the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Popular opinion through several layers of

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popular opinion through several layers of institutionalized deliberation before it became the law of the land. 8 Elected to the Continental Congress in 1778, he was almost immediately chosen to serve as president. This kept happening to Jay, in large part because his peers viewed him as a man of principle who could be trusted even by those who disagreed with his principles. His massive probity, combined with his
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persistent geniality, made him impossible to hate. He lacked Washington’s gravitas, Hamilton’s charisma, and Madison’s cerebral power, but he more than compensated with a conspicuous cogency in both his conversation and his prose that suggested a deep reservoir of learning he could tap at will. Permanently poised, always the calm center of the storm, when a controversial issue arose, he always seemed to have thought it through more clearly and deeply than anyone else, so that his opinion had a matter-of-fact quality that made dissent seem impolite. In 1778 he was appointed to the Continental Congress to defend New York’s claim against Vermont’s petition for statehood. But Jay decided, upon reflection, that New York’s case was petty and partisan, and that the larger interest of the confederation would be best served by accepting Vermont into the union. Despite pressure from the New York legislature, he would not budge from his conviction that the whole needed to take precedence over the parts, the first clear expression of his national orientation. Despite his best efforts, the Vermont question became a victim of gridlock in the Congress. As he put it with obvious disdain, “the issue was ‘bitched’ in its last as well as its first stages.” 9 His ten-month term as president of the Continental Congress convinced him that any coherent national policy was impossible within the confederation format. “There is as much intrigue in this State House as in the Vatican,” he complained to Lafayette, “but as little secrecy as in a boarding school.” Even before Hamilton had gone public with his criticism of the government under the Articles, Jay had concluded, on the basis of his experience in the Congress, that no state-based confederation could harness the full energies of the American Revolution once the war ended. As he saw it, there were really only two courses of action available: stay on the current path and witness “the Diminution of our Respectability, Power, and Felicity”; or create a government with sufficient powers to manage an ascendant American nation. That was the real choice, as Jay saw it, and all the petty squabbles within the Congress—over Vermont’s status, Virginia’s territorial prerogatives, the disproportionate impact of the impost on different states, even the payment of the federal debt—were just distractions, or perhaps symptoms of the deeper malaise. “I hope that the wheel turns round,” Jay observed, meaning that the choice would be faced rather
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