the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

The centerwould have dire indeed calamitous

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the center—would have dire, indeed calamitous, consequences after independence. As he put it in a letter to the president of Congress: I am decided in my opinion, that if the powers of Congress are not enlarged, and made competent to all general purposes , that the Blood which has been spilt, the expense that has been incurred, and the distress that have been felt, will avail in nothing; and that the band, already too weak, which hold us together, will soon be broken; when anarchy and confusion must prevail. 29 There is no question that Washington wanted the newly independent United States to become a republic in which consensus rather than coercion was the central political value. But he wanted that republic to cohere as a union rather than as a confederation of sovereign states. In his capacity as commander in chief, he could testify that the confederation model nearly lost the war. And if it persisted in its current form, he believed that it would lose the peace. In June 1783 he sat down to compose his last Circular Letter to the States. Though a man of action more than words, on this occasion he offered a truly panoramic assessment of why the just-concluded war for independence could also be called the American Revolution, and why the consolidation of its revolutionary energies required a national government capable of orchestrating those energies. It was the
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most profound political statement he ever wrote. In his visionary appraisal, the newly arrived American republic was the beneficiary of two extraordinary pieces of good fortune, the first a function of time and the second of space. On the time side, the United States came into existence during an era “when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period.” Immanuel Kant had yet to coin the term Enlightenment to describe this chapter in Western history, but even without the convenient vocabulary, Washington clearly grasped the central idea: namely, that the American Revolution had happened at a truly providential moment. It occurred when a treasure trove of human knowledge about society and government had replaced the medieval assumptions—that “gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition”— and thereby provided Americans with an unprecedented opportunity to construct a society according to political principles that maximized the prospects for personal freedom and happiness more fully than ever before. In effect, European thinkers over the past century had drafted the blueprint for a new political architecture, which was now readily available for Americans to implement. “At this period,” he intoned, “the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be intirely their own.” 30 The problem with this prophecy was that its uplifting implications depended on the existence of a nation-state capable of enforcing a comprehensive version of political coherence. A confederation of sovereign states, the kind of league currently configured in the Articles, would not suffice. In that sense,
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