The Quartet

Joseph J Ellis

In 1776 we signed the Declaration of Independence.  Then we won the Revolutionary War.  Then we became a Democracy.  Then the Civil War happened.

To a large degree I confess to being mostly ignorant of what happened immediately following the Revolutionary War.  Like most folks, I bought into the Founding Fathers worked together and figured out how to create this new Democratic Republic pretty seamlessly.

Boy, was I wrong.  This is actually one of the better history books I’ve ready in a while.  I illustrates the disconnect between the ineffective national government (which was truly more of a Confederacy of States than a Federal Government) and the all-powerful State governments.

For those of you who think the Founding Fathers could do no wrong and had singular goals and objectives in mind, read this book.  You’ll also realize that much of the mindset was based on compromise (especially dealing with Federal versus State powers).  And that much happened not because it was what all parties wanted, but what was politically doable.

The book focuses primarily on what the author sees as the four men most responsible for the creation of the constitution.  George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison take up a good share of the narrative.  But there’s a decent amount of attention spent on the political issues of the day as well.

A great read.