(p. 12) When and how did the United States become a nation? This question is the core of “The Quartet.” In his customary graceful prose, Joseph J. Ellis, the author of such works of popular history as the prizewinning “Founding Brothers,” argues that the United States did not become a nation with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Rather, he says, American nationhood resulted from the creation, adoption and effectuation of the United States Constitution.
Ellis declares, “Four men made the transition from confederation to nation happen. . . . George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison” (along with three supporting players: Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Jefferson). He writes that “this political quartet diagnosed the systemic dysfunctions under the Articles, manipulated the political process to force a calling of the Constitutional Convention, collaborated to set the agenda in Philadelphia, attempted somewhat successfully to orchestrate the debates in the state ratifying conventions, then drafted the Bill of Rights as an insurance policy to ensure state compliance with the constitutional settlement. If I am right, this was arguably the most creative and consequential act of political leadership in American history.”
. . .
Ellis’s “quartet” are constitutional superheroes, the Fantastic Four of American nationalism.
For the full review, see:
R. B. BERNSTEIN. “Gang of Four.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., MAY 10, 2015): 12.
(Note: ellipsis internal to paragraph, in original; ellipsis between paragraphs, added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 5, 2015, and has the title “”The Quartet,’ by Joseph J. Ellis.”)
The book under review, is:
Ellis, Joseph J. The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.