The second string comes in to close the game, and the Revolution is completed.
The title sounds like an Emilio Estevez vehicle, and indeed this latest by Cerami (Jefferson’s Great Gamble, 2003) has its cinematic moments: mix up Jefferson in Paris with 84 Charing Cross Road, and there’s at least a chunk of the story. Cerami’s concern is to document a brief period of postrevolutionary collaboration between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, respectively the lieutenants of George Washington and James Madison, who were keen to replace the Articles of Confederation with something more potent: the Constitution they eventually devised. Madison was keenly aware of the weakness of the government, for, Cerami writes, during the Revolution it was his job to touch a little known Jewish banker, Haym Solomon, for loans to keep the army afloat. (“Haym Solomon obstinately rejects all recompense,” Madison wrote.) No loans, no army, no revolution: it was Alexander Hamilton’s genius that gave the Constitution its provisions for a centralized treasury to fund such things as wars, since Hamilton’s most sincere desire “was to design every move the government made as a symbol of perfect trust, so that the country’s money and its credit would be unquestioned.” Agreeing on much, Madison and Hamilton would come to part ways as their leaders split into federalist and antifederalist factions; but one of the things they could not effectively do even as allies, Cerami reveals, was to introduce a mechanism to eliminate slavery in the new republic. And neither paid much concern to a bill of rights, snorting at those who feared “the tyranny of Philadelphia”—that is to say, Congress. Both Hamilton and Madison were on shaky political ground in their home states, Cerami writes, but there in Philadelphia they did much to give the Constitution its form and to make the U.S. a nation of laws, if sometimes confused and incomplete ones.
There’s little here that previous lives and histories have missed, but Cerami spins a good historical tale.