the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

20 as washington saw it he was not backing out

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of the convention if Washington backed out. 20 As Washington saw it, he was not backing out because he had never backed in. His name was included on the list of the Virginia delegation without his permission, and he was on record, in a quite public fashion, as forever forbidden to step back onto the stage. The Cincinnatus role became his chief line of defense well into the spring of 1787. As he explained to Randolph, his presence at Philadelphia “would be considered as inconsistent with my public declaration delivered in a solemn manner at an interesting Aera of my life, never more to meddle in public matters. This declaration not only stands in the files of Congress, but is I believe registered in almost all the Gazettes and magazines that are published.” This sacred vow was perfectly aligned with his private preference, indeed deeply personal urge, “to see this Country happy whilst I am gliding down the stream of life in tranquil retirement,” an urge that was “so much the wish of my Soul, that nothing on this side of Elysium can be placed in competition with it.” 21 Despite what had become a multilayered series of defense mechanisms, Washington was vulnerable to entreaties from Jay and Madison because he was also on record, at least privately, advocating precisely the political agenda they were now proposing. In fact, as he himself acknowledged, “No Man in the United States is, or can be, more deeply impressed with the necessity of reform in our present Confederation than myself.” By disposition given to some combinations of prudence and reticence on most controversial issues, when it came to the postwar government, he was slashing in his criticism.
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“In a word,” he declared, “the Confederation appears to me to be little more than an empty sound and Congress a nugatory body.” During the war the Continental Congress had barely kept the Continental Army on life support, routinely rejecting requests for money and troops. As he saw it, the Confederation Congress had sustained that ignoble tradition after the war in its deliberate embrace of indifference and inadequacy. “We are either a United people or we are not,” he observed. “If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation…. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it.” There is a certain irony to the political situation in the winter of 1786–87, since Washington was resisting attempts by Jay and Madison to recruit him to a cause that he cared about as much or more than they did. 22 Washington’s mind, then, was completely clear on the substantive question: the Articles needed to be replaced, not just revised, by a federal government empowered to act as a representative of the American people as a whole. He was, in truth, the most nationalistic of the nationalists, because he had invested more than anyone else in making the American Revolution succeed, and he had concluded during the course of the war that success entailed a consolidated national government capable of managing the states.
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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