the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Both the optimists and the pessimists were just

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Both the optimists and the pessimists were just guessing, but the increasingly dysfunctional character of the Confederation Congress seemed to tilt the argument toward the pessimists, since the emergence of a gigantic American nation required the existence of a national government that did not exist. Washington regarded this as a failure of will, a fundamental misreading of what the American Revolution intended, and perhaps the greatest lost opportunity in recorded history. In 1785 Washington’s nightmare scenario grew even darker as a sectional split emerged within Congress over what came to be called the Mississippi Question. 29 On the North American continent, the Mississippi was the Nile, the Amazon, and the Danube all rolled into one. Even though the front edge of American settlements remained over five hundred miles to the east, and the Ordinance of 1785 decreed that westward expansion would proceed only in a compacted fashion at a stately pace, meaning that it would not reach the Mississippi until early in the next century, for palpably geographic and more elusively mythic reasons, the Mississippi loomed large both as a destination and as the futuristic focus for American destiny. All talk about the emergence of America as a continental empire recognized the Mississippi as the centerpiece in the conversation. Jay’s Mississippi credentials were impeccable, so when he assumed office as secretary of foreign affairs in December 1784, there was little reason to expect that he would become the center of a controversy over the role of that great river in shaping American expansion. After all, Jay had been the dominant voice at the Paris peace negotiations, insisting on the Mississippi as the western border of the
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domain and American navigation rights as nonnegotiable. He had also served for two frustrating years as American envoy to Spain, where he had concluded that the once-great Spanish Empire was in a state of steady and irreversible decline, so that despite the presumptive posture of the courtiers in Madrid, Spain was the ideal European power to claim control over the vast region west of the Mississippi. In effect, Spain was like a cowbird that occupied the nest until the American eagle, in the form of a relentless demographic wave of settlers, arrived to replace her as the dominant power on the North American continent. 30 From the very start of his tenure, Jay assumed that he possessed sweeping powers over American foreign policy, much as Robert Morris had assumed over fiscal policy. And lurking beneath that assumption was an even grander presumption that his role as de facto secretary of state would contribute to an inevitable evolution from an American confederation to an American nation. “Our federal government is incompetent to its objects,” he explained to Adams, “and so as it is in the Interest of our Country, so it is the Duty of our leading Characters to Cooperate in measures for enlarging and navigating it.” Jay believed that the incoherent course of the current confederation was suicidal: “It will unless
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