Constitution Sunday: James Wilson’s Opening Address

Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention. November 20 through December 15, 1787. James Wilson’s Opening Address.

November 24, 1787

At the convention in Pennsylvania called for ratifying the draft Constitution, one of the foremost students of history and articulate Americans of his time, James Wilson, delivered the opening address. Just as every great storyteller knows to do, he provided the context for the moment: whereas most governments are created as “the result of force, fraud, or accident,” America “now presents the first instance of a people assembled to weigh deliberately and calmly, and to decide leisurely and peacably, upon the form of government by which they will bind themselves and their posterity.” Past governments, whether that of the Swiss Cantons, the United Kingdom’s monarchy, the United Netherlands, or the ancients—the Achaean and Lycian leagues, the Greeks, the Romans—provided examples for the three forms of government: “Monarchical, Aristocratical, and Democratical.”

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

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

Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal (Virginia), February 27, 1788

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

IVth. Objection. The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended, as to absorb and destroy the Judiciaries of the several States Read more

Constitution Sunday: Reply to Mason’s “Objections”: “Civis Rusticus”

Reply to Mason’s “Objections”: “Civis Rusticus”

Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond), January 30, 1788

Following are excerpts of an article written in response to George Mason’s article listing the objections to the Constitution:

“5th. Had the convention left the executive power indivisible, I am free to own it would have been better, than giving the senate a share in it Read more

A Compound of Aristocracy and Monarchy

jonathan_jackson_delegate
Etching of Jonathan Jackson. By: Max Rosenthal.

In the 1780s, Americans, like John Dickinson, observed that “[p]eople once respected their governors, their senators, their judges and their clergy; they reposed confidence in them; their laws were obeyed, and the states were happy in tranquility.” Dickinson, Letters of Fabius, Ford, ed., Pamphlets, 188. The authority of the government was declining. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 507. Read more

Guarding Against an Evil

benjamin_franklin
Benjamin Franklin. By: Joseph Siffred Duplessis.

Americans’ political beliefs were rapidly changing as the American Revolution progressed into the early years of the Republic. In fact, those beliefs were “constantly in flux, continually adapting and adjusting to ever-shifting political and social circumstances.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 438.

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