the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

The constitution had created a framework in which the

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current political context, those issues were irresolvable. The Constitution had created a framework in which the argument could continue. For the present, that was the most that history allowed, even more than Franklin, with all his seasoned wisdom, had allowed himself to expect.
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Chapter 6 THE GREAT DEBATE When the transient circumstances and fugitive performances which attend this crisis shall have disappeared, that work [the Federalist Papers] will merit the notice of Posterity, [because it] identified the principles underlying our noble experiment in permanent and classical form. George Washington to Alexander Hamilton AUGUST 28, 1788
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U p until the fall of 1787, the transition from a confederation of sovereign states to a nation-size republic had been instigated and managed by a quartet of prominent figures—Hamilton, Jay, Madison, and Washington. During the summer of that year, the list of leaders expanded, broadly speaking, to include all thirty-nine delegates who signed the Constitution. There were also several delegates who played a significant role in influencing the eventual shape of the final document, chiefly George Mason and Edmund Randolph, who harbored reservations that prevented them from signing, but the other key signers who most influenced the outcome were Gouverneur Morris and James Wilson, who might be regarded as significant supporting actors in the national story. Until September 1787, however, control over the debate about the future identity of the constellation of states called the United States had rested with a political elite, however broadly or narrowly defined, that had forced a conversation about the meaning of the American Revolution that otherwise would not have happened. Starting in the fall of 1787 and continuing until the summer of 1788, this ongoing story entered a new chapter. Madison himself subsequently declared that it was the most important chapter of all: Whatever veneration might be entertained for the body of men who formed our constitution, the sense of that body could never be regarded as an oracular guide in… expanding the constitution. As the instrument came from them, it was nothing more than the draught of a plan, nothing but a dead letter until life and validity were breathed into it, by the voice of the people, speaking through the several state conventions. If we were to look therefore, for the meaning of the instrument, we must look for it not in the general conventions, which proposed, but in the state conventions. 1 In an elemental sense, Madison was surely right. For while the vast majority of American political leaders harbored a profound skepticism about the virtues of unbridled democracy, they all recognized that any erstwhile American republic must be based on a popular foundation. There were seminal moments, then, when prominent leaders needed to step aside and let “the people” decide. (Awkward aside: Madison was on the record as not believing that such a thing as “the people” existed.) And this was one
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