the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

32 but it was not instead late in their deliberations

Info icon This preview shows pages 85–86. Sign up to view the full content.

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.
Image of page 85

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 86
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.
  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern