the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

13 this was an ingenious way to frame the issue

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13 This was an ingenious way to frame the issue, essentially describing the looming convention in Philadelphia as the ultimate arbiter of Washington’s legacy. Nor was that all. Madison claimed to know on good authority that the Virginia legislature fully intended to take the convention seriously and, as the largest state, to name a seven-man delegation with Washington’s name at the head of the list. Washington had deflected Jay’s earlier probe the previous spring by agreeing that the issues were huge but firmly refusing to abandon his role as the American Cincinnatus, permanently retired at his beloved Mount Vernon. “Yet having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port,” he explained to Jay, “and having been fairly discharged, it is not my business to embark again on a Sea of troubles.” The Virginia legislature could do as it pleased, and Washington acknowledged that he would be honored by the nomination. But the script for this play had already been written by the ancients. Cincinnatus could never come back. 14 Even a glance at Washington’s postwar correspondence reveals that there was more to his reticence than a desire to stay on script. The phrase that keeps recurring in his letters is “gliding down the stream of life,” his way of realizing that, to shift the metaphor, the sands in his hourglass were running out. He was profoundly aware that no male in the Washington line had lived beyond his fifties, so he was much closer to the end than the beginning. After an extended visit by Lafayette, whom he regarded as an adopted son, he waxed eloquent, almost elegiac, on the likelihood that they would ever meet again: I called to mind the days of my youth, & found they had long since fled to return no more, that I was descending the hill I had been 52 years climbing— & that tho’ I was blessed with a good Constitution, I was of a short lived family—and might soon expect to be entombed in the dreary mansion of my fathers—These things darkened the shades & gave a gloom to the picture…but I will not repine—I have had my day. 15 He regarded these intimations of mortality less as morose moods than as realistic recognitions of his limited time. When he learned that Nathanael Greene had died of sunstroke outside Savannah in 1786, he lamented the loss of his ablest lieutenant during the war, and the passing of an era in which he was an aging survivor. He was, so he thought, living out the last chapter of his own story, posing for painters “whilst they are delineating the lines of my face.” His time had come and gone, or so he firmly believed, and any attempt to lure him back into public life ran against the grain of his deepest emotional convictions. 16 These were not the kind of personal concerns that he felt comfortable talking about with Madison, whom he had met and come to admire only a year earlier during a conference at Mount Vernon about improving navigation routes on the Potomac. Instead of unburdening himself in ways that required
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