The Fourth of July is a favorite American holiday. And rightfully so.
On this special day, though, it’s worth remembering that declaring our independence — which we celebrate today — and achieving it were two quite different things. We all know the basic story of the American Revolutionary War and, in our family’s case, the roles Drury Logan and the four Logan brothers at the Battle of Kings Mountain played in that long, bloody struggle.
But there was a second successful American Revolution: the challenging move from a thirteen states-based loose confederacy (The Articles of Confederation) to a Constitution and a truly national, Federal government.
A book which tells this amazing and too-little-known tale is The Quartet — Orchestrating the Second American Revolution 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
“The quartet” of men who made this transition from a confederation of independent, parochial states to a nation happen were George Washington, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. (Helping them were Thomas Jefferson, Robert Morris, and Gouverneur Morris.) What makes the story remarkable is that the overwhelming majority of Americans — this small group and a few others excepted — had no conception of a national Federal government whatsoever. Not only did these self-selected few create what we know as the United States today, they created the vision itself, then educated enough people at the Constitutional Convention to make it happen, managed the politics of the situation, and finessed the outcome. These men believed that if they failed in this second revolutionary idea, if separate states carried the day, the American Revolution would have been a failure.
It’s a wonderful story: the long, hard struggle from the Glorious Fourth to a truly United States of America, crafted by a visionary handful.