The Federalists of the 1780s had a glimpse of what America was to become — a scrambling business society dominated by the pecuniary interests of ordinary people — and they did not like what they saw. This premonition of America’s future lay behind their sense of crisis and their horrified hyperbolic rhetoric. The wholesale pursuits of private interest and private luxury were, they thought, undermining America’s capacity for republican government. They designed the Constitution in order to save American republicanism from the deadly effects of the private pursuits of happiness.
Continental Army general — one of Washington’s best; 1726—1783.
Continental Army officer, lawyer, politician, Vice President under Thomas Jefferson; killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; 1756—1836.
Soldier, politician, New York governor, vice president under Jefferson and Madison; 1739—1812.
Washington’s aide-de-camp, lawyer, contributor to the Federalist Papers, Secretary of the Treasury; 1755/1757—1804.
Lawyer, diplomat, Continental congressman, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 1745—1829.
New York merchant, signer of the Declaration of Independence; 1716—78.
New York lawyer, politician, signer of the Declaration of Independence; 1746—1813.
Irish-born Continental Army general, formerly a British officer; 1738—75.
Merchant, financier; helped draft then stylized the Constitution; 1752—1816.
Author, revolutionary, political philosopher; 1737—1809.
The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States (2011)