The Founding Brothers, by Joseph J. Ellis


At the beginning of the revolution, the colonies were lost to England, though neither England nor America knew it. English colonial policy had become an echo of dead opportunities. Yet petitioners “humbly prayed,” as ever before. English officials still went to and fro about their empty business, and patriotic committee-men signed papers with the flourish of confidence. It was a peculiar situation. The governing power of the provinces had trickled into the hands of unauthorised legislatures and haphazard committees. In Philadelphia a second Congress, vastly more assured in manner than the first one, met on May 10, 1775. Somewhere in the American defiance lay the ectoplasm of a new nation.

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The main events which threatened the survival of the early Republic were the secret dinner, George Washington’s Farewell Address and slavery. George Washington’s Farewell Address had a great impact on the society and political parties threatening the union and peace. In Farewell Address, Washington pays a special attention to religion and its role in the state. He considers religion a matter of policy. Of that we might have been sure, knowing, as we do, his type of mind. But the statement does not come up to expectations; he has not tied religion up to property. Any modern captain of industry would do that. However, we are not yet at the end of the statement. Washington had the inestimable faculty of being able to say nothing. He said nothing about religion — nothing very definite — and was willing to let people think whatever they pleased. Jefferson, on the contrary, talked a great deal about religion. His intellect was; expansive, prolific, full of ideas.

He was a deist, like Washington, and he wanted to convince others. He attempted to rewrite the Bible. When he was elected President old maids in New England hid their Bibles, for the rumour had gone out that the infidel Jefferson, now in the White House, intended to put through a law which would confiscate all the Bibles and put his own in their place. But when Washington was President no one hid a Bible. As he never discussed religion at all, and went to church occasionally, he was considered by most people to be a quietly religious man. Slavery was the main threat to The Republic and its financial and economic stability. Jefferson wrote in opposition to the slave trade before the Revolution. In writing the Declaration of Independence he inserted a clause against the slave trade which was stricken out by Congress. In 1784 he succeeded in putting the Northwest Ordinance through Congress in the face of bitter opposition. “He warned his colleagues from the Deep South that their opposition to the mere mention of an end to slavery and the slave trade was misguided.

The real threat was silence” Removing slavery, however, was not like removing British officials or revising constitutions” (68, 72). The third threat was a secret dinner. During this event, the Founding Fathers discussed the place of the future capital which determined the destiny of the nation. The Fathers understood that: “Europe might contain all the cultural capitals and current world powers, but in terms of America’s national interest, it was a mere sideshow and distraction” (115). The main problem was that a capital is a strategic location which should be protected from all sides and directions. A wrong place chosen for the future capital meant a defeat of the early Republic. Most of the opposition came from the South, and at that time there was nothing treasured in the Southern heart more dearly than a hope that the permanent capital of the nation would be established in a Southern state. It was thought by everybody that the capital of the United States, wherever located, would eventually become the nation’s largest city.

The compromise between the Republicans and the Federalists was a great step towards liberation and democracy which preserved a strong national government. The main problem was in interpretations and understanding of the role and importance of Revolution and Republic for the nation. There were three main compromises which shaped this period of time, politically and socially: the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. “The Silence Constitution, as well as the first former delegate to denounce the Sectional Compromise as a corrupt bargain. But in a close vote, his Maryland colleagues rejected his reading of the document as excessively” (79).

Also, the first dissension occurred over the relative representation of the states. Small states like Delaware and New Jersey saw themselves completely overshadowed and outvoted by the large delegations from the more populous states, if representation on the basis of population or wealth were conceded. Rhode Island would have probably taken this side, too, if that little state had been represented at the Convention. Rhode Island was invited, but declined to send delegates. A compromise was reached eventually by giving two Senators to each state, irrespective of size. “In keeping with the compromise character of the committee report, it gave the Deep South the protection it had demanded by denying congressional authority” (98). The compromises worth the costs because they were the only possible ways to protect the Republic and political unity of the nation. The compromises cost much for the American nation and the early republic but it was the only way to build a string and democratic state.

Works Cited

Ellis, J. J. The Founding Brothers. Knopf; 1st edition, 2000.

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