Happy Constitution Day! Still a Rising Sun.

During the summer of 2017, I did a daily series summarizing James Madison’s notes to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Today, I am reprinting the final entry in that series in recognition of Constitution Day. On this day, after a change (tinkering to the end) in the document and a little dissent, the document was signed.

I read Madison’s notes looking for the Christian influence proposed by many Christian nationalists. While many of delegates were affiliated with Christian churches, I found very little interest on the part of the delegates to create a Christian republic.

……………………………………………….

(originally published September 17, 2017)

Today in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional convention made one last minute change and then most signed the document.

Nathaniel Gorham from Massachusetts wanted to change the number of representatives by changing the ratio of one representative for every 30,000 instead of 40,000.

Mr. GORHAM said, if it was not too late, he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause, declaring that “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” which had produced so much discussion, might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand.” This would not, he remarked, establish that as an absolute rule, but only give Congress a greater latitude, which could not be thought unreasonable.

Mr. KING and Mr. CARROLL seconded and supported the ideas of Mr. GORHAM.

When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question, he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered, by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.1
No opposition was made to the proposition of Mr. GORHAM, and it was agreed to unanimously.

Then the delegates voted with majorities of state delegations agreeing to the Constitution.

On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled, in order to be signed, it was agreed to, all the States answering, aye.

However, Edmund Randolph declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and with an allusion to the observations of Doctor FRANKLIN, apologized for his refusing to sign the Constitution, notwithstanding the vast majority and venerable names that would give sanction to its wisdom and its worth. He said, however, that he did not mean by this refusal to decide that he should oppose the Constitution without doors. He meant only to keep himself free to be governed by his duty, as it should be prescribed by his future judgment. He refused to sign, because he thought the object of the Convention would be frustrated by the alternative which it presented to the people. Nine States will fail to ratify the plan, and confusion must ensue. With such a view of the subject he ought not, he could not, by pledging himself to support the plan, restrain himself from taking such steps as might appear to him most consistent with the public good.

Elbridge Gerry also declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. GERRY described the painful feelings of his situation, and the embarrassments under which he rose to offer any further observations on the subject which had been finally decided. Whilst the plan was depending, he had treated it with all the freedom he thought it deserved. He now felt himself bound, as he was disposed, to treat it with the respect due to the act of the Convention. He hoped he should not violate that respect in declaring, on this occasion, his fears that a civil war may result from the present crisis of the United States. In Massachusetts, particularly, he saw the danger of this calamitous event. In that State there are two parties, one devoted to Democracy, the worst, he thought, of all political evils; the other as violent in the opposite extreme. From the collision of these in opposing and resisting the Constitution, confusion was greatly to be feared. He had thought it necessary, for this and other reasons, that the plan should have been proposed in a more mediating shape, in order to abate the heat and opposition of parties. As it had been passed by the Convention, he was persuaded it would have a contrary effect. He could not, therefore, by signing the Constitution, pledge himself to abide by it at all events. The proposed form made no difference with him. But if it were not otherwise apparent, the refusals to sign should never be known from him. Alluding to the remarks of Doctor FRANKLIN, he could not, he said, but view them as levelled at himself and the other gentlemen who meant not to sign.

Madison also records that George Mason didn’t sign the document.

The Constitution being signed by all the members, except Mr. RANDOLPHMr. MASON, and Mr. GERRY, who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die.

Madison showed his literary side by recording the following observation to end his notes.

Whilst the last members were signing, Doctor FRANKLIN, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising and not a setting sun.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. Today is the last day of the series since the work of the delegates was done and the Constitution sent on to the states for debate and ratification.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these notes and hope you have benefited as much as I have. To read all of the entries, if you have a few hours, click the following link:

Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)

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Happy Constitution Day! The Sun Rose on September 17, 1787

Constitution
Today in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional convention made one last minute change and then most signed the document.

Nathaniel Gorham from Massachusetts wanted to change the number of representatives by changing the ratio of one representative for every 30,000 instead of 40,000.

Mr. GORHAM said, if it was not too late, he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause, declaring that “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” which had produced so much discussion, might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand.” This would not, he remarked, establish that as an absolute rule, but only give Congress a greater latitude, which could not be thought unreasonable.

