Published Volume XXXIV, Nos. 1 & 2, 2021
Middle Tennessee State University
As George Washington contemplated attending the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he worried that if the meeting failed it would stain his reputation and jeopardize his place as father of the American republic. Given the support for and failures of the Articles of Confederation, Washington had good reason to worry that either the convention would not produce an alternative to the Articles or that it would produce one that was as ineffective and short-lived. However much Washington may have been motivated by vanity, he was predisposed to expect that failure was a common outcome of politics, in some cases because providence or fate controlled the outcome, not human agency. In instances when and to the degree that outcomes depended on human agency, Washington knew that human beings were prone to vices that were contrary to the higher ends of politics. Thus, he was not inclined to overestimate the possibilities of politics even though he had reasons to believe that providence was on his side. As a young special envoy appointed by Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie, he had escaped a near point-blank assassination attempt in the back woods of Pennsylvania. A change in weather at Brooklyn Heights, early in the War for Independence, had provided the cover needed for nearly ten thousand American troops trapped by British forces to escape without a single fatality. In one of his most remarkable achievements, he had presided…
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