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Constitutional Convention

Constitution Sunday: “Publius,” The Federalist XIV

“Publius,” The Federalist XIV [James Madison]

New-York Packet, November 30, 1787

With the draft Constitution having been published for consideration by the residents of each state in 1787 came questions about whether and how the federal government would effectuate its responsibilities given the vast land that the states and territories had already comprised—which James Madison found to be framed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River. Madison, in The Federalist XIV, articulated the reasoning behind the Constitution’s model for government, and at the heart of that reasoning was that this new form of government was not going to be a pure democracy of yore but rather a modern republic: “The true distinction” between a democracy and a republic is “that in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.” Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Publius,” The Federalist XIV”

The North’s Attempt at Salvation

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Aerial Perspective of Washington DC in 1861.

The Deep South’s animating of a Second American Revolution, by seceding from the Union and laying the foundation for an operational Confederate government, forced the North to either suppress the South’s uprising or craft a resolution. The likelihood of war would deter any widespread northern suppression, leaving the question: What compromise could the North propose that appeased the South and put both sections of the country on a path of coexistence? While variations of this question had been posed in the years leading up to 1860, at no prior point were states seceding from the Union en masse to form a rival government. Continue reading “The North’s Attempt at Salvation”

Constitution Sunday: Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] I

Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] I

Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal (Virginia), February 20, 1788

Following are excerpts from James Iredell’s responses to George Mason’s “Objections” to the Constitution:

IIId. [George Mason’s] Objection. ‘The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the President of the United States Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: Answers to Mason’s “Objections”: “Marcus” [James Iredell] I”

Cap-Stone of the Great American Empire

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James Wilson.

The political theory that emerged from the Revolution and the debates surrounding the Constitution was not “a matter of deliberation as it was a matter of necessity.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 593.

Continue reading “Cap-Stone of the Great American Empire”

Building the Bill of Rights

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George Mason. By: Dominic W. Doubet.

A bill of rights was not contemplated at the Constitutional Convention, until George Mason mentioned it in the last days of the Convention. Every state ruled it out. Rufus King, however, suggested that “as the fundamental rights of individuals are secured by express provisions in the State Constitutions; why may not a like security be provided for the Rights of the States in the National Constitution?” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 536 quoting Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention, II, 375-76, 378-79, I, 492-93.

Continue reading “Building the Bill of Rights”

Retention of the Supreme Power

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James Wilson, as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. By: Robert S. Susan, after Leopold G. Seyffert, after Max Rosenthal.

Capturing the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution was expressing “the inherent and unalienable right of the people” to determine their system of government. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 535 quoting Wilson, in McMaster and Stone, eds., Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 317.

Continue reading “Retention of the Supreme Power”

Two Supreme Coordinate Powers

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Gouverneur Morris. Engraving by: J. Rogers.

Coming out of the Philadelphia Convention, many Americans had different perspectives about what had transpired and how effective the Constitution could be as a governing document.

Continue reading “Two Supreme Coordinate Powers”

Constitution Sunday: “Centinel” [Samuel Bryan] I

“Centinel” [Samuel Bryan] I

Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia), October 5, 1787

Following are a series of excerpts: Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Centinel” [Samuel Bryan] I”

The Inadequacy of the Confederation

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John Jay. By: John Trumbull.

By 1787, the strength and stability of the states was under scrutiny. Shays’ Rebellion had erupted, citizens had become more licentious, and state legislatures appeared to be running rampant, doing significant damage to the health of the country as a whole. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 465.

Continue reading “The Inadequacy of the Confederation”

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