the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

4 it fell to hamilton to apprise his old commander

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aspires beyond the humble and happy lot of living and dying a private citizen on my own farm.” 4 It fell to Hamilton to apprise his old commander that, whether he knew it or not, he really had no choice: I take it for granted, Sir, you have concluded to comply with what will no doubt be the general call of your country in relation to the new government. You will permit me to say that it is indispensible you should lend yourself to its first operation. It is of little use to have introduced a system if the weightiest influence is not given to its firm establishment,
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in the outset. 5 In effect, once he stepped back onto the public stage in Philadelphia, he had committed himself to the success of the nation-size republican experiment, and there was now no way he could avoid leading the launch. Washington thanked his old aide-de-camp for this “manly advice” but confessed that it left him feeling deeply depressed, overwhelmed by “a kind of gloom,” and he wanted Hamilton to know that acceptance of the presidency “would be attended with more diffidence and reluctance than ever I experienced before in my life.” 6 Hamilton knew Washington well enough to realize that he was not being coy. So he made another kind of argument designed to appeal to his historical aspirations. If the new federal government should fail, he observed, “the framers of it will have to encounter the disrepute of having brought about a revolution in government…that was not worth the effort. They pulled down one Utopia, it will be said, to build another.” If that should happen, Hamilton warned, Washington’s place in history would be compromised, an outcome that “will suggest to your mind greater hazard to that fame which must be and ought to be dear to you.” But in the end, Hamilton concluded, all of Washington’s anguish was irrelevant, because “the crisis which brought you again into public view has left you no alternative but to comply.” 7 No president in American history wanted to be president less than Washington. And yet, as Hamilton made clear to him, no man in America was so essential to enhance the prospects for success of the emerging nation. As Henry Lee, Washington’s old cavalry commander, put it, “It is a sacrifice on your part, unjustifiable from any personal point of view. But on the other hand, no alternative seems to be presented.” 8 Washington attempted to find an escape route by declaring that any announcement of his candidacy would be regarded as a conspicuous expression of his ambition, which in his political universe was dishonorable behavior that essentially disqualified him from office. He liked to refer to the fable about the fox “who inveighed against the sourness of grapes, because he could not reach them.” 9 This was a desperate gambit on his part, an effort to dodge the inevitable, but also utterly irrelevant because there was no need for him to stand for office or declare his candidacy. There were, as yet, no political primaries or nominating conventions. The electors in each state were free to select anyone they wished. The winner became the president, and the runner-up became the vice president. The only way that
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