the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

24 there is no written record of washingtons response

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There is no written record of Washington’s response to Humphreys’s memorandum—their proximity at Mount Vernon precluded correspondence. But indirect evidence suggests that Washington was wavering, though still leaning toward remaining retired, groping for personal reasons to justify his absence from Philadelphia. He wrote Knox to explain that his arm was in a sling due to rheumatism, making travel difficult. In addition, his brother had just died, “the most affectionate friend of my ripened age,” and his mother, Mary Ball Washington, was dying of breast cancer in Fredericksburg, and though he and she had been estranged for many years, now was not the time to leave her alone. 25 But these domestic considerations, it turns out, were final flings of resistance against the persuasive powers of Madison, who was providing updated reports on a state-by-state basis of the delegates chosen to attend the convention. Madison’s tallies revealed that, unlike at Annapolis, a quorum would be present in Philadelphia; only Rhode Island would fail to show up. Even more significant, most of the opponents of reform had decided to boycott the convention, thereby confining the debate to advocates of moderate and radical reform. If Washington’s major reservation was that he should not risk his reputation in a political contest that was doomed to fail, Madison’s analysis of the delegate count indicated that abject failure was highly unlikely. And with Washington on board, the prospect for thoroughgoing reform of the Articles became realistic, if not assured. Though he lacked Madison’s mastery of the state-by-state numbers, Knox altered his advice in mid- March on the basis of information indicating that attendance at the convention would be more robust than he had expected. Along with Humphreys, he had earlier urged caution on the grounds that Washington’s prestige was too precious to risk in such a questionable venture. Now, however, he reversed his view of the risk. “But were an energetic and judicious system to be proposed with Your Signature,” Knox predicted, “it would be a circumstance highly honorable to your fame, in the judgment of present and future ages; and doubly entitle you to the glorious republican epithet—the Father of Your Country.” In this formulation, Washington had much to lose if he refused to show up at Philadelphia and the convention succeeded in creating the kind of national government that he had always advocated. The legacy question, then, was double-edged. 26 Madison’s canvass of the state delegations altered Washington’s sense of the odds, and Knox’s new formulation of the legacy question pushed him over the edge. Though he retained his reservations about “again appearing on a public theatre after a public declaration of the contrary,” by late March he had decided to join the Virginia delegation in Philadelphia. He wanted and received a final commitment from
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