The Constitutional Convention

us-constitutionThe Constitutional Convention – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, May 25, 1787, in Philadelphia, having a quorum of seven states, the Constitutional Convention officially begins discussions to revise the Articles of Confederation.

The years following the Revolutionary War were disastrous. These years have been called the “Critical Period” in American history. We threw off the yoke of tyranny and we were now facing an onslaught of anarchy.

The Articles of Confederation were proving to be insufficient to meet our needs. The states were engaging in commercial wars with each other and many people both at home and abroad thought we’d fall apart. Daniel Webster said that the Articles were “merely a rope of sand.” Other Patriots, including George Washington, called this the worst time in our history – that coming from the man who was at Valley Forge!

In 1786 Washington wrote a letter calling for a stronger union. He complained that “Thirteen sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin on the whole.”  People asked the General to use his influence to help remedy these problems. He responded: “Influence is no government. Let us have one by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once.”

Benjamin Rush, being the wonderful physician he was, properly diagnoses the heart of the problem:

“The confederation, together with most of our state constitutions, were formed under very unfavorable circumstances. We had just emerged from a corrupted monarchy. Although we understood perfectly the principles of liberty, yet most of us were ignorant of the forms and combinations of power in republics. Add to this, the British army was in the heart of our country, spreading desolation wherever it went: our resentments, of course, were awakened. We detested the British name; and unfortunately refused to copy some things in the administration of justice and power, in the British government, which have made it the admiration and envy of the world. In our opposition to monarchy, we forgot that the temple of tyranny has two doors. We bolted one of them by proper restraints; but we left the other open, by neglecting to guard against the effects of our own ignorance and licentiousness.”

Absolutely perfect diagnosis from Dr. Rush!

To remedy this condition the Founders met in Philadelphia. Their goal was to “form a more perfect Union” between the states.

This 55 member “Senate of Sages” was impressive. George Washington was the President of the Convention. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate, and probably the wisest. James Madison played such a big role in creating the new document he’s been called the “Father of the Constitution.”  Alexander Hamilton, the youngest member, would become the Constitution’s greatest salesman writing many “Federalist Papers” which helped influence its ratification.

The Convention officially got under way on this day, May 25, 1787. Each man had a wealth of experience and knowledge and strong opinions to go with them. Over four hot months, one of the hottest Philadelphia ever saw, they discussed the issues and hammered out their difference – without air-conditioning! Our Constitution was completed and signed on September 17, 1787.

During the ratification debates Alexander Hamilton summed up the crisis Americans faced:

“AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

They chose wisely and ratified our Constitution. But this doesn’t mean the crisis is forever passed. We face it today. Liberty comes with responsibilities. We too must, by our conduct and example, show the world that we are able to preserve our good constitutional government by reflection and choice, thus being an example to all mankind. To accomplish this we too are called upon to examine our Constitution. We too must know our history, our form of Government, and have the ability to respectfully engage each other. The price of liberty is self-sacrifice and eternal vigilance!

On this day, May 25, 1787, in Philadelphia, having a quorum of seven states, the Constitutional Convention officially begins discussions to revise the Articles of Confederation.

Watch this video explaining what kind of Government our Founders gave us:

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