Like the ancient republic of Rome, they had collapsed and reverted to some form of tyranny, usually by a military dictator.
Any one of those three gambles was an enormous risk.
The commercial states of the North contrasted with the agricultural South, and the new settlements west of the Appalachians feared domination by the old eastern communities of the Atlantic seaboard.
Many observers expected the union and republic would eventually but inevitably collapse in some civil war either between the North and South or between the East and West.
The gentlemen concluded that the state governments were too democratic, which meant too responsive to public opinion.
And when a rare state government did favor the creditors, it provoked resistance from armed farmers.
In a republic, the people were the sovereign—rejecting the rule of a monarch and aristocrats.
Today we take for granted that governments elected by the people can be stable, long lasting, and effective.
In 1789 the new American republic seemed to teeter between future greatness and imminent collapse.
Unlike present-day Americans, the leaders of the early republic could not comfort themselves with a long and successful history of free and united government.