the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Energies of popular opinion within a multitiered

Info icon This preview shows pages 13–16. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
energies of popular opinion within a multitiered political architecture that filtered the swoonish swings “of the people” through layers of deliberation controlled by what Jefferson called “the natural aristocracy.” That filtration process was what the Constitution was all about, which does not make that seminal document antidemocratic so much as predemocratic. 9 Race and slavery present even more daunting interpretive challenges. There is no way to finesse the
Image of page 13

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
fact that slavery was built into the American founding, just as it was built into the economy of all the states south of the Potomac. Historians who prefer to downplay that awkward reality thereby obscure the most consequential and tragic choice the founders were forced to make. Although most of the prominent founders, and all the men featured here, fully recognized that slavery was incompatible with the values of the American Revolution, they consciously subordinated the moral to the political agenda, permitting the continuance and expansion of slavery as the price to pay for nationhood. This decision meant that tragedy was also built into the American founding, and the only question we can ask is whether it was a Greek tragedy, meaning inevitable and unavoidable, or a Shakespearean tragedy, meaning that it could have gone the other way, and the failure was a function of the racial prejudices the founders harbored in their heads and hearts. 10 There is little doubt that the lost world of the founding was a more explicitly racist world than our own. The founders were truly remarkable for their ability to imagine a nation-size republic and a political framework that insisted on the separation of church and state, both of which were unprecedented social experiments that succeeded. But neither they nor the vast majority of white Americans were capable of imagining a biracial society. (Neither, for that matter, was such a staunch opponent of slavery as Harriet Beecher Stowe, who provided an appendix at the end of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that described her plan for deporting all the freed slaves back to Africa.) We need to remind ourselves that racial integration in the United States was a mid-twentieth-century idea that few if any of the founders could have comprehended. Imposing our racial agenda on them is politically correct but historically irresponsible. Given the parameters of the possible within which the founders were working, the republic they created has rather remarkably stood the test of time, indeed has lasted longer than any of them expected. To end where we began, with Lincoln, the operative question that all the European pundits were asking back then was whether “any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” After more than two centuries, the answer is abundantly clear. And now for how it happened.
Image of page 14
Chapter 1 THE ARTICLES AND THE VISION Certain I am that unless Congress speaks in a more decisive tone; unless they are vested
Image of page 15

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 16
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ 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