the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Given the overwhelming indifference that had

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by a journeyman boxer, declared his intention to challenge the heavyweight champion of the world. Given the overwhelming indifference that had suffocated all previous attempts at comprehensive reform of the Articles, no one with any semblance of sanity could possibly believe that Hamilton’s proposal enjoyed even the slightest chance of success. This resounding verdict became somewhat less clear because of a discernible shift in the political atmosphere in the fall of 1786. The cause was an insurrection by farmers in western Massachusetts protesting mortgage foreclosures and tax increases by the state legislature aimed at retiring the war debt. Dubbed Shays’ Rebellion after Daniel Shays, one of its leaders, it is best understood not as a forerunner of the Populist movement, as some historians have argued, but rather as an epilogue to the American
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Revolution. Shays, for example, was a veteran of Bunker Hill and Saratoga who regarded the taxes imposed by the Massachusetts legislature as the second coming of the taxes imposed by Parliament. About two thousand farmers rallied to the cause, which reached its crescendo during an ill-fated attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Springfield. 8 The insurrection was quickly put down by the Massachusetts militia under the command of Benjamin Lincoln, and the state legislature then saw fit to pardon most of the ringleaders and even meet many of their demands. Shays’ Rebellion really was, as Jefferson (safely ensconced in Paris) so famously put it, “a little rebellion” of minor significance. But initial press reports vastly exaggerated the size of the rebel force and the scale of its political agenda. Instead of two thousand insurgents, the gossip mills in the Confederation Congress imagined a force of twenty to forty thousand, with plans to secede from Massachusetts or even march on Boston. Madison and several other delegates believed that the rebellion was instigated by British agents in Canada who were plotting to bring western Massachusetts and Vermont back into the British Empire. “There is good reason to believe that the rebels are secretly stimulated by British influence,” Madison speculated, a development that “furnished new proofs of the necessity of such a vigour in the Genl. Govt. as will be able to restore health to any diseased part of the federal body.” Then he added: “An attempt to bring about such an amendment of the federal Constitution is on the Anvil,” referring to the proposed convention at Philadelphia in May. 9 Madison’s frenzied response to Shays’ Rebellion, however misguided, was apparently authentic, meaning that he truly believed this minor incident was in fact a major threat to the survival of the American republic. So, for that matter, did Washington, whose stolid serenity customarily made him immune to such wild overreactions: The accounts which are published, of the commotions…in the Eastern States, are equally to be lamented and deprecated. They exhibit a melancholy proof of what our trans Atlantic foes have predicted; and of another thing perhaps, which is still more to be
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