the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

The winner became the president and the runner up

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wished. The winner became the president, and the runner-up became the vice president. The only way that Washington could have avoided election was by refusing to serve if chosen. And Hamilton had already told him why he could not do that. Washington did confide to Knox that “my movement to the Chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.” But it was a virtual certainty that he would be elected in a landslide. 10 Virtual certainty, however, was not enough for Hamilton. From Hamilton’s perspective, Washington’s election was utterly essential if the American experiment was to succeed. He began to conjure up a nightmare scenario in which, as he put it, “the defect in the Constitution which renders it possible that the man intended for Vice President may in fact turn up President.” This was an extremely far-fetched fear, and events eventually proved it utterly illusory. But it was a measure of Hamilton’s obsession with ensuring Washington’s election that he decided to take no chances. So he moved behind the scenes to rig the election. 11 Political polls, of course, did not exist, but there was an informed consensus that John Adams was likely to finish second and become vice president, probably with unanimous support in New England and
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most of the northern states. Hamilton lobbied friends in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to throw away their electoral votes for Adams in favor of lesser candidates, in order to prevent an accidental Adams presidency. Hamilton claimed that he had nothing against Adams, indeed would welcome him as the first vice president. But Adams was not Washington—no one was—and even the slightest risk that Adams might sneak in ahead of Washington was a risk not worth running. In the end, it made no difference. When the electoral votes were counted, all sixty-nine electors voted for Washington, making him the unanimous choice. Adams finished second with thirty-four electoral votes, probably five or ten votes less than he would have received without Hamilton’s machinations. Hamilton had unnecessarily given credence to the view that the transition from confederation to nation was an inherently corrupt conspiracy. Neither Washington, nor Madison, nor Jay would have countenanced what he did. Indeed, Washington would have been outraged that Hamilton had placed a dishonorable stain on his presidency. But at the time Hamilton cared not a whit about such hostile accusations. The only relevant fact was that Washington would be at the helm of the American ship of state when she sailed. There was one final ingredient that needed to be added to the institutional equation in order to ensure the prospects for success. Over the course of the ratification debate, it had become abundantly clear that the biggest mistake made by the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had been to omit a bill of rights from the final draft of the document. As mentioned earlier, the underlying reasons for this
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