Mr. KING and Mr. CARROLL seconded and supported the ideas of Mr. GORHAM.
When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question, he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered, by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.1
No opposition was made to the proposition of Mr. GORHAM, and it was agreed to unanimously.

Then the delegates voted with majorities of state delegations agreeing to the Constitution.

On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled, in order to be signed, it was agreed to, all the States answering, aye.

However, Edmund Randolph declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and with an allusion to the observations of Doctor FRANKLIN, apologized for his refusing to sign the Constitution, notwithstanding the vast majority and venerable names that would give sanction to its wisdom and its worth. He said, however, that he did not mean by this refusal to decide that he should oppose the Constitution without doors. He meant only to keep himself free to be governed by his duty, as it should be prescribed by his future judgment. He refused to sign, because he thought the object of the Convention would be frustrated by the alternative which it presented to the people. Nine States will fail to ratify the plan, and confusion must ensue. With such a view of the subject he ought not, he could not, by pledging himself to support the plan, restrain himself from taking such steps as might appear to him most consistent with the public good.

Elbridge Gerry also declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. GERRY described the painful feelings of his situation, and the embarrassments under which he rose to offer any further observations on the subject which had been finally decided. Whilst the plan was depending, he had treated it with all the freedom he thought it deserved. He now felt himself bound, as he was disposed, to treat it with the respect due to the act of the Convention. He hoped he should not violate that respect in declaring, on this occasion, his fears that a civil war may result from the present crisis of the United States. In Massachusetts, particularly, he saw the danger of this calamitous event. In that State there are two parties, one devoted to Democracy, the worst, he thought, of all political evils; the other as violent in the opposite extreme. From the collision of these in opposing and resisting the Constitution, confusion was greatly to be feared. He had thought it necessary, for this and other reasons, that the plan should have been proposed in a more mediating shape, in order to abate the heat and opposition of parties. As it had been passed by the Convention, he was persuaded it would have a contrary effect. He could not, therefore, by signing the Constitution, pledge himself to abide by it at all events. The proposed form made no difference with him. But if it were not otherwise apparent, the refusals to sign should never be known from him. Alluding to the remarks of Doctor FRANKLIN, he could not, he said, but view them as levelled at himself and the other gentlemen who meant not to sign.

Madison also records that George Mason didn’t sign the document.

The Constitution being signed by all the members, except Mr. RANDOLPHMr. MASON, and Mr. GERRY, who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die.

Madison showed his literary side by recording the following observation to end his notes.

Whilst the last members were signing, Doctor FRANKLIN, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising and not a setting sun.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. Today is the last day of the series since the work of the delegates was done and the Constitution sent on to the states for debate and ratification.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these notes and hope you have benefited as much as I have. To read all of the entries, if you have a few hours, click the following link:

Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Delegates Finished Their Work

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September 15, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates took up numerous final details from the Committee of Style. At the end of the day, the Constitution was complete (well almost).

Influences on the Delegates

There were no references to England, Rome, Greek, or any other influence today. Edmund Randolph, who had started the convention with his proposals, ended it with his objections to the finished product. Others joined but the state delegations in the end voted to engross the Constitution.

