the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

32 but it was not instead late in their deliberations

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32 But it was not. Instead, late in their deliberations the delegates invented that strange thing that continues to befuddle foreign observers called the Electoral College. Trying to follow the flow of the argument about executive authority over the course of the summer is an inherently impossible task, because there was no flow, just a series of erratic waves. Several delegates obviously wanted the office to be largely symbolic, noting that the title of president implied that his chief duty was merely to preside. The only moment of utter clarity came on June 18, when Hamilton rose to deliver a six-hour speech that his best biographer has called “brilliant, courageous, and completely daft.” In it he used the dreaded word, calling for “an elected monarch” who would serve for life. For the remainder of Hamilton’s career that speech was used against him as evidence of his dangerously monarchical instincts. Although it was becoming increasingly clear that the central goal of the convention was to reach a sensible accommodation between nationalists and confederationists, Hamilton’s six-hour harangue demonstrated that he was unwilling to play that political game. 33 The other ghost at the banquet was slavery, which was simultaneously omnipresent and unmentionable. Lincoln subsequently claimed that the decision to avoid the word slavery in the founding document accurately reflected the widespread recognition that the “peculiar institution” was fundamentally incompatible with the values on which the American Revolution was based, so that the bulk of the delegates realized that any explicit mention of the offensive term would, over time, prove embarrassing. 34 This was true enough, but the more palpable and pressing truth in the summer of 1787 was that slavery was deeply embedded in the economies of all states south of the Potomac and that no political plan that questioned that reality had any prospect of winning approval. Much like the big-state-small-state conflict, then, a sectional split was, from the beginning, built into the very structure of the convention, and some kind of political compromise was inevitable if the Constitution were to stand any chance of passage and ratification. Madison himself believed that slavery was the most elemental source of conflict. “The states were divided into different interests not by their difference in size,” he recalled later, “but principally from their having or not having slaves…. It did not lie between the large and small states, it lay between the Northern and Southern.” 35 The crucial compromise was an agreement to avoid any direct discussion of the divisive issue and to use euphemisms like “that species of property” when the forbidden topic forced itself onto the agenda.
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