the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Such moment when ordinary citizens assumed control of

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such moment, when ordinary citizens assumed control of the debate, selecting delegates to state ratifying conventions for what would be a national referendum on the proposed Constitution. 2 Such a vibrantly democratic moment had happened once before, in the summer of 1776. In response to a resolution of the Continental Congress requesting each colony to revise its colonial charter into a state constitution, the colonial legislatures had forwarded the request to all the counties within their jurisdictions. This became a de facto referendum on independence throughout all the towns, villages, and hamlets up and down the Atlantic coast. In a sense, this was the first and most palpably popular declaration of independence, for the referendum produced a landslide verdict for secession from the British Empire. 3 The political context in the fall of 1787 required a second democratic moment, when the core issue at stake was presented to the full citizenry for their approval or rejection. In 1776 the issue had been independence. In 1787–88 it was nationhood. And partly because the process was drawn out for eight months, and partly because the American electorate was more divided on nationhood than it was on independence, the arguments that ensued in the ratifying conventions and in town meetings and family
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parlors from Maine to Georgia were spirited, indeed ferocious affairs. Without much doubt, one can sensibly say that this was the greatest political debate in American history, because nothing less than a viable American nation-state was at issue. 4 And because the vast majority of the American populace had been wholly oblivious to the secret conversations occurring in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, the publication of the Constitution was a dramatic and traumatic event for which they were unprepared. They now needed to be folded into a conversation from which they had previously been excluded. Who knew that a few men would propose not a mere revision, but a complete overhaul of the current political arrangement under the Articles? It needs to be noticed, though, in this democratic chapter that the range of options was severely circumscribed, just as it had been in 1776. Then the up-or-down issue was the Declaration of Independence. Now it was the recently drafted Constitution. It is quite likely that a majority of the American citizenry would have preferred a revision of the Articles, but that option was not available. The choice was between sticking with the Articles in their current moribund condition or going with the Constitution in its present form. It was, in effect, a take-it-or-leave-it decision. And so while the democratic phase of the story was impressively open-ended and wide-ranging, the parameters of the possible had already been established by those favored few in Philadelphia, and before them by an even smaller cohort of nationalists who had worked behind the scenes to make the Constitutional Convention happen. The inevitable cacophony of that democratic process had to fit itself into one of two preordained categories: confederation or nation. “The people,” to be sure, must have their
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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