the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Given the diversity of opinions at the convention

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for or against it.” Given the diversity of opinions at the convention, however, Washington believed that “it was probably the best that could be obtained at this time.” 43 The optimistic way to see it was that a consolidated American nation was still very much a work in progress, and the willfully ambiguous political architecture that the delegates in Philadelphia had constructed reflected not just the voting blocs at the convention, but also the still-embryonic status of American nationalism. The vast bulk of the citizenry was not ready for a fully empowered federal government. What the delegates in Philadelphia were giving them was a halfway house on the road to the promised land. For our purposes, looking back at the way in which the political campaign to create the Constitutional Convention proceeded, a small group of uncompromising believers in America’s national potential— Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and Jay—had orchestrated the strategy that produced the convention. And then Madison, taking the lead, had set the agenda for the convention with the Virginia Plan and drawn other nationalists like Gouverneur Morris and Wilson into his camp. But in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, Madison and his nationalist colleagues lost control of the debate. Their national aspirations had always been far ahead of popular opinion. They were forced to learn a political lesson that leaders in any truly representative government, itself a new thing under the sun, had to learn: namely, that leadership sometimes means slowing down to allow stragglers to catch up. (Hamilton regarded this lesson as cowardice.) A small elite of like-minded souls could and did force a political debate that would otherwise not have happened. But once that debate moved to a larger arena that contained actors who did not share their radical assumptions, the definition of leadership changed. Compromise, the old enemy, became the new friend. Better a confederated nation than a mere confederation. Better still a constitution that created the framework in which the question of federal versus state sovereignty was left ambiguous and therefore provided the political arena for an ongoing argument that would get clarified incrementally over a comfortable stretch of time, though never completely resolved. Madison is customarily recognized as “Father of the Constitution,” and there are sound reasons why he merits that recognition, the chief ones being that he set the political agenda for the convention with his Virginia Plan, and he performed his Madisonian magic in behind-the-scenes strategy sessions with his fellow nationalists. But as the convention concluded, Madison would most probably have regarded such recognition as excessive and perplexing. He had, after all, lost all the major battles. And there is good reason to believe that, when he unfurled his most original idea about the political chemistry in a large republic, most delegates did not know what he was talking about.
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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