37 pages 1 hour read

Joseph J. Ellis

American Creation

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2007

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Chapter 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “The Argument”

The third chapter is about the drafting and adoption of the US Constitution in 1787 and 1788. Soon after winning the war for independence, it became clear that the government set up by the Articles of Confederation was not working. George Washington found this to be a pressing issue that needed addressing, lest the country devolve into “anarchy & confusion” (91). His experiences as commander of the Continental Army had taught him the value of a central authority. Now he saw states making their own policy and often ignoring the weak national government.

By 1786, there was talk of a convention to amend the Articles. There were three camps among the government leaders: those who wanted no change, those who wanted to keep the Articles but amend them, and those who wanted to discard the Articles and start fresh with a new system. The general population mostly fell into the first camp, because they believed the revolution was fought to preserve state sovereignty and because they lacked a national identity (their loyalties were local).

Joining Washington in arguing for radical change was the Virginian James Madison. He had come to this conclusion from serving in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress, seeing firsthand the problems of decentralization.