- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (May 12, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385353405
- ISBN-13: 978-0385353403
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 673 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.98 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 12, 2015
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
The Wall Street Journal
“The dissenters—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison—faced no less a task than redefining the meaning of the War for Independence in what amounted to a Second American Revolution. How they did so is the burden of the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis' The Quartet, an engaging reconsideration of the arduous path to the Constitution.”
New York Times Book Review
“Customary, graceful prose. His portraits [show] his sure touch—highlighting Washington’s dignity, Hamilton’s energy, Madison’s learning and Jay’s diplomacy.”
“The author is a sure-handed and entertaining guide through the thickets of argument, personality and ideology out of which the American nation emerged.”
“Ellis shows the extraordinary capacity of these four leaders to understand the events, discuss them dispassionately, explain them to the American people, reach compromise, rise above pettiness and sacrifice personal wealth, power and popularity for the long-term public good. Given the rarity of these qualities today, Ellis’ book is a compelling reminder of the political virtues that created the American republic.”
“Ellis lives and breathes the Founders, and he deploys his customary zip and trenchant scholarship in showing how four central figures—Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison—conceived and promoted a new political framework built on the Constitution."
The Boston Globe
“This is more than just a reinterpretation of a vital transition in our history; it is a reflection of new material from an episode that occurred two and a quarter centuries ago... Having set forth the analysis, Ellis plunges into the narrative. His is an inviting voice and his story compelling, built around irresistible figures who, as the annual publishing lists amply display, retain their appeal in our own time.”
“The Quartet achieves its purpose, providing a clear explanation of how the real United States of America came into being.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch
“Ellis, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for Founding Brothers, reminds us that what Catherine Drinker Bowen has called the “Miracle at Philadelphia” wasn’t destiny or ordained by God. It was created by perceptive men who understood human nature, history and politics and could foresee what this country could become should its people choose to have a strong central government.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
“An author who breathes life into the dead and immediacy into the past, Ellis illuminates America’s rebirth, the men who made it possible and the framework they created. With rich research and intelligent interpretation, “The Quartet” burnishes his reputation as a writer, a thinker and a humanist.”
“Absorbing in its details, and convincing in its arguments, The Quartet is sure to appeal to history nerds and American politicos. As another election season approaches, a look back at the creation of the government, and the reasons why these founding fathers did what they did, is sure to be engrossing reading for anyone.”
Kirkus (starred review)
“A brilliant account of six years during which four Founding Fathers, ‘in disregard of public opinion, carried the American story in a new direction.’ In a virtuosic introduction, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Ellis maintains that Abraham Lincoln was wrong. In 1776—four score and seven years before 1863—our forefathers did not bring forth a new nation….Ellis reminds us that the 1776 resolution declaring independence described 13 ‘free and independent states.’ Adopting the Constitution in 1789 created the United States, but no mobs rampaged in its favor….Ellis delivers a convincing argument that it was a massive political transformation led by men with impeccable revolutionary credentials….This is Ellis’ ninth consecutive history of the Revolutionary War era and yet another winner.”
About the Author
JOSEPH J. ELLIS is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Founding Brothers. His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the National Book Award. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife, Ellen, his youngest son, three dogs, and a cat.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
Other parts of Ellis' book are more controversial. 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 more 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 more 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.
In another claim that will provoke controversy, 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, including the writing and significance of "The Federalist Papers". 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 more about George Washington, whose role throughout the Revolutionary Era amply comes through in this book, by reading the Library of America volume of his writings. George Washington : Writings (Library of America). Washington and his accomplishments cannot be over-emphasized.
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 more 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 more 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 more consideration in this volume. Forrest McDonald, from a different perspective, probably should be acknowledged more 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.
Thankfully, Ellis avoids the common pitfall in this genre and avoids peddling trivial facts in exchange for making big points. He makes no attempt to replicate the long list of biographies available for each of these principals. This results in a relatively crisp accounting of a momentous moment in American history.
One quibble: while Ellis touches on the Electoral College, he does not describe it in sufficient detail to fully comprehend why that method was chosen and the residual impact it has had on modern day presidential politics and elections,
But that is only a quibble. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the true birth of this nation.