArshall
Robert MacNeil
Andrea Mitchell
Eli Wallach
Al Roker
Forrest Sawyer
Hon. Sol Wachtler


Produced and Directed by: Ellen Hovde Muffie Meyer
Executive Producer: Nicole Gordon
Co-Producer: Amy Kaufman
Writer: Ronald H. Blumer
Director of Photography: Edward Marritz
Art Director: John Wright Stevens
Editor: Alison Ellwood
Music Composed by Arnold Black
Associate Producer: Lynn Piasecki



As a determined effort to reconstruct a key episode in American history, it scores far more often and impressively than might be anticipated.
John J. O’Connor, The New York Times

Teaches as it entertains… so that a wide range of ages and educational levels can learn from it.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A super way to learn about our history!
Marvin Kitman, Newsday

You’ll never have more fun learning!
Daily News