Constitution

Constitution Sunday: Amos Singletary and Jonathan Smith on “Leviathan” Swallowing Up “Us Little Folks” and on the Danger of Anarchy

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention. January 25, 1788 Amos Singletary rose at the Massachusetts Convention to say that he was troubled; the Convention was considering a Constitution that was no better than the state was under British rule in 1775. It would lead to the federal government laying “taxes, duties, imposts, and excises” on the people just […]

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Constitution Sunday: Thomas Dawes, Jr. on Legitimate Standing Armies

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention January 24, 1788 The Constitution empowers Congress to “raise and support Armies” with the limitation that any appropriation of money for raising and supporting armies must be limited to a two-year term (Article I, Section 8, Clause 12). At the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, there was debate as to whether that authority should […]

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Constitution Sunday: Major Martin Kingsley on the Excessive Powers of Congress

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention January 21, 1788 A representative democracy requires that elected officials are servants to the people. There must be accountability, and with two-year terms for members of the House of Representatives, four-year terms for Presidents, and six-year terms for Senators, the Constitution has provided voters with the option to rotate their servants every […]

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Constitution Sunday: A Sharp Exchange at the Massachusetts Convention

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention January 17, 1788 For those debating the Constitution’s ratification, no detail of the draft document was forgotten. To detractors, like the Honorable Mr. Turner who rose on January 17, 1788 at the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, there were hidden dangers throughout the document. One that he raised was that Congress “may alter the […]

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Constitution Sunday: Fisher Ames on Biennial Elections and on the Volcano of Democracy

Massachusetts Ratifying Convention. January 15, 1788 The duration of a term for a member of the House of Representatives was a contentious issue: while some favored one-year terms, others—such as Fisher Ames—advocated for two-year terms. To Ames, a member of the House would be unlikely to learn enough about the country in a year to […]

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Constitution Sunday: Governor Samuel Huntington on the Need for Coercive National Power

Connecticut Ratifying Convention. January 9, 1788 When Connecticut’s Governor, Samuel Huntington, rose to speak at the state’s ratifying convention, he rose to second a motion by General Parsons to “assent to, ratify, and adopt the Constitution,” but in seconding the motion, Governor Huntington provided perspective and context for why he was asking the state’s delegates […]

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Constitution Sunday: Oliver Ellsworth defends the Taxing Power and Comments on Dual Sovereignties and Judicial Review

Connecticut Ratifying Convention January 7, 1788 When the Connecticut Ratifying Convention assembled, there were objections against the draft Constitution on the basis that it was “despotic” in its bestowing great power upon Congress: to the objectors, Congress having both the power of the purse and the power of the sword was intolerable. Oliver Ellsworth, however, […]

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Constitution Sunday: Robert Whitehill at the Pennsylvania Convention

Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention. November 30, 1787. At the Pennsylvania Convention, Robert Whitehill rose to speak about the proposed Constitution including—and perhaps especially—its biggest flaw. To Whitehill, despite the fact that the country’s learned people devised the Constitution, “the defect is in the system itself,—there lies the evil which. no argument can palliate, no sophistry can […]

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