the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

27 left unsaid was that no one knew where that line

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be most beneficial to them.” 27 Left unsaid was that no one knew where that line existed, or what “general purposes” meant. Although it would take Madison several months to develop the full implications of this evolving idea, its outlines were already clear in the letter to Jefferson in late October 1787. The key insight might be called the beauty of ambiguity. Madison had misguidedly, he now realized, pushed for an unambiguous resolution of the sovereignty question during the convention. Now it was becoming clear to him that the great achievement of the convention, and of the Constitution as well, was to embrace the inconvenient truth that there was no consensus on the sovereignty question, either in the convention or in the country itself. So what they had created, albeit out of necessity rather then choice, was a political framework that deliberately blurred the sovereignty question. Most historians and constitutional scholars over the last fifty years have agreed that Madison’s preconvention preparations constituted an impressively creative moment that effectively set the agenda for the debate in Philadelphia that summer. Few have recognized that Madison’s postconvention thinking constituted a second creative moment of equivalent or greater historical significance. For it produced a political perspective that had short-term consequences for the all-important ratification process and long- term consequences for how the Constitution should be comprehended as the defining document of the new, and eventually not so new, American republic. In the short run, it meant that the advocates of ratification were defending the blueprint not for a new, wholly consolidated national government but rather for a halfway house that was partially federal and partially confederal. The multiple compromises reached in the Constitutional Convention over where to locate sovereignty accurately reflected the deep divisions in the American populace at large. There was a strong consensus that the state-based system under the Articles had proven ineffectual, but an equally strong apprehension about the political danger posed by any national government that rode roughshod over local, state, and regional interests, which were the familiar spaces where the vast majority of American lived out their lives. As Madison now realized, the Constitution created a federal structure that moved the American republic toward nationhood while retaining an abiding place for local and state allegiances. In that sense, it was a second American Revolution that took the form of an American Evolution, which allowed the citizenry to adapt gradually to its national implications. In the long run—and this was probably Madison’s most creative insight—the multiple ambiguities embedded in the Constitution made it an inherently “living” document. For it was designed not to offer clear answers to the sovereignty question (or, for that matter, to the scope of executive or judicial
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  • Fall '16
  • Chemistry, pH, American Revolution, Second Continental Congress, American Revolution, Continental Army

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