download Audiobooks The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789Author Joseph J. Ellis –

The prizewinning author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinxnow gives us the unexpected story brilliantly told of why the thirteen colonies, having just fought off the imposition of a distant centralized governing power, would decide to subordinate themselves anew.The triumph of the American Revolution was neither an ideological nor political guarantee that the colonies would relinquish their independence and accept the creation of a federal government with power over their individual autonomy The Quartet is the story of this second American founding and of the men responsible some familiar, such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, and some less so, such as Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris It was these men who shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation, manipulating the political process to force a calling of the Constitutional Convention, conspiring to set the agenda in Philadelphia, orchestrating the debate in the state ratifying conventions, and, finally, drafting the Bill of Rights to assure state compliance with the constitutional settlement.

10 thoughts on “The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789

  1. Sean Gibson Sean Gibson says:

    Disclaimer If Joseph Ellis wrote about the mating habits of sea sponges, in exhaustive and nauseating detail, I d probably read it And give it at least 4 stars When he s writing about the Revolutionary War I generally need a change of undergarments Ellis is freaking amazing.I have a rather significant fascination editor s note really, it s a weird, Single White Female style obsession with the Revolutionary War When I was a kid, it was because of the mythical, heroic status ascribed to all of the principles that and the fact that I share a birthday with Mr Benjamin Franklin, though we weren t, of course, born in the same year, because, if we were, well, I guess I d look pretty good for my age but only for my age As I grew older and progressed beyond the stories in schoolbooks and learned about the deep flaws, petty jealousies, and odious mistakes of the Founding Fathers, I only grew intrigued These days, I find less fascination in the battles than I do in the story of how the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other seminal documents heh heh I said seminal were created editor s note the author may be approximately 300 years old, but he continues to display the maturity of a 12 year old There are two reasons for this 1 as debates rage about everything from civil rights to healthcare to gun control, with both sides of each argument interpreting these seminal heh heh I said it again documents differently, I want to know as much as I can about how and why the documents were written as they were spoiler alert the Founding Fathers did NOT have all the answers and, in fact, intentionally created an adaptable framework that could be modified over time as the world changed so no, they did NOT necessarily intend for us all to walk around toting semi automatic rifles and popping them off in schools and movie theaters, nor did they themselves buy into the notion of original intent but that s neither here nor there and 2 because I find the process of watching highly intelligent, well educated people attack a problem for which there is no precedential solution fascinating.Rather than courting controversy by delving deeply into point 1 above, it s 2 that I want to focus on in discussing yet another Joe Ellis masterpiece The Quartet is a thoroughly engaging exploration of how four key figures George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison skillfully and deftly maneuvered a squabbling collection of dysfunctional colonies into ultimately becoming the United States as we know it What makes these cats so compelling, one particularly one who frequently fell asleep during history class might ask THEY DON T EVEN HAVE THEIR OWN YOUTUBE CHANNEL.Well, as a way of translating their appeal for a modern audience, let s think about them as a superhero team the Foundtastic Four, if you will GEORGE WASHINGTON Strengths commanding presence, really good at riding horses, badass aquiline profile, ability to make you feel like a jerk for complaining about your pounding headache when he talks about people dying of frostbite and starvation at Valley Forge Weaknesses inability to tell lies, crunchy foods hard to chew with those wooden teeth , obsession with posterity, sense of humor surgically removed at birthThere s a reason George Washington s name is synonymous with the United States Everyone knows about the apocryphal cherry tree, crossing the Delaware, Father of our Country, blah blah blah But, you know what really made Washington a badass The fact that it s far less likely that this intrepid quartet, nor indeed anyone, would have succeeded in creating a stable union after the defeat of the British if this ONE SINGLE MAN hadn t lent his name to the cause and consented to the presidency that was forced upon him afterward If Superman, Optimus Prime, and an Eagle Scout had weird three way sex, and if cross species robo human same sex procreation was possible, George Washington is what would pop out of one very uncomfortably small hole Think about this the guy could essentially have become a king, or at least a military dictator the American Napoleon He didn t He willingly and happily gave up that power In the course of human history, how many people in that position have done that I can only think of two George Washington and me you all have no idea how much you owe me So, if this was a superhero team, G Dub would clearly be the leader JOHN JAY Strengths eminent reasonableness, sanguine disposition, politeness, international diplomacyWeaknesses a really wussy list of strengths, probably pretty useless in a bar fightWhen you study the revolutionary period in school, you hear a few names a lot Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson You don t often hear about John Jay, and, yet, his skill in international diplomacy and vision of the transformative social and economic impact of westward expansion made him as integral a part of the Revolution as anyone except, perhaps, for Old Wooden Teeth Even John Adams, a man so miserly with praise that he wouldn t give credit to his mother s birth canal for facilitating his passage into the world, noted that Jay s work hammering out treaties abroad was essential to winning the war.ALEXANDER HAMILTON Strengths flamboyant personality, incisive wit, vast intellect, fiscal genius, willingness to duel anyone who wrongs himWeaknesses kind of an asshole, inability to not get shot and killed when dueling anyone who wrongs himOf the four featured players in this book, Hamilton would be most at home in today s trenchant political miasma He would own Twitter and dominate the 24 hour news cycle with his caustic wit and willingness to speak his mind You could think of him as a hyper intelligent, extremely capable, funny, actually good with money version of Donald Trump The key driver behind the Federalist Papers, Hamilton had a pen as sharp as his bayonet and did double duty as an officer in Washington s army and a member of the Continental Congress And then he got himself killed in a duel with Aaron Burr Oh, for the days when our politicians resolved disputes via duels, back when men were men, and men were morons I guess some things never change JAMES MADISON Strengths brilliant politician, groundbreaking political theorist, obsessive compulsive preparer, master of backroom political machinations, VirginianWeaknesses sickly constitution, diminutive stature, rud romancer of Japanese body pillows unconfirmed Madison is another guy who tends to get overlooked when we re being taught about Paul Revere s midnight ride, Ben Franklin s homespun wit, and Thomas Jefferson s eloquent pen or, rather, Jefferson s eloquence I ve heard the pen itself was a little terse and standoffish Yet, it was Madison, with his vision and manipulation of the political chessboard, that was, perhaps, responsible than anyone for setting the stage for the Constitution to be written and ensuring its ratification afterward If you haven t experienced the wonder and joy of Joseph Ellis, I might suggest starting with Founding Brothers The Revolutionary Generation But, any Revolutionary War aficionado will want to check this book out Ellis is a master stylist who distills massive quantities of information into salient, cogent arguments as well as any historian I ve ever read In other words, this is good stuff.