Mr. RANDOLPH animadverting on the indefinite and dangerous power given by the Constitution to Congress, expressing the pain he felt at differing from the body of the Convention on the close of the great and awful subject of their labors, and anxiously wishing for some accommodating expedient which would relieve him from his embarrassments, made a motion importing, “that amendments to the plan might be offered by the State conventions, which should be submitted to, and finally decided on by, another general Convention.” Should this proposition be disregarded, it would, he said, be impossible for him to put his name to the instrument. Whether he should oppose it afterwards, he would not then decide; but he would not deprive himself of the freedom to do so in his own State, if that course should be prescribed by his final judgment.
 Colonel MASON seconded and followed Mr. RANDOLPH in animadversions on the dangerous power and structure of the Government, concluding that it would end either in monarchy, or a tyrannical aristocracy; which, he was in doubt, but one or other, he was sure. This Constitution had been formed without the knowledge or idea of the people. A second Convention will know more of the sense of the people, and be able to provide a system more consonant to it. It was improper to say to the people, take this or nothing. As the Constitution now stands, he could neither give it his support or vote in Virginia; and he could not sign here what he could not support there. With the expedient of another Convention, as proposed, he could sign.
Mr. PINCKNEY. These declarations from members so respectable, at the close of this important scene, give a peculiar solemnity to the present moment. He descanted on the consequences of calling forth the deliberations and amendments of the different States, on the subject of government at large. Nothing but confusion and contrariety will spring from the experiment. The States will never agree in their plans, and the deputies to a second convention, coming together under the discordant impressions of their constituents, will never agree. Conventions are serious things, and ought not to be repeated. He was not without objections, as well as others, to the plan. He objected to the contemptible weakness and dependence of the Executive. He objected to the power of a majority, only, of Congress, over commerce. But apprehending the danger of a general confusion, and an ultimate decision by the sword, he should give the plan his support.
Mr. GERRY stated the objections which determined him to withhold his name from the Constitution: 1. the duration and reëligibility of the Senate; 2. the power of the House of Representatives to conceal their Journals; 3. the power of Congress over the places of election; 4. the unlimited power of Congress over their own compensation; 5. that Massachusetts has not a due share of representatives allotted to her; 6. that three fifths of the blacks are to be represented, as if they were freemen; 7. that under the power over commerce, monopolies may be established; 8. the Vice President being made head of the Senate. He could, however, he said, get over all these, if the rights of the citizens were not rendered insecure, — first, by the general power of the Legislature to make what laws they may please to call “necessary and proper”; secondly, to raise armies and money without limit; thirdly, to establish a tribunal without juries, which will be a Star Chamber as to civil cases. Under such a view of the Constitution, the best that could be done, he conceived, was to provide for a second general Convention.

The state delegations said no to Randolph’s proposal for amendments and then voted to accept the Constitution.
I will say more in the last post in the series about the influences on the Constitution. However, I didn’t find the regular and constant influences from the Bible and Christianity as promised by Christian nationalists.
 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Article 1 Revisited

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optSeptember 14, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates continued consideration of the report of the Committee of Style. Again, they debated sections of Article 1. Notably, the delegates nixed the idea of a national secular university and rejected a motion to protect the freedom of the press.

Influences on the Delegates

One incident stands out from the session of the 14th:

Mr. MADISON and Mr. PINCKNEY then moved to insert, in the list of powers vested in Congress, a power “to establish an University, in which no preferences or distinctions should be allowed on account of religion.”
Mr. WILSON supported the motion.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. It is not necessary. The exclusive power at the seat of government will reach the object.
On the question, —
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye, — 4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, no, — 6; Connecticut, divided, (Dr. JOHNSON, aye; Mr. SHERMAN, no.)

The delegates voted down a national university. It is interesting that the movers wanted the school to be independent of religious discrimination. That seems to be an odd way to establish a Christian nation.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – American Manufactures

September 13, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates continued consideration of the report of the Committee of Style. In particular, they debated elements of Article 1, sections 2 and 7. George Mason wanted to encourage American made goods and frugality.

Influences on the Delegates

On today’s date, delegates considered the end game.

Doctor JOHNSON made a further report from the Committee of Style, &c., of the following resolutions, to be substituted for Articles 22 and 23:
“Resolved, that the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled; and that it is the opinion of this Convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each convention assenting to and ratifying the same, should give notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.”
“Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same; and a day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President; and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution: That after such publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected: That the Electors should meet on the day fixed for the election of the President, and should transmit their votes, certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled: That the Senators and Representatives should convene at the time and place assigned: that the Senators should appoint a President for the sole purpose of receiving, opening and counting the votes for President, and that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.”

 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Bill of Rights Requested

September 12, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

Yesterday’s session (9/11) adjourned without action because the Committee of Style did not have a completed product. On the 12th the delegates voted against a Bill of Rights and amended the override margin for a presidential veto.

Influences on the Delegates

One of the items considered during this session involved the number of delegates needed to override a presidential veto. In the end, the delegates required 2/3 instead of 3/4. The experience of the states was important for two delegates.

