From Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Joseph J. Ellis, the unexpected story of why the 13 colonies, having just fought off the imposition of a distant centralized governing power, would decide to subordinate themselves anew.
We all know the famous opening phrase of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this Continent a new Nation." The truth is different. In 1776, 13 American colonies declared themselves independent states that only temporarily joined forces in order to defeat the British. Once victorious, they planned to go their separate ways. The triumph of the American Revolution was neither an ideological nor a political guarantee that the colonies would relinquish their independence and accept the creation of a federal government with power over their autonomy as states.
The Quartet is the story of this second American founding and of the men most responsible - George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. These men, with the help of Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris, shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force the calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.
Ellis has given us a gripping and dramatic portrait of one of the most crucial and misconstrued periods in American history: the years between the end of the Revolution and the formation of the federal government. The Quartet unmasks a myth and in its place presents an even more compelling truth - one that lies at the heart of understanding the creation of the United States of America.
"A brilliant account of six years during which four Founding Fathers, 'in disregard of public opinion, carried the American story in a new direction.' In a virtuosic introduction, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Ellis maintains that Abraham Lincoln was wrong. In 1776 - four score and seven years before 1863 - our forefathers did not bring forth a new nation...Ellis reminds us that the 1776 resolution declaring independence described 13 'free and independent states.' Adopting the Constitution in 1789 created the United States, but no mobs rampaged in its favor...Ellis delivers a convincing argument that it was a massive political transformation led by men with impeccable revolutionary credentials.... This is Ellis' ninth consecutive history of the Revolutionary War era and yet another winner." (Kirkus)
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A Wonderful Gem
- Mike From Mesa
Great perspective on a little understood period
A Great listen
Amuricah. There was no individual character
In 1776 we signed the Declaration of Independence. Then we won the Revolutionary War. Then we became a Democracy. Then the Civil War happened.
To a large degree I confess to being mostly ignorant of what happened immediately following the Revolutionary War. Like most folks, I bought into the Founding Fathers worked together and figured out how to create this new Democratic Republic pretty seamlessly.
Boy, was I wrong. This is actually one of the better history books I’ve ready in a while. I illustrates the disconnect between the ineffective national government (which was truly more of a Confederacy of States than a Federal Government) and the all-powerful State governments.
For those of you who think the Founding Fathers could do no wrong and had singular goals and objectives in mind, read this book. You’ll also realize that much of the mindset was based on compromise (especially dealing with Federal versus State powers). And that much happened not because it was what all parties wanted, but what was politically doable.
The book focuses primarily on what the author sees as the four men most responsible for the creation of the constitution. George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison take up a good share of the narrative. But there’s a decent amount of attention spent on the political issues of the day as well.
A great read,
- Robert L. Coppedge