the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Political visionary than a practical politician who

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political visionary than a practical politician who needed to win the votes in Richmond and put Virginia over the top. For that reason, he chose to attack the flanks of Henry’s argument. Henry had argued that the Constitution created a consolidated federal government that rode roughshod over the power of states. Madison argued that Henry did not know what he was talking about, that the political architecture created in Philadelphia mandated shared sovereignty between the federal government and the states. “It is, in a manner unprecedented,” Madison observed. “It stands by itself. In some respects it is a government of a federal nature; in others it is of a consolidated nature,” meaning that the Constitution granted enumerated powers to the national government, but left all else to the province of the states. The phrase “We the people” did not refer to “the people composing one great body—but the people composing thirteen separate sovereignties.” The Senate represented the states, and its members would be
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elected by the state legislatures. The states appointed the electors who chose the president. All constitutional amendments required ratification by a supermajority of the states. This was an enormous concession on Madison’s part, on the one hand a recognition that Henry was right in saying that no national ethos currently existed but, on the other hand, a deft deferral of the ultimate verdict to the future by describing the Constitution as a framework within which some version of state and national sovereignty would continue to coexist. 48 All the arguments that Madison made in Richmond on behalf of shared sovereignty represented a repudiation of the arguments he had made in Philadelphia in favor of a clear statement of sovereignty at the federal level. But the political circumstances had changed, and Madison, ever the political animal, had changed with them. If he had to abandon some of his fondest convictions to win ratification in Virginia, he was fully prepared to do so. Once the boogeyman of “consolidation” had been defanged, Henry realized his only hope was to load up Virginia’s ratification with so many amendments that a second convention would need to be called, which then, he hoped, would end up revising the Articles rather than replacing them. But erosion of support in the western counties and Kentucky meant that he did not have the votes. While delivering his final speech on June 29, proposing forty new amendments to the Constitution, Henry was interrupted by a violent thunderstorm, suggesting that even the gods favored ratification. The final vote was close but decisive (89–79). A caucus of the defeated “Antis” voted to mount a challenge to the verdict, holding out hope for a second convention. But Henry refused to lend his support to what he realized was a lost cause. He had done his best, he said, they had all done their best, and though they surely had represented Virginia’s political interest, they had lost. And so for now “they had better go home.” For better and for worse, the Constitution was destined to become the law of the land.
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