Joseph J. Ellis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has an issue with the Gettysburg Address.

Historians in the News
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Joseph J. Ellis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has an issue with the Gettysburg Address.

"I was at the middle school where my son teaches and I was listening to 28 kids recite the speech," Ellis, a professor emeritus at Mount Holyoke College, told The Associated Press recently.

"And I was thinking about 'Four score and seven years ago,' and how that put us in 1776. But at that time the United States was a plural, and not a singular, not at all a unified nation. Lincoln was in the middle of the Civil War and there were political reasons for him to argue that such an idea predated the existence of the actual union. But the country only comes together in 1787-88 with the drafting and enactment of the Constitution."

Ellis' "The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-89," is out this week, the ninth book by one of the leading scholar of the country's early years of independence. His previous works include the Thomas Jefferson biography "American Sphinx" and "Founding Brothers," a million-selling publication that won the Pulitzer in 2001.

"The Quartet" covers a disputed and vital era, the years between the end of the Revolutionary War and birth of the U.S. Constitution. In debates that continue to this day, the 13 original states were fiercely divided between those who feared the return of monarchy and wanted to remain a loose confederation, similar to what Europe is today, and those who believed the only way to prevent dissolution was a viable central government.

Ellis tells the story through the words and actions of four men: George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. ...




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