Colonel MASON had always considered this as one of the most exceptionable parts of the system. As to the numerical argument of Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, little arithmetic was necessary to understand that three fourths was more than two thirds, whatever the numbers of the Legislature might be. The example of New York depended on the real merits of the laws. The gentlemen citing it had no doubt given their own opinions. But perhaps there were others of opposite opinions, who could equally paint the abuses on the other side. His leading view was, to guard against too great an impediment to the repeal of laws.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS dwelt on the danger to the public interest from the instability of laws, as the most to be guarded against. On the other side, there could be little danger. If one man in office will not consent where he ought, every fourth year another can be substituted. This term was not too long for fair experiments. Many good laws are not tried long enough to prove their merit. This is often the case with new laws opposed to old habits. The inspection laws of Virginia and Maryland, to which all are now so much attached, were unpopular at first.
Mr. PINCKNEY was warmly in opposition to three fourths, as putting a dangerous power in the hands of a few Senators, headed by the President.
Mr. MADISON. When three fourths was agreed to, the President was to be elected by the Legislature, and for seven years. He is now to be elected by the people, and for four years. The object of the revisionary power is two-fold, — first, to defend the Executive rights; secondly, to prevent popular or factious injustice. It was an important principle in this and in the State Constitutions, to check legislative injustice and encroachments. The experience of the States had demonstrated that their checks are insufficient. We must compare the danger from the weakness of two thirds, with the danger from the strength of three fourths. He thought, on the whole, the former was the greater. As to the difficulty of repeals, it was probable, that in doubtful cases, the policy would soon take place, of limiting the duration of laws, so as to require renewal instead of repeal.

The suggestion for a bill of rights committee failed on a tie vote:

Colonel MASON perceived the difficulty mentioned by Mr. GORHAM. The jury cases cannot be specified. A general principle laid down, on this and some other points, would be sufficient. He wished the plan had been prefaced with a Bill of Rights, and, would second a motion, if made for the purpose. It would give great quiet to the people; and with the aid of the State Declarations, a bill might be prepared in a few hours.
Mr. GERRY concurred in the idea and moved for a Committee to prepare a Bill of Rights.
Colonel MASON seconded the motion.
Mr. SHERMAN was for securing the rights of the people where requisite. The State Declarations of Rights are not repealed by this Constitution; and being in force are sufficient. There are many cases where juries are proper, which cannot be discriminated. The Legislature may be safely trusted.
Colonel MASON. The laws of the United States are to be paramount to State Bills of Rights.
On the question for a Committee to prepare a Bill of Rights, —
New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, aye, — 5; Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no, — 5; Massachusetts, absent.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Amending the Constitution

September 10, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)

Summary

The delegates took up the last articles of the Constitution. Specifically, they approved the method of amending the Constitution and the process for ratifying it.

Influences on the Delegates

There were no obvious influences mentioned in this session. As consideration of changes wound down, at least one delegate signaled his disapproval of the system.

Mr. RANDOLPH declared, if no change should be made in this part of the plan, he should be obliged to dissent from the whole of it. He had from the beginning, he said, been convinced that radical changes in the system of the Union were necessary. Under this conviction he had brought forward a set of republican propositions, as the basis and outline of a reform. These republican propositions had, however, much to his regret, been widely, and, in his opinion, irreconcilably departed from. In this state of things, it was his idea, and he accordingly meant to propose, that the State conventions should be at liberty to offer amendments to the plan; and that these should be submitted to a second General Convention, with full power to settle the Constitution finally. He did not expect to succeed in this proposition, but the discharge of his duty in making the attempt would give quiet to his own mind.

Later in the session, Randolph made an impassioned plea for the Constitution to go through the current Congress.

Mr. RANDOLPH took this opportunity to state his objections to the system. They turned on the Senate’s being made the court of impeachment for trying the Executive, — on the necessity of three fourths instead of two thirds of each House to overrule the negative of the President, — on the smallness of the number of the Representative branch, — on the want of limitation to a standing army, — on the general clause concerning necessary and proper laws, — on the want of some particular restraint on navigation acts, — on the power to lay duties on exports, — on the authority of the General Legislature to interpose on the application of the Executives of the States, — on the want of a more definite boundary between the General and State Legislatures, — and between the General and State Judiciaries, — on the unqualified power of the President to pardon treasons, — on the want of some limit to the power of the Legislature in regulating their own compensations. With these difficulties in his mind, what course, he asked, was he to pursue? Was he to promote the establishment of a plan which he verily believed would end in tyranny? He was unwilling, he said, to impede the wishes and judgment of the Convention, but he must keep himself free, in case he should be honored with a seat in the Convention of his State, to act according to the dictates of his judgment. The only mode in which his embarrassment could be removed was that of submitting the plan to Congress, to go from them to the State Legislatures, and from these to State Conventions, having power to adopt, reject, or amend; the process to close with another General Convention, with full power to adopt or reject the alterations proposed by the State Conventions, and to establish finally the Government. He accordingly proposed a resolution to this effect.
Doctor FRANKLIN seconded the motion

