The road to independence had led straight to hell. America was ablaze in anarchy and civil strife. As civil war threatened, George Washington called for a new constitution creating a powerful new federal government to restore order. For the majority of Americans, the new Constitution drafted in Philadelphia seemed a disaster, creating a new American government with the same powers of taxation as the former British government and led by a president with powers to succeed himself indefinitely and become a monarch. Former Virginia governor Patrick Henry cried out against such a central authority that could stifle state sovereignty: "Liberty will be lost and tyranny will result." George Washington countered, calling Henry an enemy of liberty.
The ratification process began and, over the next nine months, America warred with itself, as each state joined in what became American's "second revolution." Just as the first revolution had brought Americans together, the second threatened to rip the nation apart, as Washington's Federalists battled Henry's Antifederalists. Mobs ran riot in the streets of Philadelphia, New York, and Providence. The wealthy elite supported the new Constitution and a strong central government, while a majority of ordinary people opposed both, and populist leaders such as Henry and New York governor George Clinton geared for violent conflict between the states to preserve state sovereignty.
By mid-March 1788, eight of the nine states required for ratification of he Constitution had ratified. But Virginia, the largest and the wealthiest state, stood firm with New York against union, and without them the new nation would be as fragile as the parchment on which the Constitution had been written.
With the fate of the country in the balance, Washington could only hope for a miracle to save the nation from all-out civil war and disunion. In America's Second Revolution, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger tells the gripping story of that miracle, the harrowing events that led up to it, and the men who made it possible. Rich and powerful, they displayed humor, sarcasm, fire, brilliance, ignorance, hypocrisy, warmth, anger, bigotry, and hatred. Their struggle pitted friend against friend, brother against brother, father against son. But, in the end, they helped create a new government, a new nation, and, ultimately, a new civilization.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xi
Victory's Bitter Fruits 5
The Great Debate 30
The Great Compromise 50
"The Seeds of Civil Discord" 73
The Road to Ratification 91
"Unite or Die" 103
"Words to My Brother Ploughjoggers" 122
"A Fig and a Fiddle-stick's End" 138
The Language of Secession 157
On the Wings of the Tempest 171
Birth of a Nation 184
One Nation, Divisible... 201
Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention 213
The Constitution of the United States 213
Resolution of the Convention 226
Letter of the Convention to Congress 227
Signers of the Constitution 229
The Bill of Rights 239