Triumvirate: The Story of the Unlikely Alliance That Saved the Constitution and United the Nation

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Overview

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 out of the chaos-but first they'd have to learn to work together.

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Triumvirate: The Story of the Unlikely Alliance That Saved the Constitution and United the Nation

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Overview

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 out of the chaos-but first they'd have to learn to work together.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

After the "Miracle at Philadelphia"-to borrow Catherine Drinker Bowen's phrase for the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, there began the angry fight over ratification. Nine of the 13 states had to vote in favor of the Constitution in order for it to become effective. Absolutely indispensable were New York and Virginia, the most populous and richest states. Chadwick (The First American Army) focuses on the efforts of John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Their series of essays, known today as "The Federalist Papers," were quickly written and disseminated throughout the country to persuade the state conventions to ratify the new charter. New Yorkers Jay and Hamilton and Madison, a Virginian, were leaders in their state conventions and fought hard for the Constitution. Chadwick uses primary and secondary sources well and has a very readable style. Politics has always been a rough-and-tumble business, which Chadwick captures by recounting the parries and thrusts of anonymous writers in the newspapers and the venomous speeches in the conventions. This fine narrative is best for those new to the topic; recommended for public libraries.
—Michael O. Eshleman

Kirkus Reviews
Well-told account of the debate that shaped the American system of government..Chadwick (History/Rutgers Univ.; I Am Murdered: George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, and the Killing That Shocked a New Nation, 2009, etc.) shows how three brilliant, very different men—Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay—worked to overcome opposition to the U.S. Constitution. In 1787 and '88, the triumvirate wrote a series of 85 essays known as the Federalist Papers, most published in newspapers under the pseudonym "Publius," advocating ratification of the Constitution, which had been drafted during a convention in Philadelphia in 1787. The Constitution aimed to improve the ineffective system of government defined by the Articles of Confederation. Under that system, there was no president, no supreme court and only one house of congress, which could not levy taxes or pass any laws without unanimous approval from all the states. Such radical decentralization simply didn't work, and many, including Hamilton, Madison and Jay, believed a constitutional republic would solve a host of problems. Many others, however, initially opposed the new constitution, fearing it would transfer too much power from the states to the federal government and restrict individual liberties. As Chadwick points out, the road to ratification was anything but smooth. The author effectively details the fierce debates in Massachusetts, Virginia and New York, and the serpentine political machinations that helped bring about the birth of a nation. Along the way, he paints sharp portraits of the three men who perhaps fought hardest—Madison confided to a friend that the arguments at the Virginia convention "almost killed him"—for thesystem of government we know today..Not just a history lesson, but an examination of the fundamental ideas that gave birth to the United States.
From the Publisher
"Not just a history lesson, but an examination of the fundamental ideas that gave birth to the United States." - Kirkus

"Together, the trio wrote the Federalist Papers, which helped gain ratification in the critical state of New

York.

" - Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402239328
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,381,605
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Chadwick is a former journalist and author of seven works of history including 1858, The First American Army, George Washington's War, The General and Mrs. Washington, Brother Against Brother, Two American Presidents, Traveling the Underground Railroad, and The Reel Civil War. He lectures in American history at Rutgers University and also teaches writing at New Jersey City University.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One: A Fight Brews

Aboard a sloop anchored in the Hudson River at Albany, New York, evening, late October 1787.

The slow arrival of the night cast a dusky blanket over the waters of the Hudson River in New York. The lush forests that lined the shores of the river, blindingly beautiful in the autumn when the leaves changed from green into all the blazing colors of a painter's palette, were quiet and still. On board a single-masted sloop moored in the Hudson at Albany, near the mills of his father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, the Revolutionary War general, the light of a candle shone from the window of a cabin.

Inside the dimly lit cabin, Alexander Hamilton began to write quickly across paper that covered a wide wooden desk. Hamilton, thirty-two, had been in Albany on business before the state Supreme Court and to see Schuyler, whose daughter Eliza he had married in 1780. The sandy-haired Hamilton, a gifted political theorist, author, and speaker, was working on the first of what would be eighty-five essays of support for the newly approved U.S. Constitution, the Federalist, that would be published in New York newspapers, and others throughout the nation, during the next eight months, just in time for the delegates to the state conventions called to ratify the Constitution to read them.

Hamilton felt comfortable writing quickly. He had spent nearly five years in the American Revolution as the chief of staff to Commander in Chief George Washington; among his many responsibilities was the production of thousands of pages of letters, reports, and orders. Then, and now, the loquacious, personable Hamilton cut quite a figure. He was about 5 feet 7 inches in height and thin, but stood and walked ramrod straight, chin always tilted up slightly, to give the appearance of a taller man. Hamilton had a thin nose and a square chin that in later years might be called a boxer's jaw. His fair-complexioned face was highlighted by a slight smile and dazzling, clear blue eyes that attracted the attention of everyone who met him. He was always well dressed, favoring the most expensive jackets, breeches, and stockings and was sometimes attended by a hairdresser. The former army colonel and congressman was a spry man with a sophisticated demeanor. A man who knew him, Fisher Ames, marveled that he possessed "a degree of refinement and grace which I never witnessed in any other man…it is impossible to conceive a loftier portion of easy, graceful, and polished movements than were exhibited in him."

With the outdoor light dying slowly and the sounds of the river and the port town in the background, he wrote to his countrymen in The Federalist No. 1, "After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Convention, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks of its importance comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects the most interesting in the world…"

Hamilton worked all night and throughout the next days on the essay, one of the many he would write as his contribution with John Jay of New York, the U.S. secretary for foreign affairs, and James Madison, the congressman from Virginia. The essays had to be written quickly, and published as soon as possible, because the Anti-Federalists, the angry group arrayed against the passage of the Constitution, had already managed to publish several stinging columns attacking it in the New York newspapers after succeeding in obtaining publication of similar essays in cities throughout the country.

All writers have different idiosyncrasies that they employ in order to gather their thoughts. Some look out windows and others stare at the paper on their desk. The fidgety Hamilton liked to walk back and forth, whether in his New York City home, his old army quarters, or on ships. He paced on the deck of the ship that night, and throughout the following days before the vessel reached New York City. As he did so, Hamilton had to be astonished by the spectacular scenery the sloop passed on its way south. The wide river's beauty had astonished Henry Hudson, the explorer for whom the waterway was named, and the hundreds of thousands of people who had traveled on it or lived on its banks over the next two hundred years.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments VII

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

Aftermath 251

Endnotes 271

Bibliography 306

Index 317

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Triumvirate tells the story of the three men who were most respo

    Triumvirate tells the story of the three men who were most responsible for the writing, adoption and ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Triumvirate introduces both the backgrounds and personalities of the many people who supported and opposed ratification by the states of a radically new form of government, strong enough to defend against enemies while promoting commerce and allowing the states to thrive as part of the United States. Readers meet studious Madison, the framer of the Constitution; fiery Hamilton, often called the most brilliant man of his time, who would die in a duel with Aaron Burr; and John Jay, legislator, future New York governor and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They would be supported by founding fathers George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and be opposed by Patrick Henry ("Give me liberty or give me death"); Richard Henry Lee, president of the Continental congress; and George Clinton, then governor of New York. Triumvirate is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the creation of our Constitution and the many provisions that guarantee liberty, balance the representation and rights of individual states and fostered our growth into the great country we are today. If you do read Triumvirate, you will be richly rewarded, too. Jnortonpa

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