the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

For better and for worse the constitution was

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home.” For better and for worse, the Constitution was destined to become the law of the land. 49 Given the size and commercial significance of New York, it seems both awkward and irreverent to notice that the decision in Virginia made New York a mere epilogue in the ratification story, but it was. Actually, New Hampshire had acted with unexpected vigor to ratify as the ninth state, making Virginia the tenth. Ratification was now assured, altering the political chemistry and leaving New York with a rather somber choice. It could join Rhode Island as a renegade state and attempt to go it alone, a posture that was simultaneously honorable and suicidal, or it could, albeit reluctantly, join the union. 50 Before the verdict in Virginia was clear, both Jay and Hamilton, though vastly outnumbered, had done their best to make the case for ratification. Jay had written an essay, widely circulated in the New York press, that actually outdid Publius in making the most comprehensive argument for what was at stake, in language that was, even more than that of Publius, simultaneously accessible and lyrical. It was a new revolutionary moment, as Jay saw it, and Americans needed to come together in 1788 as they had in 1776. The downside was that, if they failed to do so, the outcome would be just as catastrophic as defeat would have been in the war against Great Britain. Jay also won adherents even among his opponents on the floor at Poughkeepsie with a diplomatic demeanor that made him impossible to hate. (“Please, sir, explain your position to me again, since I do so much wish to understand it.”) 51 As might be expected, Hamilton was brilliant in a more aggressive mode, impervious to the political odds against which he was arguing; as Jefferson later said, he was “a host unto himself.” But Hamilton’s greatest contribution, at least in practical terms, was to establish a series of riders between Richmond and Poughkeepsie to apprise New York of the verdict in Virginia. Given the numbers in the New York convention, there was no way that Jay and Hamilton could win the debate. Their primary political task
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was to delay the vote in New York until the Virginia vote had created a fait accompli. They were successful in this task, and New York voted for ratification by the narrowest of margins (30–27), in truth against its will. Reading Jay’s correspondence during the New York debates again calls attention to his almost preternatural confidence that, against all odds, victory was never in doubt. He apparently believed what he had written to the New York citizenry, that providential forces were at work in the ratification process just as they had been in the war for independence. And given the extraordinarily fortuitous way that history happened in New York, it is difficult to dismiss Jay’s incomparable serenity as anything less than some secular version of divine inspiration.
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