Celebrating the History of The United States Constitution
(Part Two of Two)
In Part One we explained why a formal US Constitution had to be addressed. It was necessary to ensure the words set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
Today, we'll discuss the "players" and the many issuesthat needed to be resolved in order to keep the promises of The Declaration of July 4, 1776.
On May 29, 1787 Edmund Randolph of Virginia...
... would introduce "The Virginia Plan", which stressed that the common defense, security of liberty, and general welfare play a predominant role. It concentrated on the interests of the larger states.
The plan was actually written by 36 year old James Madison of Virginia...
...and called for three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), a bicameral Congress apportioned by population.
Madison's work and determination has since earned him the title of "The Father of the Constitution".
He would also go on to serve as our 4th President for 8 years.
Madison was a staunch advocate of strong centralized government, and The Virginia Plan granted the United States Senate the power to abrogate any law passed by state governments.
The Virginia Plan also called for the creation of a new constitution that would be ratified by special conventions held in each state, RATHER THAN by the state legislatures.
The result was that The Virginia Plan would be the framework on which the United States Constitution would subsequently be based.
Much of it was passed, and included the following vital provisions:
All the powers in the Articles of Confederation would transfer to the new government.
Congress would have two divisions: the "house" apportioned by population, and a "senate" apportioned equally among each state, which would then enact laws affecting more than one state.
Congress could override a veto.
The President would enforce the law.
The Supreme Court and inferior courts would rule on international, U.S., and state law.
The Constitution is the supreme law and all state officers swear to uphold the Constitution.
Every state was a republic, and new states could be admitted.
Amendments were possible without Congress.
The Convention recommendations then went from Congress to the states.
State legislatures set the election rules for ratification conventions, and the people "expressly" chose representatives to consider and decide about the Constitution.
On June 15, 1787, William Patterson of New Jersey...
...would introduce "The New Jersey Plan" which favored the interests of the smaller states.
Though much of the plan failed, some vital provisions did survive.
The Senate would be elected by the states, at first by the state legislatures.
Congress would pass acts for revenue collected directly in the states, and the rulings of state courts could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
State apportionment for taxes failed, but the "house" would be apportioned by the population count of "free" inhabitants and three-fifths of others originally.
States could be added to the Union.
Presidents would appoint federal judges.
Treaties entered into by Congress would be considered the supreme law of the land.
All state judiciaries would be bound to enforce treaties, state laws notwithstanding.
The President had the authority to raise an army to enforce treaties in any state.
States would treat a violation of law in another state as though it happened there.
The contentious issue of slavery was too controversial to be resolved during the Convention; however, the Convention eventually adopted the existing "federal ratio" for taxing states by three-fifths of slaves held.
To break any stalemates, on June 11, 1787 Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed...
Representation in Congress should be both by states and by population.
There, he was voted down by the small states in favor of all being treated equally, with each state having one vote only.
After four attempts at passage, on July 16, 1787, a final version was passed.
Every state was to have equal numbers in the United States Senate.
Thus, we now have a House of Representatives based on population and a Senate based on state equality.
While all of the above was taking place, on June 7, 1787the "national executive" was also taken up at the Convention.
The "chief magistrate" or "presidency" was of serious concern for a formerly colonial people fearful of concentrated power in one person.
To secure a "vigorous executive", nationalist delegates such as...
James Wilson of Pennsylvania
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina
John Dickenson of Delaware
...favored a single officer.
And...they had a certain someone in mind whom everyone could trust to start off the new system, George Washington...
...a proposal that almost immediately raised protest by three prominent members of the convention:
Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Edmund Randolph of Virginia, and Pierce Butler of South Carolina.
Pierce Butler of South Carolina
They preferred two or three individuals as presidents...
...but when the vote was taken, the "One Man Presidency" carried by a vote of 7-3 with only New York, Delaware, and Maryland voting against the measure.
That is how it was determined to establish the "single presidency".
There was one more vital element that had to be considered....
...on June 19, 1787, the issue of a national court system was addressed by Edmund Randolph of Virginia in what has come to be known as
"Randolph's Ninth Resolve"...
...and that too, brought vibrant discussion among the delegates before the final version of our current Supreme Court was passed.
On September 28, 1787, a compromise was finally reached, and a measure was enacted to send the agreement to the state legislatures for ratification as per the new constitutional procedure.
Delaware, on December 7, 1787, became the first State to ratify the new Constitution, with its vote being unanimous.
Pennsylvania ratified on December 11, 1787, by a vote of 46 to 23 (66.67%).
New Jersey ratified on December 18, 1787.
