the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

In retrospect we can see clearly that henry spoke for

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In retrospect, we can see clearly that Henry spoke for the past and Madison spoke for the future. But Henry deserves full attention for making the case for what we might call the first American Revolution with such clarity. “Have they said, ‘we the states’…this would be a confederation…. The question turns, Sir, on that poor little thing, the expression ‘We, the people,’ instead of the States of America.” Henry was right. That was the core issue. In an extremely revealing aside, Henry posed the following question: “Suppose every delegate from Virginia in the new government opposed a law levying a tax, but it passes. So you are taxed not by your own consent, but by the people who have no connection with you.” In Henry’s political universe, non- Virginians were not fellow citizens but foreigners, whose interests were not aligned with the values of the Old Dominion. Any wholly national government that attempted to unite the states created a domestic version of Parliament, which was precisely the kind of arbitrary and unrepresentative government that Americans had spent so much blood and treasure to escape. 46 The watchword of Henry’s critique of the Constitution was consolidation , a term loaded with ideological and quasi-paranoid implications. It conjured up the image of a political monster devouring the liberties of the citizenry, an inherently tyrannical behemoth with an avaricious appetite that, once in place, could not be controlled or stopped. (Modern-day Tea Partiers share this political legacy, with its deep roots in the hostility to any robust expression of government power at the federal level.) “You make the citizens of this country to become the subjects of one consolidated empire in America,” Henry warned. “When I come to examine those features sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities it has an awful squinting; it squints towards monarchy.” 47 In several senses, then, Henry had history on his side in this critique of the Constitution. But there was one elemental difference between the political context in 1776 and that in 1787–88. The American colonists had not been represented in Parliament. Their definition of what constituted representation would have to change, to be sure, but the delegates gathered in Philadelphia did not regard themselves as repudiating so much as expanding the meaning of the American Revolution. And Henry had the misfortune to draw as an opponent the one man in America most articulate in making that argument. In some better world, Madison would have attacked the central premise of Henry’s argument that there was, as yet, no such thing as “We the people of the United States.” He would have said, “I have seen the future and it works”—in effect, we are a single people who only need time within a common government to discover our collective interest. (This, by the way, was Washington’s opinion.) But Madison was less a
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