the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

He was born into comfortable circumstances the son of

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Jay did not have to leap from impoverished oblivion to center stage. He was born into comfortable circumstances, the son of Peter Jay, a prosperous New York merchant, and Mary Van Cortlandt, a member of the city’s Dutch aristocracy. Raised on a handsome estate in Rye on the coast of Long Island Sound, surrounded by books and enveloped in love, he enjoyed a privileged childhood. His older brother, James, who turned out a bothersome scoundrel, was sent to Edinburgh to study medicine, while Jay went to King’s College. There he befriended Robert Livingston, brother of his future wife, the famously beautiful Sarah Livingston. After graduation Jay decided to pursue a career in the law and joined the circle of aspiring young New Yorkers destined to be divided over the issue of American independence. 6 In the 1760s Jay endorsed the American protest of Parliament’s right to tax the colonies, though he was uncomfortable with the mob demonstrations against the Stamp Act, regarding them as a disquieting threat to the established social order of which he was a part. As a delegate in the Continental Congress, he sided with the moderates, supporting American grievances while searching for a road to reconciliation. “This is an unnatural quarrel,” he observed as late as January 1776, “and God only knows why the British Empire should be torn to pieces by unjust attempts to subjugate us.” By April 1776, once it was clear that George III was committed to a military resolution that would take the form of an invasion of New York, Jay stepped over the line and never looked back. Like Franklin, he was late to the cause but all the more ardent once committed. He became a leader in the provisional government of New York, drafting the resolution that made that colony the last to endorse the Declaration of Independence. The British occupation of New York in the fall of 1776 forced him to move his family to Fishkill. In this tense and dangerous time—British patrols and Tory gangs were roaming the countryside—his letters exhibited the otherworldly serenity for which he would become famous: “I am in a hot little room [in Poughkeepsie],” he wrote to Sarah, “and in defiance of the god of sleep, whom the bugs and fleas banished from my pillow last night, I sit down to write a few lines to my good wife.” He simply presumed that he would never be captured or killed, just as he presumed that the British military triumph in New York was only a temporary setback and that American independence was inevitable. 7 Early in 1777 he almost singlehandedly wrote the New York constitution, which vested more power in the executive branch than any other state constitution. The presence of the British army on New York’s soil, he explained, demanded a government that could respond decisively and quickly to any sudden military threat. But Jay was also showing his true colors as a conservative revolutionary, a rare hybrid that simultaneously embraced American independence and endorsed political structures that filtered
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