America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation

America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation

by Harlow Giles Unger
America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation

America's Second Revolution: How George Washington Defeated Patrick Henry and Saved the Nation

by Harlow Giles Unger


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The Declaration of Independence liberated one continent from domination by another, but the Constitution revolutionized the world--by entrusting citizens with rights never before in history granted to ordinary people. Far from the genteel unity implied by the Constitution's opening words "We the People," the struggle to create and ratify this powerful document was as difficult as the fight for independence from Britain had been.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620458730
Publisher: Trade Paper Press
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 269
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

HARLOW GILES UNGER is the author of fifteen books, including the award-winning Lafayette, John Hancock, and The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life. A veteran journalist, broadcaster, and historian, he is a graduate of Yale University and was a foreign correspondent for the Times and the Sunday Times of London.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     xi
Acknowledgments     xiii
Chronology     xv
Introduction     1
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
Notes     243
Bibliography     255
Credits     259
Index     261
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