  2. Ned Ned says:

    Winning independence from Great Britain was only step one, and probably less significant than the creation of our system of government The war had brought the colonies to a common cause but afterwards the debt was huge I was shocked to learn it was 40MM with no means to collect taxes they were voluntary by the articles of confederation Our young country didn t even consider itself a nation, until 4 men took leadership Hamilton, Madison, Jay and reluctantly Washington Forming the United States was nearly inconceivable to the common man, and far from the mind of the politicians of the day In fact, most were strongly against anything that had the whiff of executive power, in the wake of King George s legacy This is the story of the beginning of congress, and the creation of the 3 bodies of our government that are today still the envy of the world It was not divinely ordained, nor shrouded in the mist of providence, it was born of old style political maneuvering and fierce debate and argument It was every bit as personal, human and petty as we see today The argument of federal vs state vs individual power is built into our constitution, so we shouldn t be surprised it is still alive and well What is surprising is the durability of our system This author feels that the founders themselves would likely be amazed that it is still intact.Ellis is a superb writer, and takes full advantage of new sources and has read broadly on source documents His prose is spare, and he honestly portrays the dissension in thought Mostly he sticks to the facts and actual content in the letters of these four men Ellis shares the outcome, then reminds the reader with repetition of details as to how the matters were settled and came to be As such, this does not read like a textbook, but like riveting prose What I found interesting is that the brilliance of Hamilton and Madison was so far ahead of the rest of the officials and public, that they had to slow down and wait for others to catch up Madison felt he had failed in the first closed debates, but in hindsight realized that if he had forced a debate with all the delegates that the constitution would likely not have been ratified It could have failed if he had his way Madison, the true architect poorly spoken, diminutive convinced his three colleagues that a powerful federal government was the only way to proceed, yet ultimately saw the wisdom in compromise and ambiguity in powers between the executive and the states The politics are fascinating All these men agreed that a true democracy would be fatal, and that a republic was necessary such that elected representatives could properly filter ideas This was the genius, where the platform popularly elected allowed the people to choose their leaders, but avoid mob rule This resonates today with the discussion about the Electoral College, instead of choosing by popular vote John Jay negotiated our treaty with Great Britain and Ellis asserts that getting the entire territory to the Mississippi was as critical to our future as winning independence This was before we had a concept of our geography, and west of the Mississippi was France s and south was owned by Spain Interestingly, the question of slavery would likely have sabotaged the possibility of a United States, so it was mostly not talked about and our great sin was kicked down the road another 75 years History could have turned out very differently we could have become like Europe with the states warring and competing for resources With a combined national interest, these four men intoned, we could become recognized worldwide and leverage power for all Our natural enemies Great Britain and Spain in particular were laying in wait for us to become disorganized and certain colonies come back to them for their support We needed a treasury to have credit worldwide and instill confidence as a nation.The power of Virginia and New York, in particular, was such that they did not want unification They had to be sold, and convinced, often through back channels Jefferson was away in France as an ambassador, and was pro Virginia, not at all aligned with his prot g Madison Washington was the de facto leader and had to be begged to come out of retirement and battle for his legacy he was the only one with enough respect to pull that off In the end, we barely became a nation and this would have changed world history forever Thanks to Ellis for a fascinating and entertaining read It is highly relevant today, as I hope our system and the checks and balances will preserve the dream of individual liberty regardless of who we put in the white house.

