the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Relished the opportunity to point out that on the eve

Info icon This preview shows pages 76–78. Sign up to view the full content.

relished the opportunity to point out that, on the eve of the Constitutional Convention, Madison was not studying his financial portfolio in order to assess the economic consequences of the looming deliberations in Philadelphia on his investments, but rather reading Voltaire and David Hume in order to refine his thinking about the historical fate of confederacies and the challenges faced by previous efforts to establish a republican form of government on a national scale. 7 This is true enough and worthy of notice. But it is also necessary to notice, once again, that Madison’s mind was more political than philosophical. Which is to say that his reading was driven by a clear sense of the arguments he anticipated from confederationists and the arguments he needed to make for a nation-
Image of page 76

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

size republic. He knew what he was looking for as he read, and chose accordingly. There were, it turned out, three areas of inquiry of sufficient significance to merit his full attention. The first was the history of confederacies. Madison’s “Notes on Ancient and Modern Confederacies” seems, at first glance, a tedious and pedantic review of Greek, Italian, Dutch, and Germanic confederations over a thousand years of European history. All the stories were boringly similar, tales of temporary stability, usually based on a political alliance against a common enemy that eventually dissolved into civil war, anarchy, and political oblivion. But the boringly similar pattern was actually Madison’s main point. The kind of confederation the Americans had created in the Articles was an inherently transitory political configuration destined to self-destruct because there was no overarching source of sovereignty larger than the narrow interests of the states. The vast majority of confederations degenerated into smaller political units that then went to war against one another. 8 The implications of this long-standing historical pattern for the current American context were obvious. The upcoming convention in Philadelphia offered the opportunity to avoid the customary fate of confederacies by shifting sovereignty from the state to the federal level. Madison intended his somewhat arcane research into the history of European confederations as an opening argument designed to catch defenders of the confederation framework by surprise and place them on the defensive in a debate where his mastery of the evidence gave him an overwhelming tactical advantage. His second research project followed logically from the first: a catalog of the political failures under the Articles, entitled “Vices of the Political System of the United States,” designed to demonstrate that the inherent inadequacies that afflicted all European confederations in the past were infecting the American confederation in the present. “Vices” read like a prosecuting attorney’s brief against the Articles as a viable government.
Image of page 77
Image of page 78
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.
  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern