This subject is important enough I don’t want to rush through it. We’ll be spending a couple of sessions on introductory things. Then we’ll also look at the preamble before getting into the Constitution itself. Buckle your seatbelts, and let’s enjoy the ride, as well as learning some things.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document and comments which accompanied the version I’m using will be in this color and italicized.
House Doc. 110–50
The printing of the revised version of The Constitution of the United States of America As Amended (Document Size) is hereby ordered pursuant to H. Con. Res. 190 as passed on July 25, 2007, 110th Congress, 1st Session. This document was compiled at the direction of Chairman Robert A. Brady of the Joint Committee on Printing, and printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office.
This introduction is included to establish the authenticity of the version I’m using as my text for this series.
The Delegates who convened at the Federal Convention on May 25, 1787, quickly rejected the idea of revising the Articles of Confederation and agreed to construct a new framework for a national government. Throughout the summer months at the Convention in Philadelphia, delegates from 12 States debated the proper form such a government should take, but few questioned the need to establish a more vigorous government to preside over the union of States. The 39 delegates who signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, expected the new charter to provide a permanent guarantee of the political liberties achieved in the Revolution.
Prior to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, drafted by the Continental Congress and approved by 13 States, provided for a union of the former British colonies. Even before Maryland became the last State to accede to the Articles in 1781, a number of Americans, particularly those involved in the prosecution of the Revolutionary War, recognized the inadequacies of the Articles as a national government.
It is important for us to understand the background against which this document was written. The nation had already been operating under the Articles of Confederation for several years, and our forefathers, as Abraham Lincoln called them, were painfully aware of the shortcomings of that arrangement.
The men who gathered to write our Constitution represented one of the most august gatherings of brains ever seated in one place for one reason. They didn’t just put our Constitution together on a series of whims. Each article, section, and clause was based upon this experience under the Articles.
In the 1780s these nationally-minded Americans became increasingly disturbed by the Articles’ failure to provide the central government with authority to raise revenue, regulate commerce, or enforce treaties. Despite repeated proposals that the Continental Congress revise the Articles, the movement for a new national government began outside the Congress.
Men like George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton—top leaders and thinkers of the time—all realized that merely amending the Articles of Confederation would not address what was wrong. We needed to start over with a brand new document upon which to base our government, and this is precisely what they produced.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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