  3. Robin Friedman Robin Friedman says:

    Joseph Ellis new book, The Quartet Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783 1789 examines the United States movement from independence to nationhood following the Revolutionary War Ellis, retired as Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, has written many works about early American history and has received both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.Ellis short but broad, thoughtful, and provocative book argues that the United States did not become a nation upon winning independence but became instead a group of loosely connected separate states Ellis maintains that most people at the time lacked even a concept of national identity beyond the provincial boundaries of their communities They thought they had fought a hard war to free themselves from the distant centralizing government of Great Britain With the ineffective Articles of Confederation, the thirteen states appeared headed for separation and quarrels, similar to the nations of Europe.Ellis maintains that while the first American Revolution might be viewed from the ground up, the second worked from the top down He finds that four individuals, the Quartet of his title, were primarily responsible George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay The first three names are unsurprising Ellis clearly regards Washington is the essential member of the group and as the leader of both the first and second American revolutions He gives Washington credit than he sometimes receives for his intellectual foresight in an early writing about the deficiency of the Articles of Confederation and the need for a central government Ellis sees Madison as a highly savvy politician and lawyer than as an original thinker The partial surprise on Ellis the list is John Jay who tends to be less well known than he deserves Jay negotiated the treaty of Paris and worked early and diplomatically, including with opponents, for the cause of nationhood Other leaders who play supporting roles in Ellis account include financier Robert Morris, Thomas Jefferson, and Gouverneur Morris, the drafter of the Constitution.Ellis reading of the second American revolution is avowedly elitist He argues that most people had no interest in nationhood because a broad national vision would be inconsistent in some ways with their limited goals such as avoiding taxation and living beyond their means Ellis recognizes the controversial nature of his perspective He writes in the book s Preface All democratic cultures find such explanations offensive because they violate the hallowed conviction that, at least in the long run, popular majorities can best decide the direction that history should take However true that conviction might be over the full span of American history, and the claim is contestable, it does not work for the 1780s, which just might be the most conspicuous and consequential example of the way in which small groups of prominent leaders, in disregard of popular opinion, carried the American story in a new direction Ellis takes the reader through the Confederation years, the preliminaries to the Constitutional Convention, the Convention itself,, and the proceedings in the states for the ratification of the Constitution The book concludes with the enactment of the Bill of Rights Ellis does not attribute superhuman wisdom to the founders but he also avoids the current tendency to belittle their accomplishments through an anachronistic importation of today s values into the late 18th Century Among other things, his book discusses briefly but well the dilemma the founders faced over slavery The book stresses the value of ideas and thinking, compromise, practicality, commitment, and humility in the second American revolution and the founding of the national government and its shifting contours of Federalism.This book has a great deal to teach and provides ample material for reflection It also made me want to learn about George Washington by reading the Library of America volume of his writings.Robin Friedman