Virginia’s George Mason moved to tabled the motion.
Although he later supported ratification, Randolph refused to sign the Constitution due to the objections he raised above. The refusal of delegates to sign off on the work they had labored over is an indication that the delegates were not unified. The real picture is quite different from what Eric Metaxas claims in his book, If You Can Keep It. Speaking about the end of the Convention, Metaxas wrote:

As we know, in the end all impasses were broken, compromises on all issues struck, and solutions found. There was what all felt to be a truly remarkable— almost odd— willingness for each side to set aside its concerns for the good of the whole. The spirit of selflessness and compromise that came over this body of opinionated, brilliant, and principled men was in the end sufficient for them to ratify the great document called the Constitution. Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 206). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

While some delegates later marveled that the Constitution came together, the fact is that there were disagreements right up to the end. In hindsight, it does seem miraculous that the system held up and has worked as well as it has. However, at the time, there were very real disagreements which led some delegates not to sign the document.

Can’t Touch the Slave Trade

The sell out to the Southern states was nearly completed by the insistence of South Carolina’s Rutlidge that no amendment to the Constitution could touch the slave trade.

Mr. RUTLIDGE said he never could agree to give a power by which the articles relating to slaves might be altered by the States not interested in that property, and prejudiced against it. In order to obviate this objection, these words were added to the proposition;1 “provided that no amendments, which may be made prior to the year 1808 shall in any manner affect the fourth and fifth sections of the seventh article.” The postponement being agreed to, —
On the question on the proposition of Mr. MADISON and Mr. HAMILTON, as amended, —
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 9; Delaware, no, — 1; New Hampshire, divided.
 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Impeachment Debated

photo-1450430463204-6f53fe1c2777_opt
September 8, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates fine-tuned the executive branch and debated language regarding impeachment of the president. The role of the Senate in money bills was also debate again.

Influences on the Delegates

Mason wanted a term added to the provisions of impeachment which would extend the grounds.

Colonel MASON. Why is the provision restrained to treason and bribery only? Treason, as defined in the Constitution, will not reach many great and dangerous offences. Hastings is not guilty of treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be treason, as above defined. As bills of attainder, which have saved the British constitution, are forbidden, it is the more necessary to extend the power of impeachments. He moved to add, after “bribery,” “or maladministration.”

Oh that he would have succeeded!
In a phrase that is now sadly hilarious, Morris said:

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. It will not be put in force, and can do no harm. An election of every four years, will prevent maladministration. (my emphasis)

No, actually, a four year term does not prevent maladministration.
The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” seems to be a reference to the action of the House of Commons against Warren Hastings. The charges brought against the Governor General of Bengal (British India) in 1786 involved many crimes other than treason. Mason wanted the executive held accountable for criminal mismanagement which did not of necessity involve treason.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Should the President Have a Divan?

September 7, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The subject of the day was the executive branch, the president and vice-president.

Influences on the Delegates

Discussing the role of the Senate in ratifying peace treaties, Pierce Butler from South Carolina wanted to president-proof the process. Madison’s motion was to require the Senate to ratify peace treaties without concurrence of the president.

Mr. BUTLER was strenuous for the motion, as a necessary security against ambitious and corrupt Presidents. He mentioned the late perfidious policy of the Stadtholder in Holland; and the artifices of the Duke of Marlborough to prolong the war of which he had the management.

George Mason hoped the delegates would reconsider making a president’s council a part of the Constitution.

