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

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

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by Bruce Chadwick

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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

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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

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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


" - Booklist

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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."

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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, and The General and Mrs. Washington. He lectures in American history at Rutgers University and also teaches writing at New Jersey City University.

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Triumvirate: The Story of the Unlikely Alliance That Saved the Constitution and United the Nation 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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