First of all I owe you guys my humble apology. On number IV an observant reader reminded me of an erroneous date I had lifted and failed to verify, which also caused me to miscount years. I should have caught it but I didn’t. The 1778 dates should have been 1787. Sorry ‘bout that.
I hope in this session to help us better understand what the men at the Constitutional Convention had to deal with and how they eventually arrived at what turned out to be the creation of the most unconventional government ever conceived, a Constitution some called a miracle.
Consider this: The men who drafted our Constitution came from 12 different Colonies (Rhode Island did not send anyone to participate.) These colonies had differing interests; geographically, economically, governmental, physical-sizes (populations) and historically. They had been functioning as individual colonies, each with its own British established government or governorship. During the Revolution the king’s officers were driven away and their duties had to be carried on by Americans. Each colony created a government of its own. Most of them drew up state constitutions. But a united central government was needed if they were to have a united country, and the Articles of Confederation was drawn up in 1781, giving the Continental Congress limited authority. Following the war it was found that the Articles of Confederation did not give the central government necessary operational powers. The states were arguing among themselves over many things, and because of this growing discontent, in February 1787 each state was asked to send members to a Constitutional Convention to be held in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation.
The states had been functioning primarily as independent states and their independence was a key factor. They did not want a federal government that might deny them this independence, and before they would sign a new constitution certain rights would have to be provided.
Somewhere in the process, it was decided a Congress of two portions would be the legislative branch of this new government; the people of each state would elect representatives from their state to serve in the House of Representatives, one person for each 30,000 free people in the state. Thus states with the greatest populations would have more representatives. In the other portion of the legislative branch (the Senate), each state would have two representatives appointed by their state legislature1, giving all states the same representation in that body. Agreement by both bodies would be required to pass legislation which would become law if the President signed it. States would perform a census of their populations every ten years to determine how many representatives each state would have in the House. Representatives would serve two-year terms in office. Senators would serve six-year terms. Enacted laws are administered by the second branch of the Republic, the Executive branch headed by an elected2 President. The third or judicial branch consists of a Supreme Court (now containing nine Justices) and myriads of federally appointed Judges.
The above is of course a supremely condensed definition that does not touch on issues reflecting initiation processes needed to get things started.
There were many problems facing the fifty-three men assigned to the task. Historians contend that the group selected contained many of the ablest men in the nation: Hamilton of New York; Washington, Madison and Randolph of Virginia; George Reed of Delaware; Rufus King and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson of Pennsylvania; Pinckney of South Carolina; and Davie of North Carolina. Thomas Jefferson was not a member, he was in Paris as U. S. minister to France. There were times when it seemed the task was impossible. Small states feared the big states would control the congress, agricultural states feared the encroachment of the industrial states, slave states were fearful that slavery might be abolished by the non-slave states. Most states were afraid of a centralized establishment of religion. Most participants were Christian and all were well aware of the fallen nature of man. If too much power was invested in any of the three components the nation would suffer. Some way had to be found to limit accumulation of power by any individual or group. What they gave us was almost good enough. Congress would monitor the Executive and, to some extent, the Judiciary. The Executive and the Judiciary would monitor the Congress. Only the Congress could make laws, and those laws were supposedly to stay within Constitutional limits. The Supreme Court was given authority to judge whether a law was within those limits should questions be raised.
The Constitution was not designed to be a “living constitution.” The founders understood that our world is a changing world and changes might be needed so they provided procedures within the Constitution to make such changes. Congress cannot just pass some law to change the Constitution. If two-thirds of both the house and the senate agree, they can propose an amendment, if two thirds of the state legislatures agree they can call a constitutional convention to propose changes. To ratify such amendments requires approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures. They made it tough because it should be tough.
Looking at and listening to the democrat presidential nominees I do not see a George Washington, a Thomas Jefferson, a Hamilton, a Franklin or even a Kennedy. More likely I see a Marxist, a Leninist or some other socialist hero who thinks he-or-she can do what all the others failed to do—create something out of nothing. They just will not learn: there is no Utopia on earth. Only God creates something from nothing, but he chose to create man from the dust of the earth. (Genesis 3:19)
- The 17th Amendment (1913) changed the way Senators are selected. Instead of being appointed by state legislators they are now elected by the state voters.
- The President is elected by state electors. A state has electors equal to the number of House Representatives plus the Senators from same state. I think state legislation determines how the Electors vote. Amendment XII made some changes. Not being a lawyer I can't really say.