the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

And this in turn meant that any robust national

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counted enjoyed a roughly two-to-one advantage over the large states, could block any national initiative. And this in turn meant that any robust national agenda on the model of the Virginia Plan was going to be forced to run a very challenging gauntlet in order to win acceptance. For the same state-based principle that Madison and his fellow nationalists sought to replace remained the operative mode of proceeding in the convention. And the small states, which were sure to oppose proportional representation in both branches of the legislature, had the votes to do it. 25 Before the convention had barely begun, then, some combination of gridlock or compromise between nationalists and confederationists was virtually inevitable. Under Madison’s leadership the radicals had seized control of the agenda. But given the powers of the small states under the one-state-one-vote policy, the proponents of the radical agenda would have to make concessions to win their way, thereby creating a document in which the salient question of federal versus state sovereignty could not be resolved, only conveniently obscured. While hindsight makes that conclusion almost unavoidable, the delegates lacked access to hindsight, so they spent the summer arguing their respective convictions in the belief that their arguments, not the inherent structure of the debate, would decide the outcome. In fact, the parameters of the possible were predetermined. Finally, two other procedural decisions made at the start would turn out to have an abiding influence on the deliberations in Philadelphia and the ways they would be regarded by posterity. The first was the decision that absolute secrecy must prevail, that “nothing spoken in the House be printed, or otherwise published, or communicated without leave.” There would be no journalists or spectators in attendance, sentries would be posted at the doors, and delegates were prohibited from discussing the debates in public or in correspondence. 26 These restrictions were designed to ensure confidentiality and thereby promote the freer exchange of ideas during the debates. And based on the subsequent testimony of the delegates, there is good reason to believe that they did just that. But they ever after made the Constitutional Convention vulnerable to charges of conspiracy, corruption, and skullduggery. And since it is unimaginable in any modern context for such restricted conditions to exist for any political gathering charged with significant responsibility
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over matters of such consequence, the specter of conspiracy has understandably haunted all histories of the convention. Ironically, to the extent that the delegates at Philadelphia succeeded, their success was dependent on violating all of our contemporary convictions about transparency and diversity, which is one reason why their success could never be duplicated in our time.
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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