Colonel MASON2 said, that, in rejecting a council to the President, we were about to try an experiment on which the most despotic government had never ventured. The Grand Seignior himself had his Divan. He moved to postpone the consideration of the clause in order to take up the following:
“That it be an instruction to the Committee of the States to prepare a clause or clauses for establishing an Executive Council, as a Council of State for the President of the United States; to consist of six members, two of which from the Eastern, two from the Middle, and two from the Southern States; with a rotation and duration of office similar to those of the Senate; such council to be appointed by the legislature or by the Senate.”
Doctor FRANKLIN seconded the motion. We seemed, he said, too much to fear cabals in appointments by a number, and to have too much confidence in those of single persons. Experience showed that caprice, the intrigues of favorites and mistresses, were nevertheless the means most prevalent in monarchies. Among instances of abuse in such modes of appointment, he mentioned the many bad Governors appointed in Great Britain for the colonies. He thought a Council would not only be a check on a bad President, but be a relief to a good one.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. The question of a Council was considered in the committee, where it was judged that the President, by persuading his Council to concur in his wrong measures, would acquire their protection for them.
Mr. WILSON approved of a Council, in preference to making the Senate a party to appointments.
Mr. DICKINSON was for a Council. It would be a singular thing, if the measures of the Executive were not to undergo some previous discussion before the President.
Mr. MADISON was in favor of the instruction to the committee proposed by Colonel MASON.
The motion of Colonel MASON was negatived, —
Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, aye, — 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, no, — 8.

Here we have George Mason referring to the example of Turkey. Even the sultan of Turkey had his Divan, or advisors. However, the president didn’t get the divan on this day in history.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Delegates Worried about Aristocracy

September 6, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)

Summary

The delegates continued their discussion of how to elect the president and vice-president.

Influences on the Delegates

Today, the delegate worried about an aristocracy was Pennsylvania’s James Wilson.

Mr. WILSON said, that he had weighed carefully the Report of the Committee for remodelling the constitution of the Executive; and on combining it with other parts of the plan, he was obliged to consider the whole as having a dangerous tendency to aristocracy; as throwing a dangerous power into the hands of the Senate. They will have, in fact, the appointment of the President, and, through his dependence on them, the virtual appointment to offices; among others, the officers of the Judiciary department. They are to make treaties; and they are to try all impeachments. In allowing them thus to make the Executive and Judiciary appointments, to be the court of impeachments, and to make treaties which are to be laws of the land, the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary powers are all blended in one branch of the Government. The power of making treaties involves the case of subsidies, and here, as an additional evil, foreign influence is to be dreaded. According to the plan as it now stands, the President will not be the man of the people, as he ought to be; but the minion of the Senate. He cannot even appoint a tide-waiter without the Senate. He had always thought the Senate too numerous a body for making appointments to office. The Senate will, moreover, in all probability, be in constant session. They will have high salaries. And with all these powers, and the President in their interest, they will depress the other branch of the Legislature, and aggrandize themselves in proportion. Add to all this, that the Senate, sitting in conclave, can by holding up to their respective States various and improbable candidates, contrive so to scatter their votes, as to bring the appointment of the President ultimately before themselves. Upon the whole, he thought the new mode of appointing the President, with some amendments, a valuable improvement; but he could never agree to purchase it at the price of the ensuing parts of the Report, nor befriend a system of which they make a part.

By this late date in the convention, discontent still sounded from several of the delegates. Alexander Hamilton indicated his willingness to approve the plan even though he didn’t like it.

Mr. HAMILTON said, that he had been restrained from entering into the discussions, by his dislike of the scheme of government in general; but as he meant to support the plan to be recommended, as better than nothing, he wished in this place to offer a few remarks. He liked the new modification, on the whole, better than that in the printed Report. In this, the President was a monster, elected for seven years, and ineligible afterwards; having great powers in appointments to office; and continually tempted, by this constitutional disqualification, to abuse them in order to subvert the Government. Although he should be made reëligible, still, if appointed by the Legislature, he would be tempted to make use of corrupt influence to be continued in office. It seemed peculiarly desirable, therefore, that some other mode of election should be devised. Considering the different views of different States, and the different districts, Northern, Middle, and Southern, he concurred with those who thought that the votes would not be concentered, and that the appointment would consequently, in the present mode, devolve on the Senate. The nomination to offices will give great weight to the President. Here, then, is a mutual connexion and influence, that will perpetuate the President, and aggrandize both him and the Senate. What is to be the remedy? He saw none better than to let the highest number of ballots, whether a majority or not, appoint the President. What was the objection to this? Merely that too small a number might appoint. But as the plan stands, the Senate may take the candidate having the smallest number of votes, and make him President.

The discussion resumed the next day.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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