We the People of the United States

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The constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.

George Washington

 

In May 1787, in Philadelphia, sixty delegates from thirteen states, engaged in debates over shaping the future of newly created Union. In the beginning they intended to amend the Article of Confederation, but ended up drafting the constitution. For some people, including Patrick Henry, the meeting  "smelled of rats  intended towards monarchy”, others, including Samuel Adams, leader of the Boston tea-party expected to establish “Christian Sparta", while others strongly believed  in the advantage of constitution.

Among the Constitutional Congress attendees were the strongest supporters of the federal government Alexander Hamilton, and his opponent James Madison. Thomas Jefferson, who had been sent as an ambassador was not present at the congress. An athletic man, the hero of the Revolution, George Washington  was elected as a president of the session.  Pretty old Benjamin Franklin, was only intervening the debates if the amount of alcohol in his body, was giving him a permission.  

Few of the participants were intellectuals or book worms, most of them were practical minds having a firm idea how the government of United States was to be arranged. This is why the discussion where to draw the line between big government and anarchy lasted  many hours. James Madison, 1 year prior the Congress read hundreds of books sent from Paris by Thomas Jefferson, on political arrangement of Greek city-states, Switzerland and Netherlands.  Founding Fathers of the constitution incorporated John Locke's philosophy manifested in ’Second Treatise of Government’. Including, one of the main ideas,  expressed in  the Declaration of Independence, stating that every person has  natural right to life, liberty and pursuit to happiness.

While in Pennsylvania, the Fathers were busy arguing on the future of the country, in western Massachusetts  former  military  of Revolutionary army, full of the debts and disturbed by the taxes, headed by the Daniel Shay,  rebelled. Massachusetts government asked the Constitutional Congress to send troops, but no one was eager to help. Then he turned back his own militia, but it didn’t look like a good option either. Later, he tried to collect volunteer army and dispersed the rebelled.  Shay revolt had significant impact on the Philadelphia meeting, it made it obvious to the attendees that there was a need for more flexible decision-making.

Meanwhile, talkative Benjamin Franklin was always accompanied by other participants, making sure that his fascination towards wine and  storytelling  would not reveal the delicate secrets. Fathers of the Constitution were trying to find best way to define the role of the government in order to avoid potential tyranny. James Madison considered representative democracy as the best version of the government,  he in  Federalist # 10  wrote : " If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary”. Madison, saw the need of two level  power distribution; firstly between federal and local governments, and secondly between the Legislative, juridical and executive branches. In federalist #45 Madison describes role of the government as “few and  defined”.

 On the way to drafting the Constitution two plans were presented; one was the Virginia Plan,  that Edmund Randolph  Governor of Virginia delivered. The plan included various interesting points involving the following two: Federal government had the right to block any laws and acts of a states’ legislatures that were in contradiction to the federal law. The important element was direct election of state legislatures. When the Virginia plan was put on the daily agenda the representatives of New Jersey introduced the New Jersey Plan, which aimed at changing the Articles of Confederation through following steps:   increasing the power of the federal government and granting one vote to every state at the congress regardless the number of their population. The last point motivated small state to vote for the New Jersey plan. The debates lasted so long that Benjamin Franklin ask the participants to start every session with a pray.

Finally, on July 5, on Monday, the Great Compromise was reached. As a result of it the House of Representatives was established by 65 members, each state had seats due to the number of their population. The Senate would include two senators from each state, nominated by state legislatures. The compromise put Virginia and New Jersey plans together, and also highlighted the two level distribution of the power.  Eventually, on 17th of September the constitution became the highest law of the United States.  

In 1791, James Madison prepared a package of amendments, so-called Bill of Rights, which included 10 corrections. It is often debated why the Founding Fathers didn’t included the Bill of Rights in the constitution from the very beginning, there are two main reasons: (1) The founders believed that it was States' competence and didn’t wanted to lose the supporters of the constitution,  (2) the constitution already contained a certain portion of the rights.

Constitution includes ‘checks and balances’ which gives possibility to U.S.A.  to avoid consolidating of the power only in legislative, juridical or executive branch of the government. Article 1, the 8th section of the constitution enumerates the powers granted to the congress; the section ends with the words, that the Congress is authorized to do anything that is ‘necessary and proper' to put the above mentioned points into the practice. This clause  is often subject of manipulation  by the congress justifying its measures.

Under different White House residents, the political life of the United States swings between strong government and devolution periods. The New Deal launched by Franklin D. Roosevelt was balanced by the Reagan administration. Congress has various means, including grants, aids and mandates that allows the federal government to put its hand into the States’ politics. This led Congress to turn into the Leviathan from the limited government.  However, States have right to refuse the money and decline the strings attached to it.  

I'll end this post by note which I have put on my pocket constitution: “The first sentence of the Constitution states that “the people of the United States“ are the source and generators of the constitution, the people are granting authority to the government and are obliged to control it”. 

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