Facing a crumbling union and inevitable anarchy, three men form an unlikely alliance…
When the smoke cleared from Revolutionary War battlefields, independent minded Americans turned agai...
Facing a crumbling union and inevitable anarchy, three men form an unlikely alliance…
When the smoke cleared from Revolutionary War battlefields, independent minded Americans turned against each other. Faced with a sagging economy, a weak central government, and citizens still reeling from British rule, three bold young men could shape a great nation of the chaos—but first they’d have to learn to work together.
Praise for Triumvirate
“Dr. Chadwick tells an exciting story…His analysis will provoke further debate about this momentous period in American history.”
—Dr. Paul Clemens, Chairmn of the Rutgers University Department of History
“In this remarkable book, Bruce Chadwick reminds us of the three extraordinary men who worked state by state, individual by individual, to ensure passage of the Constitution. It’s a fascinating tale, well told.”
—Terry Golway, author of Washington’s General and Ronald Reagan’s America
About the AuthorBruce Chadwick is a former journalist and author of seven works of history including 1858, The First American Army, George Washington's War, and The General and Mrs. Washington. He lectures in American history at Rutgers University and also teaches writing at New Jersey City University.
Table of Contents
The Important Players ix
Prelude: Summer 1787, and the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia xiii
1. A Fight Brews 1
2. The Arrival of James Madison in a
Turbulent New York City 7
3. The Triumvirate 29
4. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms 57
5. The Federalist 75
6. Newspaper Support across the Country 87
7. A Winter of Worry 93
8. Pennsylvania: The First Tough Skirmish 101
9. Snowstorms and Political Storms: The Fight in Massachusetts 107
10. The Fourth, Silent Member of the Triumvirate: George Washington 123
11. Virginia 141
12. Virginia’s Wild Convention Begins 159
13. New York: The Final Round in the Tiny Village of Poughkeepsie 195
14. New York: Into the Stretch 225
The Constitution of the United States was not written to create a government for the newly independent United States. It was produced to replace the old government, created by the Articles o...
The Constitution of the United States was not written to create a government for the newly independent United States. It was produced to replace the old government, created by the Articles of Confederation during the American Revolution, that failed badly. The government under the old articles had no elected chief executive, no supreme court, one house of congress, and did not have the power to levy taxes. No bill could become law unless all thirteen states approved. By the summer of 1787, the nation was crumbling under it. A Federal Convention (also known as the Constitutional Convention) in Philadelphia, attended by the most prominent men in the country, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, was called to correct the articles.
The delegates quickly abandoned the Articles of Confederation, ignored the current government, and set out to devise a brand-new government, one based on the popular ideas of the era espoused by political philosophers such as John Locke, Voltaire, and Thomas Paine. It was a government designed to meet the unique needs of America, one that could change as the people changed over the coming years. It was a government, the delegates hoped, that would reflect the will of the people and recognize the rights of the poor and middle class as well as those of the wealthy.
And it would be a government, too, as defined in the debates and disputes of the delegates, that gave certain powers to the national government and other, equally important, powers to the states.
The result was a long summer of deliberations filled with controversies, sectional prejudice, arguments, and compromises. Now, people look back on the Constitution as not only the template for good government, but a document that permitted the United States to be born and flourish as the world’s greatest democracy. But at the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, no one was certain what the outcome would be.
Everyone realized the importance of the Constitution when the delegates gathered in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. The Pennsylvania Journal wrote, “Upon the event of this great council, indeed, depends everything that can be essential to the dignity and stability of the national character…all the fortunes of the future are involved in this momentous undertaking.”
The passage of the Constitution was not easy.
The fifty-five delegates were an elite group. Thirty-five were lawyers, thirteen were tradesmen, and a dozen owned plantations and slaves. Forty-two had served in the Continental Congress and eight had been the governor of their state. Twenty-one were veterans of the Revolutionary War. In an age when very few men even attended college, more than half the delegates were college graduates; nine went to Princeton. They lived at boarding houses near the Pennsylvania State House, where the “secret” sessions were held, or at the homes of Philadelphians they knew. The men worked nearly all day, six days a week, and retired to the City Tavern at night, exhausted, in an exceedingly hot summer. They represented large states and small, slave states and free, and states that thrived on diverse businesses, such as fishing, shipping, industry, and farming. All of the states seemed to have different interests.
The delegates wasted no time. In the first week, Virginia governor Edmund Randolph proposed the Virginia Plan, cobbled together by James Madison, under which the Confederation government was abolished and a new government was introduced. Under the plan, the larger states had more voting power than the smaller ones, the people would elect a House of Representatives, and the House would elect the Senate. There was talk, too, of a national executive and a federal system of courts.
The plan was opposed by delegates who proposed the New Jersey Plan, under which each state had the same vote in any congressional decision, with tiny states such as New Jersey and Delaware having the same power as large ones, such as New York and Pennsylvania. The delegates from the small states were afraid that the congressmen from a handful of large states would combine their votes to assist larger states and ignore the others. The small states also argued for more power to the people in electing Congress. The compromise, proposed by Connecticut delegates, was that the people would elect the House of Representatives and that each state legislature would elect that state’s United States senators.
The decision included a historic move to count each slave as three-fifths of a white person in the population of slave states, giving the southern states enormous voting power. That prompted criticism. Northerner Gouverneur Morris spoke for many when he rose to say, “I never will concur in upholding domestic slavery. It is a nefarious institution. It is the curse of heaven on the states where it prevails.”
The slavery compromise on state populations passed, but in return the convention outlawed slavery in the Northwest Territories and called for the end of slave trade with Africa by 1807.
The adoption of the Virginia Plan started arguments in the convention that lasted for weeks. Delegates from the smaller states contended that those from the large states had not only pushed through a Constitution that favored the large states, but were creating a huge national government that would replace the states and run the country in oppressive, tyrannical fashion. Many delegates also saw the entire new government as a scheme to give the well-to-do control of the country. One was Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Some of the greatest rogues I was ever acquainted with were the richest rogues.” There were arguments that threatened to break up the convention, and some angry delegates even went home over them.
Luther Martin, of Maryland, renowned for his lengthy talks during the deliberations, was livid over the nationalistic Constitution and predicted it would not pass. “I’ll be hanged if ever the people of Maryland agree to it,” he said. Another delegate jumped to his feet, pointed at Martin, smiled, and told him, “I advise you to stay in Philadelphia lest you should be hanged.”
There was some talk of modeling America on the British Parliament. Many opposed that. America had just declared independence from Britain because of the oppression of the British Parliament. Besides, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina told the convention, America was unique. He said, “The people of this country are not only very different from the inhabitants of any state we are acquainted with in the modern world, but I assert that their situation is distinct from either the people of Greece or Rome or of any state we are acquainted with among the ancients.”
Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 17.00 oz
Page Count: 352 pages