  4. Socraticgadfly Socraticgadfly says:

    This might, in reality, be worth a third star, but it s getting so many five star reviews that I had to downrate it.Ellis is writing primarily pablum when he s not outrightly wrong.And, he is outrightly wrong on a couple of major issues, right at the start.First, while Charles Beard and his progressive historian followers may have overstated the importance of class issues, whether in the American Revolution or the Constitutional Revolution, even , they weren t all wrong, contra Ellis claims Indeed, there s been a resurgence in a moderated version of Beard s thesis.Related to that, Ellis presents a false dichotomy that the Constitutional Revolution can either be about confederationists vs nationalists OR democrats vs aristocrats, but not both And, if there s a totally wrong, it s that false dichotomy.Second, Ellis gets the issue of slavery all wrong.First of all, at the Constitutional Convention, nobody was arguing for abolition in fact, nobody was even arguing for immediate cessation of slave importation The only argument was if slaves counted as people for census purposes while not counting for people otherwise, or not THAT WAS IT.Secondly, Ellis ignores several new books that point out how deeply slavery was already a half decade before the cotton gin engrained in the American economy.Gerald Horne s The Counter Revolution of 1776 is a great starting point.Thirdly, he ignores that people like one of his Quartet, Hamilton, and another founding father, Franklin, were both actually involved with abolition efforts.The third main issue, as other reviewers note, is to essentially dismiss the whole mindset behind Lincoln s fourscore and seven years at Gettysburg, rather than noting that that was a deliberate stake in the ground an assertion that, contra Ellis, the United States did begin in 1776.Ellis, IMO, goes further downhill with each new book with this one, he accelerates his rate of decline.

  5. Steven Peterson Steven Peterson says:

    A fascinating work on the origins of the American Constitution Ellis, who has authored other excellent historical analyses, contends that four people are critical to understanding why we have a the Constitution that we now have George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay Two others contributed greatly as well Gouverneur Morris and James Wilson.This book explores how the quartet, upset with the poor performance of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, labored to create a new government, with a energetic national structure that would address the ills under the Articles For instance, under the Articles, the national government could request but not demand or enforce fiscal support from the different states Many states simply ignored this, meaning that the national government never had the funding needed.Many seem to think that George Washington was somewhat of a figurehead for others, such as Hamilton and Madison This and many other books surely should end that canard Washington has been depicted by many historians as an active player in the move toward a new national government system.The book does a nice job on a number of fronts One, it highlights to active role of the quartet Two, it gives a sense of the politics of the Constitution that is well done well done by others, too Three, it shows that the Founders were not demigods but active and calculating politicians.On the other hand, some cavils At one point, the author dismisses the fear of one of the quartet that, under the rules, a vice presidential candidate might get electoral votes than a presidential candidate in this case Washington versus John Adams The election of 1800 shows that this was a well founded fear, as VP candidate Aaron Burr was in a tie with the presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson Second, limiting the key figures to just the quartet and their allies understates the relevance of others in the process, such as Roger Sherman and Robert Morris Three, Ellis does a nice job of demolishing critics such as Charles Beard But Beard s view was in a shambles by the 1960s Others, such as Jackson Turner Main, had critiques of the economic background that probably warranted consideration in this volume Forrest McDonald, from a different perspective, probably should be acknowledged as well.At any rate, this is a fine volume and warrants attention by readers They will learn a great deal about the origins of the United States under the Constitution here.

  6. Kirk Kirk says:

    The Constitution was intended less to resolve arguments than to make argument itself the solution For judicial devotees of originalism or original intent, this should be a disarming insight, since it made the Constitution the foundation for an ever shifting political dialogue that, like history itself, was an argument without end Madison s original intention was to make all original intentions infinitely negotiable in the future Pg 172

  7. Laurie Laurie says:

    Yes This is my 10th Revolutionary period book I ve read since the new year yeah, I get on a kick sometimes and I ve been enjoying it all The part I have found most fascinating through it all is the actual creation of the government The sitting down, bashing it and each other out, and trying to create this never before seen government yes, there have been republics, but not like this, and all previous eventually failed , and all the compromise and wrangling that had to go into it well beyond what we can even comprehend And that this creation was so orchestrated by the few, yet knowing that the masses likely just wanted to be let alone to get on with life, leave them out of politics, but all the while this momentous thing was happening ANYWAY This book is ALL about that.Ellis has given an excellent account of this nation creation, with a really excellent analysis of the thoughts feelings motivations surrounding it from so many sides He also covers the concept of what would the founding fathers think of xyz today and how that thought process doesn t really work like trying to plant cut flowers That realistically, the one thing they d be amazed at is that the constitution they wrote was still in use He covers the serious moral compromises that had to be made, and also that they didn t want the future to be stuck on notions of original intent I don t think I d recommend this as someone s first read into the era, but for those who have a little bit than the avg Joe s knowledge about the period, it s a great read, and great for lovers of history.

