Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commemorating our Constitution

I wish today was a holiday.

On September 17, 1787, the mostly upper-class, propertied men at the Constitutional Convention had finally come out of their political hiding and were told that the Constitution was complete. It could now go to the states for ratification. It needed nine states to approve this.

The outcome was no sure thing. Federalists and Anti-Federalists were in strong disagreement for the need of a central government at all. Many strong Anti-Federalists believed that the final outcome of the Constitution would be to get rid of the states altogether. Many esteemed patriots, including John Hancock and Patrick Henry, were very much against ratification. There was strong interest in how three larger states would vote.

In Massachusetts, John Hancock, was very outspoken about his lack of support. But ever business-minded, he was a late convert. The possibility of a Federal appointment and a Bill of Rights were two issues important to him. Madison worked constantly to accomplish the latter.

The results in Virginia and New York were very close. Patrick Henry, powerful orator as always, felt that Virginians were doing very well under the Articles of Confederation, and didn’t need a Constitution at all.

The The Federalist Papers were a strong advocate for ratification. But it’s important to realize that ratification was not a public election, although the secrecy of the deliberations was completely changed to a very open process, including an active press.

Our Constitution, in a sense, marks the end of our revolutionary war period. The aim for a separate country free from Great Britain had been realized. Now America had to face new and daunting challenges alone.

Among these was the explosive issue of slavery, which lasted another 78 years! – Renata Breisacher Mulry

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