The founders' failures

Counting on future generations
Many of the issues before us in this election year were present at the founding of the nation, as I learned from Joseph J. Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. I have never read such a clear explanation of the conflict between what Ellis calls the “spirit of ’76” and the “spirit of ’87.”

Much of the nation’s early political energy, Ellis explains, came out of the conflict between the revolutionary idealists, like Jefferson and Madison, who argued for the sovereignty of individual states and represented the southern “planter culture,” and the pragmatists, led by Alexander Hamilton, who wanted a strong central government, a national bank and the authority to override decisions by individual states.


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