  8. Bruce Bruce says:

    In this interesting and readable book Joseph Ellis has made a valuable contribution to the explication of a period in United States history that is often overlooked and relatively poorly understood The period in question is the 1780 s, that time between the acceptance of the Articles of Confederation and the final approval of the US Constitution, a time when the lack of effectiveness of the former was increasingly apparent and dangers to the persistence of the new Confederation were increasing Ellis focuses his narrative through the eyes of four pivotal figures who worked diligently to replace the Articles rather than simply to tinker with them and make only minor changes Those individuals, the Quartet of the book s title, were George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.Ellis writes fluently and well, unveiling a story that is enjoyable to read While the book is popular than academic in tone, it is well researched and referenced Ellis begins with a discussion of the increasing dissatisfaction with the existing functioning of the country under the Articles, proceeds to an exploration of how the new Constitution was crafted, and finishes by talking about the process of final ratification He explores the authors distrust of full and popular democracy, aware as they were of the dangers of mob passions and impulsiveness, and the tendency of this to inadequately protect the rights of minorities, a distrust that led them to promote instead a representative democracy where popular passions were filtered up through several layers before consummating in action He also explores that fierce anti centralization passions that resulted from the war itself and the struggle against the tyranny of King George, passions that resisted attempts to strengthen the national government Interesting, he also emphasizes the inevitable compromises inherent in the Constitution, some tragic but politically necessary, such as the issue of slavery, and others left deliberately vague to allow for evolution and adjustments as future events required It was designed not to offer clear answers to the sovereignty question or, for that matter, to the scope of executive or judicial authority but instead to provide a political arena in which arguments about those contested issues could continue in a deliberative fashion The Constitution was intended less to resolve arguments than to make argument itself the solution For judicial devotees of originalism or original intent, this should be a disarming insight, since it made the Constitution the foundation for an ever shifting political dialogue that, like history itself, was an argument without end For those readers familiar with the events of the Revolutionary War itself and the early years of the republic under the Constitution, this solid and interesting work fills in the gap of the near decade that intervened, completing this pivotal chronology.

  9. David Huff David Huff says:

    This was a short, but well written account of a very specific period in American History the so called Second American Revolution of 1783 1789, the period between the soon to be superseded Articles of Confederation, and the final ratifying of the U S Constitution The tensions and concerns among the Federalists and anti Federalists are explained very clearly, and Ellis writing really helps the reader to step into the mindset that the various states and citizens had concerning the need for, and the fears of, a national Constitution and a Federal government.Ellis explores the contributions made by each of 4 important leaders, in particular, toward the eventual drafting and ratification of the Constitution George Washington, whose gravitas and influence were critical in persuading others of the importance of replacing the Articles with something suitable for the new nation John Jay, whose steady optimism and foreign policy expertise were essential Alexander Hamilton, the most ardent Federalist, with financial expertise and incredible boldness And, James Madison, who brought much intellectual firepower and political savvy to the cause.Reading this book also helped me understand about the iconic Federalist papers, which in their day were simply persuasive journalism pieces, written under tight deadlines, essentially to convince the State of New York obstinate toward the proposed Constitution to ratify it These 85 essays were authored by Hamilton 51 , Madison 29 , and Jay 5 Overall a great read, and very informative Really captures the atmosphere, the contention, the political maneuvering, and the uncertainly felt by many of the states about handing power over to a new central government far removed from their local sphere, after having so recently thrown off the yoke of King George III It will give you a renewed appreciation for the origins of, and the durability of, our Constitution.

  10. Jean Jean says:

    George Washington, aghast at the failure of Congress to properly feed and fund his ill equipped army during the fight with the British, lamented, We have become a many headed monster, a heterogeneous mass that never will nor can steer to the same point Loosely affiliated under the Articles of Confederation, the 13 states each pursued their own agendas.Pulitzer winning historian Joseph J Ellis tells the story how this heterogeneous mass was made to steer to the same point Ellis reveals how four men George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison conceived and promoted a new political framework built on the Constitution Ellis shows how during the years 1783 to 1789 these four men called for the constitutional convention, set the agenda, orchestrated the debates and drafted the Bill of Rights.Some historians have viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution Ellis, however, reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century he prefers to see the effects of the quartet as a quite brilliant rescue of revolutionary principles.The book is well written and researched Ellis has a way of taking a lot of information and turning it into easy readable prose This is a book to keep in your reference library I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible Robertson Dean narrated the book.