Georgia ratified on January 2, 1788,
Massachusetts followed on February 6, 1788
Maryland, on April 26, 1788
South Carolina, on May 23, 1788
...and on June 21, 1787 New Hampshire became the ninth and deciding state to welcome the new Constitution as the official "law of the land".
New York would follow on July 26, 1788.
North Carolina would ratify on November 21, 1788
...and to conclude the unanimous vote ....
Rhode Island would become the 13th state to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790.
The US Constitution thus created a new, unprecedented form of government by reallocating powers of government.
It was an experiment that no nation had ever accomplished. This American "rule book" changed the world...
..proved that, given the opportunity...
..."the People"" could indeed govern themselves through power-sharing, by decisions made by the elements that composed a nation...
Now, 228 years later after the last state ratified that historic document, we still live by what those brave men designed with few modifications.
Why was this article written?
For two reasons.
First, to make you aware of the tedious dedication of those who were responsible for its creation...
Second, to ask all Americans to appreciate it; to accept it as our law, and especially in the world in which we now live...
...honor and respect the courageous great individuals who are charged each and every day with enforcing it.
Join me in standing and reciting its powerful Preamble !
Constitution Day...Celebrating Its History
(Part One of Two)
Today is Constitution Day, and though we at Anthem Opinions make every attempt to avoid national politics, no matter to which political affiliation you might owe your loyalty...
...there is one fact that neither party can deny, namely...
It's the official document by which our entire legal system is based.
...and our Founding Fathers did their best to create a set of rules the American people would live by and defend.
It's an amazing document, with an amazing history, composed by amazing individuals...
...that has needed "alteration" only 27 times in its 228 year history !
...and two of those "alterations", the 18th & the 21st Amendments, which applied to Prohibition, were subsequently passed to deny and then allow Americans the opportunity to enjoy an alcoholic beverage !
Let's go back in time to the end of the American Revolution in 1783 when, seven years earlier on July 4, 1776, the most courageous individuals made an historic decision to end an affiliation from what was the most powerful nation on earth.
That statement or Declaration...was just that...a mere statement...
...by which their proposed idea of government would require a set of rules on which its citizens would abide and follow.
The Founding Fathers realized their work had just begun in 1776, and they knew that if a "noble experiment" on which that "statement" was passed was to succeed, a government had to be formed that embraced those ideals.
...but that had to wait for a few years until they were convinced the very idea of an independent nation would survive the mighty British army and naval forces.
What most people don't realize is that The Declaration of Independence determined a statement of principles stressing a person's natural rights, but it did not set forth any structure of government on which those rights would be preserved.
Those rights would initially become adopted in 1781 with The Articles of Confederation; however, that document would fall far short of the needs of an independent nation.
What were its faults?
And so...it needed to be changed to reflect the true spirit of the Declaration of Independence.
On September 11, 1786 a convention was called in Annapolis, Maryland to discuss the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation with 5 states sending delegates to establish standard rules for a new nation.
Up to that point in time, each state was independent from the others and the national government had no authority.
Though no decision was made at Annapolis, it was decided that a constitutional convention would be held in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.
Their official mission:
The "Federal Constitution" (The Articles of Confederation) was to be changed to meet the requirements of good government and "the preservation of the Union".
It was intended that the Continental Congress would then approve what measures it allowed; then the state legislatures would unanimously confirm whatever changes of those were to take effect.
Twelve state delegations were sent (Rhode Island declined to attend) and it was soon determined that The Articles of Confederation was so flawed, that it required a new design.
The convention was scheduled to begin on May 14, 1787; however, only 2 delegations showed up (Pennsylvania & Virginia) !
They eventually reached a quorum of 7 on May 25, 1787 and the convention then proceeded.
Officers were first elected:
Chairman of The Rules Committee
Chairman of the Committee of the Whole
This I'm sure will surprise many !
The Convention voted to keep the debates secret...
...so that the delegates could speak freely, negotiate, bargain, compromise, and change !
As the convention proceeded, problems initially occurred.
Every few days new delegates would arrive and votes would change as a result of the changing delegation representative...
...creating an increasing concern that the Convention would have to be dissolved and ENTIRELY ABANDONED.
Our new nation, primarily consisting of an agrarian society at that time, meant many of the delegates had to return to their homes for their fall harvests.
After all, commerce was a MAIN CONSIDERATION to all in attendance !
Tomorrow in Part Two, we'll discuss the various individuals and plans proposed at that convention...
...and how the combined dedication of a common goal...
...structured the federal government would finally evolve.